The wild running, the wild running, the ripping and the tearing, the ripping and the tearing.

Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris ran the ball with a sense of anger during his first season in the NFL. He was one of the toughest tackles in the league, often dragging several defenders on his back as he chugged along for extra yardage. He looked like a man possessed at times.

I mean look at this run from 2012, where Morris explodes through a hole on an off tackle play, loses his helmet and doesn't miss a beat as he rumbles for a few more yards. Always has to be a drag to be a defender closing in on a tackle when you know the guy you're tackling doesn't have his helmet on. It's good that now a helmet loss is an automatic dead ball.

Morris crazy run on Make A Gif

make animated gifs like this at MakeAGif

Quick start

Morris burst onto the scene immediately as a rookie in part due to Mike Shanahan's run-heavy version of the west coast offense, a scheme Morris flourished in. He totaled 1,613 rushing yards which was good for third in the league, and proved one of the best bangs-for-draft buck after getting selected in the sixth round by the Washington Redskins.

Morris suffered a minor sophomore slump in 2013 but still managed 1,275 yards despite playing on a bad Redskins team that won just three games. Morris crossed the 100-yard plateau only three times last season but more importantly, he had four more other games of at least 90 yards. So while his numbers dipped slightly, he was still an effective running back and his 4.6 yards per carry average was more than respectable. Overall, he gave fantasy owners consistent production.

While Morris established a reputation for an aggressive running style which involved mowing down defenders as opposed to avoiding them with his agility, it wouldn't be fair to suggest Morris maintain that crazy, explosive running ability throughout an entire career. It's obviously dangerous to your long-term health and we've seen how many tough runners have faded out early in their careers (Marion Barber from the Cowboys being a prime example). Still, 2014 Morris just hasn't lived up to the bill of one of the most consistent running backs in the league.

What has gone wrong

Morris kicked off 2014 with a series of decent performances, rushing for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns in the Redskins' first two games, but he's tapered off since. Over the last three games, Morris hasn't rushed for 100 yards in a game and his yards per carry average is down to a mediocre 3.8 yards per carry, nearly 1 yard less than a season ago.

His workload started off strong enough, as he averaged slightly over 20 carries for the first three games of the season, but has seen his attempts drop to around 15 per game over the last three weeks. He also hasn't recorded a touchdown in three games.

The offensive line has struggled as well, with pro bowl tackle Trent Williams battling a knee injury that forced him out of the team's Week 4 matchup against the New York Giants.

Competition creeping in

Fellow running back Roy Helu Jr. has started to make a case for more touches as of late. Previously viewed as a goal line back who can catch the occasional pass out of the backfield, Helu saw five carries last week against Tennessee and turned them into 29 yards, nearly half of what Morris had with nearly 1/3 of his carries. Helu's five carries were the most he's seen since the Redskins 41-10 blowout win against Jacksonville.

It's not so much saying that Helu getting slightly more carries ups his value as much as it lowers Alfred Morris's. It's a deathblow to fantasy value when another running who isn't exactly going to replace the RB1 but instead siphons a few more carries which eventually washes out both of their value. It's just one more thing to worry about when it comes to owning Morris.

Jay Gruden's offense

After RG3 went down in Week 2, the Redskins shifted to a more pass-based offense. After filling in for Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins threw 204 times in roughly 5.5 games played. That's about 38 pass attempts per game. Morris has never been a reliable receiver and his one dimensional game has proved limiting so far in a pass-heavy offense.

Is RG3 the answer?

People tend to think Morris is only valuable if quarterback Robert Griffin III is on the field due to another added run threat. While Morris' numbers were better in the first two games when RG3 was healthy. it's tough to think he'll all of a sudden flip a switch and morph into 2012 Morris when RG3 returns in 2-3 weeks.

When you watch Morris run in 2014, the problem isn't all scheme-based or RG3-based, Morris simply isn't breaking tackles or running with the desire we've seen in the past, which is probably the biggest concern for this value going forward.

