Here we are, the conclusion of Combine Week 2014! We’re finishing up this week with my review of the running backs from the Combine. I will warn you, though, that trying to formulate a long-term fantasy forecast for a running back who has yet to be drafted is tricky business. So much of a running back’s fantasy value is derived from the situation they are brought into (number of touches, type of offensive system) and the offensive line they get the pleasure, or misfortune (see: Lamar Miller) of running behind. A perfect way to illustrate this point is to look back at the running back draft class from last year. Two prime examples immediately come to mind when thinking about how team situations affect fantasy value for running backs. These two players are Christine Michael and Le’veon Bell.
As we all know, Christine Michael was drafted in the 2nd round of last year’s draft by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. Michael was quite possibly considered the most talented running back in last year’s class. However, he was brought into one of the worst situations possible for a back hoping to contribute to fantasy teams in the near term, as he was getting splinters in his ass from riding the pine behind Marshawn Lynch (who’s all ’bout that action, boss), and Robert Turbin all year. Now let’s take a look at Le’Veon Bell. Not an extraordinary talent; average speed and acceleration, Bell isn’t a particularly special athlete. However, he was taken by the Steelers, who had little standing between Bell and the starting RB job. Bell’s value skyrocketed and he ended up finishing the year as the #14 RB in fantasy football. That’s a high end #2 in standard 12 team leagues, in case you can’t do that math. It took me a little while, but I think you get my point… pick up what I’m putting down, catching my drift, smellin’ what the Rock is cookin’… Anyway, I digress…
Basically what I’m trying to say is that it is virtually impossible to rank fantasy rookie running backs without knowing whether or not they will have a chance to lock down a prominent role in an offense. Perhaps you think that it’s just me copping out, and maybe it is, but I guess can do that since I’m the one writing this and you’re reading it. If it gives you any consolation, I plan to touch back on each of the positions after the draft is completed and should be able to give you a better idea of which running backs (and quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends) to be targeting on draft day. So today I’ll just throw out some name of some of the better rookie RB talents.
Carlos Hyde (5’11 230) OSU — Hyde is a strong, downhill runner who is going to run right at you, between the tackles. He lacks any type of breakaway speed but has the build and strength to hold up as an every-down back.
Ka’Deem Carey (5’9 207) ASU — Always falling forward, Carey has a knack of getting that extra yard. He is a hard runner that always keeps his legs pumping. He is also a reliable receiver out of the backfield. Some of his weaknesses include not having ideal size, lacking elusiveness, and having a lot of miles on those legs.
Charles Sims (5’11 214) WVU — As I stated in my Senior Bowl review, Sims is quite possibly the most well-rounded back in the class. He has even drawn comparisons to Matt Forte, due to his size and receiving ability. Sims is at least average or better in all aspects of his game, which should help lead to ample opportunities to prove himself as an every-down guy.
Lache Seastrunk (5’9 201) Baylor — Seastrunk was a highly productive player in college for the Baylor Bears. However scouts question whether his success had more to do with his ability or the scheme he played in. Running in an up-tempo spread system, Seastrunk saw very few loaded boxes, allowing the big hog mollies to put a hat on a hat and create holes for him to run through. One big question facing Seastrunk is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, as he had a whooping 9 catches in his college career.
Tre Mason (5’8 207) AUB — Mason was the star for the surprising SEC Champion Auburn Tigers this year, racking up almost 2,000 rushing year en route to becoming a Heisman finalist. Equipped with less-than-ideal size, Mason has a low center of gravity which allows him to maintain great balance, cut on a dime, and slip through holes that bigger guys couldn’t. Due to his slight frame, however, there are concerns as to whether he could withstand a full workload. Also, Mason likes to dance behind the line before making his move upfield. With NFL defenses being NFL defenses, there may be future issues with him gaining solid, consistent yardage.
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