Christine Michael RB/Seattle Seahawks
While most people would consider the age of 28 to be young, in terms of running backs they should be applying for their AARP card because their careers are drawing to a close. Ever since joining the Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch has been like a bull in a china shop. He averaged 300 carries, 11.5 touchdowns each season. It has been reported that Lynch is unhappy with his current contract, and is even threatening to retire if he does not get the pay raise he feels he deserves. If Lynch falters at all this year, or goes through with his threat and retires, it would leave a massive void in the Seattle backfield. Although Ryan Turbin is currently listed as the back up on the depth chart, Michael offers more big play ability. A former 2nd round selection from Texas A&M, Michael would offer a more balanced attack from the running back position. During his time in College Station, Michael was not asked to carry the full workload until his senior season, as he shared time with current Kansas City Chiefs running back Cyrus Gray. It is unknown how much Michael would offer in the passing game since he never had more than 15 receptions in a season. But If you do end up selecting Lynch to be your RB1 this year, I would highly recommend handcuffing him with Michael at some point in your draft.
Value: High RB 4/Low HB 3
Jerick McKinnon RB/Minnesota Vikings
Much of the reason I like Christine Michael’s prospects this year are the same that I feel people will need to take note of Jerick McKinnon. A 3rd round selection of the Minnesota Vikings in this years draft, McKinnon will most likely be asked to fill in as the 3rd down back, as well as play some on special teams. During his time at Georgia Southern McKinnon was asked to do everything in the triple attack offense, playing both quarterback and running back. He also returned kicks so he should give some value in the return game as well. If McKinnon is able to show improvement in his pass protection, as well as improving as a pass catcher he could be in for a very productive season. With the signing of Norv Turner as the Vikings new offensive coordinator the hope is McKinnon will develop into a pass catching threat out of the backfield, much like what Darren Sproles and LaDanian Tomlinson did during their time in San Diego. From 2011 to 2013, the top two backs in Norv Turner-led offenses averaged a combined 87 catches and 7.62 yards per catch. If McKinnon is able to get on the field and fill that Darren Sproles role for the Vikings, I could see him ending up with 30-40 receptions this season, giving him solid value in dynasty PPR leagues.
Value: RB 4
Stephan Taylor RB/Arizona Cardinals
With the talk coming from Cardinals camp how Andre Ellington is going to carry the ball 25-30 times per game, something just does not sit right. As a rookie Ellington never carried the ball more than 17 times in one game, even when he gained the starting position. There are also questions about Ellington’s long-term durability. Last year he was forced to miss one game with a knee injury, when he only carried the ball half the time. If Ellington does get a big boost in carries, I see his efficiency dropping from his 5.5 yards-per-carry, as well as seeing an increase in nagging injuries. If you are able to land Taylor as a free agent he may not produce for you right away, but he could fill in for the Cardinals, much in the way that Bilial Powell does for the Jets. While Taylor is not the most explosive running back, he gains the tough yards and has a nose for the end zone (40 touchdowns at Stanford). If Ellington does go down for any amount of time Taylor has the ability to fill that hole in the backfield, and in the worst-case scenario Taylor could be the vulture on the goal line like Mike Tolbert is for the Panthers.
Value: Low RB 4