A favorable schedule and a new QB

One thing Morris has working in his favor is the Redskins' upcoming schedule. Four of the next five defenses Washington plays (Dallas, Minnesota, Indianapolis) are all giving up at least 4.4 yards per carry to running backs. Also, third-string quarterback Colt McCoy is expected to start against Dallas on Monday night. Largely known as a game manager, it wouldn't be surprising if Morris is given more carries as Gruden relegates the weak-armed McCoy to more of a game manager role.

Final verdict

Overall, even with a slate of easier defenses upcoming, Morris probably won't improve all that much until he regains his desire to run the ball with the same kind of purpose he's displayed in his first two seasons. Until then, consider benching him for another RB2.

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 18 October 2014 00:00

Week 7 bullet points for RBs

Start of the week

DeMarco Murray vs. New York Giants — #1 in weekly rankings

It's impossible to rank Murray behind anyone else at this point. If his owners aren't already fist pumping for all his production so far this season, his matchup for Week 7 is also decent. The Giants defense allowed 203 rushing yards last week from the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that has struggled in the run game due to a battered offensive line.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, have one of the best offensive lines in the league and Murray has yet to run for less than 100 yards in a game this season. Dallas also has the added benefit of playing at home, where a rocking crowd that finally has a reason to cheer a winning team will no doubt add another advantage.

It's not to say the Giants can't surprise and keep Murray in check. They're one of the most resilient teams in football as evidenced by their three straight wins following an 0-2 start. Still, they haven't fared too well against the run this season. They've allowed 116 rushing yards per game on average (17th in the NFL) and surrendered seven rushing touchdowns which is tied for third worst in the league.

If Murray somehow doesn't have a good game, it will be more because they opt to use their backups in a blowout or they simply scale his carries back and rely on Romo a bit more. That's unlikely to happen though based on how well the formula has worked so far for Dallas. Also, the Cowboys (5-1) will want to keep the pedal to the medal to gain some distance from another 5-1 team in Philadelphia while the Eagles rest on their bye week. Murray is as much of a lock as any RB in the league this week.

Start him

Andre Ellington @ Oakland — #12 in weekly rankings

Ellington has yet to the cross the 100-yard plateau this season, with the closest coming in Week 2 against the New York Giants where he rushed for 91 yards. But this week is his best chance to do just that. The Raiders are coming off a game where they allowed more than 100 yards to Chargers RB Branden Oliver.

Oakland has been dismal against the run. They'r allowing 149 rushing yards per game this season, which is second worst only to Green Bay. Carson Palmer is expected to play, which should help Ellington's numbers in the receiving game as he recorded a season-high six catches last week against Washington. Ellington is one of the more versatile running backs in fantasy and should give owners a decent outing in Week 7.

Fred Jackson vs. Minnesota — #18 in weekly rankings

Old Mr. reliable. Running backs in the NFL often age like milk, but Jackson is aging like wine. He always finds a way to make fantasy owners who start him happy. If he doesn't rush for a lot of yards, he scores a touchdown. If he doesn't score a touchdown, he gets you some good PPR numbers and 30-40 rushing yards. He never explodes for big games, but he always hovers around the 5-8 fantasy point mark, which is all you need out of a flex guy. Jackson's 30 total targets is second most in the NFL among running backs, trailing only Matt Forte.

While Jackson has more upside than Spiller, there's some still points of concern. The Bills offensive line is just not good, as evidenced by their recent struggles in the run game against both Detroit and New England. If you watched those games, you noticed running backs like C.J. Spiller getting surrounded by defenders before they even have a chance to get up the field. The difference is, Spiller runs east and west while Jackson bursts through for all the yards he can get. Spiller could have more upside if the line was better since he's more a straight line speed guy.

But that's why Jackson is the better fantasy option — he's more versatile. The Bills like to split him out wide from time to time and use him in the screen game, which gives him added value in the receiving game. Laterally, he can make guys miss in a way similar to Ahmad Bradshaw in Indianapolis (who also suffers from a bad offensive line). He's better in pass protection as well. Overall, Jackson's just a better player than Spiller for this scheme.

