2012 Rookie Rankings: Running Backs
T-Rich & Martin Are the Top Dogs
Today we're taking a look at the key rookie tailbacks from this year's NFL draft. There are some very promising talents, but we only see two with a clear path to 2012 redraft value. Those two, perhaps not coincidentally, were the first two backs off the board. Both Trent Richardson of the Browns and Doug Martin of the Bucs are players we have a lot of belief in. We're looking to add both players at the right price.
After the big two, there is still a handful of players with NFL talent, but they all need big camps or some help from their competition to get the touches they need to have legit redraft value. These players will be prominent on our August radar. In the coming days, we'll be releasing our report on the rookie receivers and tight ends and we'll also release our first official Player Universe.
The rookies are ranked in terms of their general fantasy value.
|1||Trent Richardson||CLE||Alabama||1(3)||Right now, we have T-Rich ranked in round one in 12-team redrafts. Yes, this is high. Yes, I feel a little queasy doing it. But the thing is, we like the way the Browns block and we love what they might do with a monster like Richardson back there. He has a very good chance to be a classic bell-cow back. He’s worth a shot after round one and maybe even DURING round one--if you can stomach the risk. He’s a big man with a low center of gravity and he can really run. He takes on tacklers well. We’re not really buying him as the next AP, but he’s going to be good if he can stay healthy. Very good.|
|2||Doug Martin||TB||Boise State||1 (31)||Here’s a player we absolutely love. He was a mid-first rounder on our boards in April and, in our view, Tampa stole him late in rd one. We project him to be the lead back though he may lose some carries to LeGarrette Blount if Blount ever gets his head on straight. Rotobahn thinks Martin has a great chance to finish 2012 as an RB1. He is a 3-down tailback with great hands and insanely quick feet. He’s also fast with the ability to make yards after contact. Martin is a potential round one fixture in future fantasy drafts and we would not be shocked if he posted first round numbers as a rookie. We actually like him as much as Richardson, but T-Rich has a few studs to run behind, so he gets the nod for now.|
|3||David Wilson||NYG||Virginia Tech||1 (32)||This is a player that could explode. Even if he’s a role player coming out of camp, Wilson is a guy whose role could expand with injuries to both receivers and running backs. If either Nicks or Bradshaw gets injured, the Giants will increase Wilson’s role. This kid has a world of all-around ability. His greatest asset is his speed, but he’s not just a track star. I was very impressed with his balance and his instincts as a runner. He also has good pad level for a speed back and keeps his feet moving through contact. We think he found a perfect team for his skill-set. We’re buying him in long term formats for sure. His primary value in redraft leagues is as a handcuff to Bradshaw, but as the season wears on, we expect him to develop flex value. If he gets the job either by merit or another Bradshaw injury, he has RB1 upside. Wilson should be rostered in all formats. He should be off the board very early in dynasty.|
|4||Lamar Miller||MIA||Miami||4 (97)||Miller is a player with immediate upside for a host of reasons. Our early inclination is that he is the best bet to use as a handcuff for Reggie Bush, but there’s more. Miller has size and speed and he looks like a legit NFL bell-cow back. Reggie Bush may not be able to hold him off for long. Barring and injury, Miller is a future household name for fantasy footballers. Get him now in long term leagues. He should be rostered in all but the smallest redraft formats.|
|5||Ronnie Hillman||DEN||SD State||3 (67)||We like him plenty for the long term, but HC John Fox is not big on rookie tailbacks and has a long history of sticking with veterans so be wary of all the hype. Willis McGahee has some gas in his tank. Unless he has a shaky preseason, we like Hillman as Willis’ top handcuff option and he may have some flex value too. Hillman also has solid appeal in dynasty formats. We’d go after him in the early rounds.|
|6||Isaiah Pead||STL||Cincinnati||2 (50)||Pead is behind Stephen Jackson, so his role in 2012 may not be much. Still, he looks like the early best bet in terms of drafting a handcuff for Jackson. Pead does just about everything well but nothing stands out in terms of measurables. We like his balance and the way he sets up would-be tacklers. He is a confident runner with NFL starter upside. We’re not sure about the Chris Johnson comparisons that the Rams brain-trust seems to have made, but Pead can play and he can play in the NFL. As much as we like the Rams’ other rookie RB, Daryl Richardson, Pead is the back to own after Jackson.|
|7||Robert Turbin||SEA||Utah State||4 (106)||This guy has the look of a feature back, and that is worth noting when you play behind the time bomb known as Marshawn Lynch. Turbin, along with Leon Washington, are the players to look at as far as snaps behind Lynch go, but we’d bet on Turbin being the more valuable handcuff option. He is a very good add in dynasty and long term formats. He has the size/speed you look for with a low center of gravity. He’s an NFL running back as far as ability goes.|
