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Joseph Hutchins | Archive | Email
Staff Writer

The Shot Caller's Report - Running Backs
Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups: Week 1
Positions: QBs | RBs | WRs

Bye Weeks:

Grab a Helmet

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith's ankle injury shouldn't be a concern in Week 1.

Kevin Smith vs. STL: In a perfect world, Smith would be the least interesting Detroit running back and an afterthought for fantasy GMs. Jahvid Best would play game-breaker to Mikel Leshoure’s helmet-breaker, and the long-suffering Lions fans would be treated to a balanced attack capable of lighting up the Ford Field scoreboard. Alas, neither Best (PUP) nor Leshoure (two-game suspension) will be available in Week 1, leaving the once relevant Smith to carry the load. You could do worse. He faces a Rams defense that gave up over 150 rushing yards per game last year and that was especially soft up the middle. You never expect Detroit to lean heavily on the running game when there are more exciting things to do with the ball (like throw it to Megatron), but they’ll want to keep the plucky St. Louis pass rushers honest. Moreover, should Stafford and company create early separation, Smith will likely be called upon to salt the game away.

Ronnie Brown @ OAK: Must be the season of retread running backs, huh? Just as Kevin Smith has the Motown gig to himself temporarily, Ronnie Brown apparently has the lead-back duties in San Diego. It took precisely one preseason snap, when Ryan Mathews cracked his clavicle on the Qualcomm turf, for Brown to go from low-end handcuff to potential fantasy factor. The injury is reportedly healing right on schedule, but Mathews still isn’t ready to go and may miss a couple of starts. According to Norv Turner, somebody stands to inherit 20 or so touches in Mathews’ stead, and that someone is almost certainly Brown, a still useful weapon despite a season of disuse in Philly. In Week 1 he draws a Raiders front that gave up 5.1 yards per carry in 2011, the worst per-rush mark in the NFL.

Doug Martin vs. CAR: Martin’s definitely not a retread. He’s not even a tread yet, is he? Coach Greg Schiano declared the Boise St. rookie the winner of the running back derby in Tampa this past week, and that made those who drafted him (perhaps too early) quite happy. He certainly possesses the total skill set (speed, durability, hands) and will get plenty of opportunities in Schiano’s run-first scheme. Though there’s no guarantee we’ve seen the last of LeGarrette Blount (TD vulture, anyone?), you shouldn’t be afraid to plug the rookie in from the outset, even against a Carolina front that will almost certainly be stouter than it was last year thanks to the return from injury of several key performers.

Grab a Gatorade

BenJarvus Green-Ellis @ BAL: The Bengals’ brass apparently grew weary of steady-but-unspectacular Cedric Benson this past offseason, letting the former Longhorn walk after three straight years of 1000-yard production. They then coaxed the Law Firm into relocating to the Queen City, gambling that his higher yards-per-carry average and his nose for the end zone might perk up a middle-of-the-pack rushing attack. Will they be vindicated? I haven’t the foggiest idea, though I have a guess: Not really. I do know BJGE isn’t likely to provide said vindication in Week 1 when he faces the Ravens’ nasty front seven on Monday night. If you’ve got other options this weekend, use them.

Cedric Benson vs. SF: Speaking of Benson, he’s landed on his feet in Titletown where, after just a few weeks in Packers camp, he’s secured leading-man duties heading into the season. I think that says more about the previous state of Green Bay’s running game (anemic) than it does about Benson at this point. Besides, do you really want the starting rock-toter for a team that doesn’t seem interested in toting it very often? The Pack scored more points than any NFL team last year but carried it fewer times than all but six of them. As Aaron Rodgers goes, so goes Green Bay. Incidentally, last year’s running back tandem of James Starks and Ryan Grant accounted for a measly three rushing touchdowns. Rodgers accounted for four of his own. Like I said, as Aaron Rodgers goes….

Roy Helu, Evan Royster, or Alfred Morris @ NO: Really? You wanna play running back roulette right out of the shoot? You’re a braver GM than me. Here’s how willing I am to employ a running back relying on Mike Shanahan for regular touches: I just traded Helu, arguably the most talented and certainly the most proven of the three, straight up for Danny Amendola in a 12-team PPR league. Conventional fantasy wisdom says you don’t trade a potential starting RB for a third or fourth WR. However, if Amendola’s even a shadow of his 2010 self, I almost certainly got the better of this deal. Yes, any of the three could go off for a week and win a game for you. Any of the three could also be relevant for an extended stretch—three or four games, perhaps. The chances of one guy emerging and being consistent for the entire 2012 season, however, are slim to none. I’ll take the poor man’s Wes Welker, thank you very much.

Wide Receivers