Jackson's best chance for a big week may very well be against Minnesota. The Vikings' defense ranks 17th against the run, having allowed 117 yards per game through six weeks. They've also allowed six rushing touchdowns which is tied for 24th in the league. Quarterback Kyle Orton, while not playing his best football as of now, still has more upside than E.J. Manuel and should target Jackson plenty in the backfield. Expect Jackson to rush for anywhere between 60-70 yards and add 6-10 catches for 50-70 yards. A goal line touchdown is not out of the question either and would be icing on the cake.

Owners beware

Marshawn Lynch vs. St. Louis — #2 in weekly rankings

I know we have Lynch ranked high this week and you should definitely still start him, but beast mode hasn't been activated in a while which is cause for concern. Lynch only carried the ball 10 times last week against Dallas in a 23-30 loss. Those 10 carries were his second lowest output since Week 2 against San Diego. In that game, he ran just six times in a 21-30 loss. It would seem the Seahawks might be starting to realize their success hinges on Lynch being used more in the run game. It's also worth noting Lynch hasn't run for more than 100 yards since Week 1 against Green Bay.

The Seahawks play the Rams at home, a division rival with a history of giving Seattle trouble no matter what the records are. The Rams defense are also playing better as of recently. They kept Frank Gore in check last Monday night, allowing him just 2.8 yards per carry on 16 rushing attempts. They held LeSean McCoy to under 100 yards a week earlier as well.

Another interesting twist is the Percy Harvin trade, a move which reportedly made Lynch and a few other players irate.

With Harvin gone, the Seahawks might need to rely on Lynch even more so if the Seahawks receiving core doesn't pick up the slack. The Rams could easily stack the box and force more throws from Russell Wilson, something that would keep Lynch from getting more carries. He's still startable, but there's some uncertainty this week.

View FFSwami's flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage

The Helpers discuss their hits and misses from Week 6, give you some good buy low candidates to help fortify your lineup and analyze the San Diego Chargers/Oakland Raiders Week 6 game and its fantasy implications. They finish it off by answering a few of your fantasy questions.

Hits and misses

They nailed Matt Forte, Justin Forsett and Ben Tate. All running backs were among the Top 10 in the rankings this week and all of them performed well. They also nailed Andre Williams, who struggled in his first start against Philadelphia after many claimed he was in for a big week in the absence of Rashad Jennings.

Their misses include Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin, who they predicted as busts against Cincinnati and who instead went off for big days. Keep in mind, they did have an entire overtime to accumulate more stats. But yeah, they missed those.

It will be interesting to see what Jonathan Stewart will do to Newton's rushing stats if Stewart does in fact return this Sunday. Just something to keep in mind if you own Cam Newton.

Oakland/San Diego analysis

The Helpers analyze Week 6's game between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. A shootout game, there were a couple break out fantasy stars in this one. Derek Carr put together his best game as a pro, throwing for 282 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. 

A few things about Carr. He throws a remarkably accurate deep ball. Had the Raiders not dropped five passes in the first half, Carr could've put together a near perfect game. He's a boarderline QB2 going forward. 

They then ogle over Philip Rivers stats for a second. Rivers, who was drafted as a QB2 in most leagues, has the most fantasy points of any quarterback not named Andrew Luck through six weeks. He has five games of at least 20 fantasy points, which is fantastic consistency.

Another break out fantasy star was Raiders WR Andre Holmes. A guy dubbed a sleeper by many experts coming into this season, Holmes broke out for his first 100-yard game and added two touchdowns. His speed is unquestionable and when you add his size (6'4), he can do things on the field reminiscent of another former Raider by the name of Randy Moss. He's a fantastic flex option right now.

As far as tight ends go, Ladarius Green led the Chargers' TEs in receiving yards with 60 yards on four catches. Antonio Gates got the touchdown, but was held under 30 yards receiving. Gates remains a force in the red zone, and will continue to score touchdowns with his big body as long as he's matched up in 1-on-1 coverage. We like Gates more as a TE1 right now, but Green is slowly creeping his way into flex status.

Buy low candidates

Carson Palmer — When healthy, he has great weapons at receiver to work with in Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. He's also projected for 16 points in ESPN leagues this week. Those 16 points are more than many starting quarterbacks including Matt Ryan (who is only projected for 15). He has got an easier schedule coming up. The Cardinals play Atlanta, St. Louis, and Oakland in the next five weeks.