|8||LaMichael James||SF||Oregon||2 (61)||James is buried on a deep Frisco depth chart, but this guy has a bright future. We like him as a deep pick in dynasty, but he’ll need an injury to play a big role in 2012. He has serious athletic ability and all all-around game to go with it. Oh, and he is very fast. He’s also been a bit injury-prone. The Niners are loaded in the backfield. Seriously loaded. If this guy ever earns a 10-touch plus role, he is a viable fantasy option. He’s a guy to watch for sure, but Kendall Hunter is a year ahead of him in the SF system and they do a lot of the same things.|
|9||Terrance Gannaway||NYJ||Baylor||6 (202)||Gannaway is a player to watch as he fits almost perfectly in New York’s scheme, especially if they make the move to Tebow. He is huge and he is multi-skilled. Tony Sparano probably had input on this selection. The biggest problem the Baylor product has is the overall depth of the Jets’ backfield. There’s no stud player, but there’s plenty of solid guys. Gannaway will need to blow away the competition to land a large share of the touches. Right now, Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight and Tebow lead the way in terms of projected carries. Bilal Powell is another guy with ability who is also in the mix. Still, in dynasty, Gannaway makes for a solid mid-round pick. He’s a guy to know about for all formats. He reminds us of Arian Foster when he came out. Now he needs to improve year-to-year the way Foster did. He has a legit chance and he landed with the right team.|
|10||Bernard Pierce||BAL||Temple||3 (84)||Pierce has a nice size/speed combo. We like him a lot. He has a pro body and good fundamentals. BP runs with power and has nice lateral ability for a man his size. We see him as having the inside track to be the backup to Ray Rice. The Ravens can still function with Pierce as their tailback. He’d make for a worthy handcuff based on what we’ve seen from him.|
|11||Chris Rainey||PIT||Florida||5 (159)||We see him as a legit NFL back. That’s three in Pitt counting Mendenhall and Jon Dwyer. We’re less high on Isaac Redman. The Steelers look like a team to avoid in redrafts ... too many guys. In dynasty, we’d be looking to add Rainey and Dwyer. Rainey’s drawback is his size and there are rumors that Pitt will use him as both a receiver and as a back. He could form a nice 1-2 punch with Mendenhall or Dwyer at some point.|
|12||Edwin Baker||SD||Michigan State||7 (250)||Baker is a guy with the ability to play at the next level. He split time in 2011 so his stats do not tell the full story. We like his potential in SD behind the oft-injured though supremely gifted Ryan Matthews. The Chargers have brought in the likes of Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle, but Baker could emerge as the best handcuff option for Matthews owners. We’ll be tracking his progress in August. Baker left Michigan State after his junior year. He’s got decent size to go with good speed. He’s a patient runner who follows his blocks. We see him as a good fit for the Chargers’ offense.|
|13||Daryl Richardson||STL||Abilene Christian||7 (252)||We like Isaiah Pead plenty, but this kid is another very solid prospect. Tailback is now a position of depth for the Rams. Pead is certainly the best early bet to backup S-Jax, but Richardson is a player to watch too.|
|14||Cyrus Gray||KC||Texas A&M||6 (182)||Cyrus is yet another smallish playmaker in KC. The kid can run and has serious quickness. He’s down on the depth chart, but he has a future as a part time back. Not a guy to draft outside of dynasty leagues, but if injury hits others in KC, Cyrus could become a solid source of stats. He’s a play-maker.|
|15||Bryce Brown||PHI||Kansas State||7 (229)||Brown had a checkered college career and his off field stuff nearly made him undraftable, but he was taken late by Philly and he will now have a chance to learn under a good coaching staff. He has obvious talent plus solid size and speed. Right now, he is a guy for gig dynasty and keeper leagues, especially if you already roster LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis. He’s also a player to keep an eye on, just in case there are injuries in Philly. The guy has the talent.|
|16||Dan Herron||CIN||Ohio State||6 (191)||A 6th rounder with middling ability, we think Herron is worth following due to the meager talent level of BJGE and Bernard Scott. If Herron makes the team, he could earn a role at some point. He has NFL ability and this was a good spot for him. Not a bad flier later in dynasty drafts.|
|17||Vick Ballard||IND||Mississippi St||5 (170)||Ballard has some guys in front of him in Indy, but he’s got some talents. He’s a power runner who had success in the SEC. He clocked very poorly at the combine or he may have gone sooner. We see him as a middle round pick in dynasty and long term keeper formats, but he’s not a good bet to do much in 2012.|
|18||Michael Smith||TB||Utah State||7 (212)||Smith is a guy we like ok. He has tremendous speed and decent size but is just an ok back on film. He should make the Tampa roster and play a role behind Doug Martin. He played behind Turbin at Utah State, so don’t ignore him based on his statistics. He’s worth a late pick in dynasty if you roster Martin early on.|
|20||Alfred Morris||WAS||Florida Atlantic||6 (173)||You always have to pay attention to any RB on any Mike Shanahan team. That being said, Morris is more FB than RB and he’s got a crowded backfield ahead of him. Leave him alone in all but the deepest long term formats formats for now.|
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