Sammy Watkins — Guy is an unbelievable talent. Though inconsistent at times, he's utilized in the offense and sees plenty of targets. He is also still developing chemistry with quarterback Kyle Orton, a guy who was basically plucked off the street after the Bills coaching staff was worried about E.J. Manuel's confidence. Orton has been on successful passing offenses in the past (most recently with the Denver Broncos in 2010) and if he starts getting more comfortable with the offense, expect Watkins to see more consistent numbers.

The Bills also have an easy slate of games coming up. They play the Jets twice, Minnesota, and also have Oakland around fantasy playoff time. We've seen rookie receivers come on late in their first year (think Cordarrelle Patterson last season) and Watkins is as good a threat as any to do just that. His value also isn't very high right now. He's a WR3 who you could trade a solid TE2 or even an RB2/3 to get. So if you play it right, you probably won't have to give up much.

Published in Podcasts

It's a storied rivalry that not too long ago spelled major playoff implications when both teams were considered among the top in the AFC from 2008-10. But despite the Jets tampering off thanks to rookie quarterback Geno Smith still learning the ropes, an inexperienced secondary and a slew of castaways on offense at both running back and receiver, the matchup between the two teams has continued to remain a close battle no matter how bad one team is in a particular year.

Dating back to their first meeting on Thursday night football in 2013, the Patriots managed to clip the Jets 13-10. A month later, the Jets managed to defeat the Pats 30-27 on a last-second field goal in overtime. In their first meeting in 2012, the Patriots edged the Jets 29-26. The second meeting of 2012 was last time New England really dominated, as the Patriots forced five turnovers en route to a 49-19 victory and also the birth of the bizarre 'butt fumble.' It still remains one of the greatest clips to take the edge off a really bad day.

While the results of past games are no indication tonight's game will be close, it's worth noting the last 3 of 4 games between the two teams have been nail biters.

Here are the fantasy implications for some of tonight's QBs/RBs

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady

Last week's stats (vs. Buffalo): 27-for-37, 361 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions

Look at those sparkling numbers. Brady is coming off his best game of the season after he was being written off just two weeks ago following a poor outing on Monday night against Kansas City.

Brady's improved numbers over the last few games can be attributed to his improved accuracy. He completed a fantastic 73 percent of his passes against Buffalo and a solid 65 percent against Cincinnati. The slow emergence of TE Tim Wright has been a huge help as well. Six of Wright's 10 total receptions have come in the last two games, and his five catches on five targets for 85 yards against Cincinnati was a breath of fresh air for the often inconsistent Pats receiving core aside from fellow TE Rob Gronkowski.

Brady has always been a mixed bag when it comes to fantasy value due to the Patriots inconsistent line play and lack of a true No. 1 receiver. But the New York Jets defense comes in with just one interception all season. If the Jets front four fails to get any pressure on Brady, it could be a great fantasy day for the Patriots' QB. Brady is a solid QB1 tonight.

Geno Smith

Last week's stats: Bye week

Smith's last game was a horrendous one where he eventually got benched in a 31-0 blowout against San Diego. Not a fantasy worthy quarterback this week due to a Patriots defense that's among the best in takeaways with 14 on the season, Smith should be benched in every league format including 14-team leagues.

View Football Schedules flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Monday, 13 October 2014 00:00

Episode 20: First Aid (Week 6)

In this episode, the Helpers talk about the fantasy implications of two games including the Packers/Dolphins and Bengals/Panthers, hand out their weekly awards and give a brief preview of tonight's game and its possible fantasy outcome. 

Published in Podcasts
Thursday, 09 October 2014 00:00

Week 6 QB/DEF bullet points

Editor's note: These are bullet points used to help explain our weekly QB/DEF rankings for Week 6. You can view the QB/DEF rankings here and here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Monday, 06 October 2014 00:00

Episode 18: First Aid (Week 5)

George and Scott do their usual fantasy breakdown of two matchups this week, and assess the damage of the week that was in the NFL. Plus, they hand out weekly awards and discuss things to do in Wyoming.

Matchup No. 1 (Atlanta vs. New York Giants)

Two rookies came out of the woodwork in this one and are must owns in all leagues going forward. Andre Williams and Odell Beckham Jr. both shined in New York's victory over Atlanta. Filling in for an injured Rashad Jennings, Williams put his violent running style on full display, trucking defenders on his way to 65 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries.

It was a solid day for Williams considering this was the first time he has been thrust into the starting role as a rookie. The offensive line of the Giants provided good blocking at times (especially the tight ends who helped seal the outside on a lot of off tackle plays) and Williams made the most out of it. Depending on Jennings' status going forward, we could see Williams take on a more substantial role within the offense.

In the receiving game, rookie first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. (owned in just 9% of Yahoo! Leagues) scored a touchdown on a crucial play in his first NFL start. He saw five targets, which was third behind Reuben Randle (10) and Victor Cruz (6) but he made the most out of them. He caught four passes for 44 yards, and already clued spectators in as to how efficient he could be. Factor in his return yards and this is a natural receiver you want to get your hands on if you're high on the waiver wire. The Giants play the Philadelphia Eagles this week, a team that's been susceptible to the pass (they allowed 3 touchdowns from Austin Davis this week and let Kirk Cousins throw for more than 400 yards on them.) Eagles linebacker DeMaco Ryans also left the game and if he's hurt, then Week 6 could be a big day for the Giants offense.

Matchup No. 2 (Detroit vs. Buffalo)

This game was all about two things — Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson. Already not 100 percent coming in, Johnson aggravated the same ankle that was bothering him after he took a hit from Bills CB Leodis McKelvin. He left the game after recording just one catch for seven yards. His status for Week 6 will be monitored closely no doubt.

Tate flourished in Johnson's absence, finishing with 7 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown on a team-high 9 targets. Tate now has put together back-to-back 100-yard performances and is on pace for 1,014 yards and 3 touchdowns. He's a WR2 with WR1 upside in a high-powered offense riddled with injuries to receivers and running backs.

The rushing game was non-existent for both teams, with both teams combining for a little over 100 yards rushing. Fred Jackson was the top rusher for Buffalo, finishing with 10 carries for 49 yards while George Winn led Detroit with 11 carries for 48 yards. Expect starter Joique Bell to return as the Lions top rusher in Week 6 after being sidelined with a concussion for Week 5. Jackson remains a solid flex play due to his versatility (he caught 7 passes for 58 yards as well).

Rookie Sammy Watkins continued to impress for Buffalo, catching 7 passes for 87 yards on a team-high 12 targets. He's a WR2/3 going forward but will likely be hampered by the Bills' situation at quarterback. Speaking of, Kyle Orton finished 30-of-43 for 308 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Published in Podcasts
Monday, 22 September 2014 00:00

Episode 16: First Aid (Week 3)

George and Scott break down two games and give fantasy value out on both sides of the ball for each one. First, Eagles vs. Redskins. Second, Packers vs. Lions. They also hand out their weekly awards and preview tonight's game between the Chicago Bears and New York Jets.

Published in Podcasts
Saturday, 20 September 2014 00:00

Prospect: Allen Robinson

Fresh out of Penn State, drafted in the second round and equipped with a crazy 42-inch vertical leap, a 6'3, 220lb frame that's all juiced up with 4.47 40 speed, Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson has officially landed on the fantasy radar. Based on his recent performances, it's looking like the 21-year old rookie could be in line for solid WR3/flex production going forward.

Owned in just 2 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, Robinson first hinted at his potential in Week 2 against the Washington Redskins. Though Jacksonville played poorly, Robinson led the Jaguars in receiving with 75 yards on four catches and tied for a team-high six targets. He totaled seven fantasy points, and while it's not much, it's still solid considering most WR3's in deep leagues give you less production than that. Also, most potential WR3's aren't available in 98 percent of Yahoo! Leagues.

Robinson played in just 60 percent of the team's snaps in Week 2, which paled in comparison to fellow rookie Allen Hurns, who was on the field for 96 percent of them. Another rookie, Marqise Lee, played in 74 percent of snaps against Washington. Still, Robinson was the more productive player despite seeing less time on the field. Though his biggest catch of 51 yards came in garbage time, fantasy points are fantasy points. When the game ended, it was a sign that Robinson could be in line for more looks going forward.

Robinson's first start

With Lee sidelined due to a hamstring injury in Week 3, Robinson made his first start and didn't disappoint. He tallied 7 receptions for 79 yards which led the Jags. He also totaled 10 targets, the most he's had all season.

Looking ahead, Lee is expected to miss Week 4 as he battles that same injury, and while Hurns managed to turn his only catch against the Colts into a 61-yard touchdown, he wasn't the most sought after player in the Jags' offense with only three targets. It's likely Robinson will continue to remain the focal point of the offense and see anywhere from 10-12 targets consistently from here on out.

His versatility

Another point of intrigue for fantasy owners is how Robinson showed a little bit of everything against the Colts last Sunday. Quarterback Chad Henne targeted Robinson in both the short and deep passing game. Robinson caught slant passes for short yardage, quick screen passes and also showed off his YAC ability after spinning out of a tackle off a curl route  which resulted in his biggest gain of the day of 21 yards. Henne took some shots at Robinson down the field as well, and although he couldn't reel the one deep bomb Henne chucked his way due to double coverage, fantasy owners have to be excited about a player that has that kind of range in terms of the variety of routes he can run.

The fact that Robinson is being targeted in a variety of ways shows he has the potential to be the most complete wide receiver on the Jaguars. As of now, no receiver possesses more physical gifts on the Jags. Shorts is more of a possession receiver who lacks elite speed, as evidenced by his 11.8 yards per catch average last year which ranked 70th in the league. His fellow rookie, Lee, is more of an undersized burner at 6'0. Lastly, Hurns stands a lengthy 6'3 but lacks the size of Robinson at just 194 lbs and while he burst onto the scene early against Philadelphia, hasn't really shown much since and dropped a key touchdown against Washington in Week 2.

Bortles Combat

Down 30-0, the Jaguars handed the keys over to rookie Blake Bortles, who immediately slung the ball all over the field recklessly in his first outing. Robinson was one of his go-to guys early on, as Bortles took two deep shots at Robinson early. One went for an in completion while another was intercepted.

Based on Bortles first performance, he's looking like a guy who puts a lot of trust in his arm. His bold decision making (as with most rookies) will likely lead to some mistakes as he learns the playbook, but could also result in big plays due to his ability to throw it deep. One thing's for sure, he likes Robinson as his throws accounted for the majority of Robinson's targets.

Final verdict

Jacksonville faces two middle-of-the-road passing defenses in San Diego and Pittsburgh next. There will be plenty of chances for Bortles to develop a chemistry with Robinson that isn't marred by tough matchups. Between his talent, the injury to Lee and Blake I-know-I'm-a-rookie-so-I-can-make-big-throws-and-blame-my-interceptions-on-inexperience Bortles, that elusive touchdown is coming for Robinson. He should be owned across all leagues. As Lloyd told Harry when they approached those folk-singing hitchhikers in their sheep dog van, 'pick em up!'

 

View Clint Mickel's flickr page here

Published in Waiver Wire
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 00:00

Prospect: Isaiah Crowell

Image courtesy of Erik Drost

There have been a lot of changes to the Cleveland Browns since last season. A pass-happy team in 2013, there's reason to believe the running game may be creeping its way back into the team's philosophy this season. But with no convincing No. 1 running back on its roster just yet, it leaves room for speculation regarding who the best fantasy running back could be in Cleveland for 2014.

It all started with a shift in management. Vertical passing enthusiast Norv Turner took his talents to Minnesota and was replaced by former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, a guy who's often been jokingly referred to as an 'anti-fantasy football' coordinator. Alfred Morris owner's from 2013 can attest to that. You could play a sad violin for Morris owners last season, as they saw their touchdown points gobbled up when Shanhan opted to dial up several doses of Roy Helu on the goal line last season. Morris still went on to have a solid season in 2013 with 1,275 rushing yards, but his touchdown total nearly halved after he finished with 7 compared to the 13 he had during his rookie season.

Unlike Turner, Shanahan's offensive philosophy centers around a balance of run and pass. He has proven effective at managing quarterbacks with vastly different styles as well. He helped Texans' Matt Schaub throw for a lot of yards in Houston and also ushered in the zone-read in Washington under the athletic Robert Griffin III. With Shanahan's equally favored approach to both the ground and aerial game, it creates some fantasy intrigue for owner's who may be looking at some stat potential out of the Browns backfield. It can't get much worse for Cleveland in the running category from 2013, as the Browns ranked 30th in rushing attempts with 348.

A good fantasy running back is made in the trenches

A good running game starts with the guys up front, and the Cleveland Browns have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. Center Alex Mack is a two-time pro bowler and has been a fixture on the Browns' offensive line since Cleveland drafted him in 2009. Mack provided the blocking for several highlight games early in his career, including Jerome Harrison's 286-yard rushing effort which ranked third-most all time for one game. 

Left tackle Joe Thomas remains one of the best pass protectors in the league, though the Browns one weakness could be at right tackle with Mitchell Schwartz. Schwartz was a liability in pass protection last year, and while Shanahan believes he's a good fit for his zone-blocking scheme, one has to wonder if the 6'5, 320 lb Schwartz will be able to hack a run offense usually designed for more athletic lineman.

Schwartz was such a liability in fact that the Browns used plenty of resources to cover up for him. According to pro football focus, the Browns led the league in chip blocks for both the running back and tight end positions last season to help alleviate some of their protection problems. However, that may be a tougher task this season due to their inexperienced backfield.

The current crop of running backs may not be best suited for providing quality pass protection. According to pro football focus, current starting running back Ben Tate ranked 39th in pass blocking efficiency in a pool of 46 running backs who saw at least 40 pass blocking snaps last year. Behind Tate, you have two rookies in Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell who both of which weren't known as pass blockers in college.

Enter Crowell

We mentioned his name finally, and the undrafted rookie out of Alabama State has some upside for stashing on your roster right now.

Crowell's college career started off very promising. He landed a starting spot with the Georgia Bulldogs when he was just a freshman. Playing against several vaunted defenses in the SEC, Crowell went on to have several big games including a 30-carry, 147-yard performance against Ole Miss. He finished his freshman year with 856 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns, but it was disciplinary problems that kept him from continuing what looked like a future successful collegiate career with the Bulldogs.

The following season, Crowell was dismissed from Georgia after he was arrested on a drug charge. He ended up enrolling at Alabama State and finished as the leading rusher at Alabama State and led the Hornets to a 7-4 record.

Some of his highlights can be seen in the video below. His run at the :37 second mark of this video is especially impressive.

Why he's worth a roster stash on your fantasy team

Current starter Ben Tate is expected to be an every-down back for Cleveland starting out, which isn't surprising considering the fifth-year RB has proven reliable with a respectable 4.7 ypc average while playing behind Arian Foster in Houston for three seasons. Still, it's Tate's first go in the workhorse role, which is a job only a handful of running backs have proven able to hack at a consistent level. Tate played in only 11 games in 2012 and was eventually placed on injury reserve with cracked ribs in 2013, so durability may also be an issue. 

Current No. 2 running back West struggled during preseason, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and zero touchdowns. Crowell, on the other hand, notched 105 yards on 15 carries (7 YPC) and a touchdown. If Crowell can keep his previous run ins with the law a thing of the past, he's got real potential to be a starter on the Browns at some point if the chips fall the right way.

Published in Waiver Wire
Page 5 of 6

Weekly Rankings

Latest Tweets

 


About Us

We believe Fantasy Football success comes down to two things — opportunity and talent. You will have Fantasy Football mastered once you understand how good a player is and how good of an opportunity he has to gain yards and score touchdowns. The thing is, you'll never master Fantasy Football. But you can get pretty darn good at it when you have even a slightly better understanding of opportunity and talent than the average Joe. That's what Fantasy Football Helpers is dedicated to doing.

Contact Us

We'd love to hear from you. Feel free to email George Banko