(Doc’s Note: Frequent commenter Calogera gave us a nice look at some running backs in the comments who might be worth getting your Yukon Cornelius prospector’s pick out for. I thought I’d share it with the rest of ya’ll.)
Picking the right speculative RB is very important. I found this out when I got BJax before Week 1 when Grant got hurt and his value skyrocketed (and I flipped him) and Torain before Week 4 when Portis got hurt. I also found it out when Tashard Choice and Bernard Scott occupied bench spots for 1/4 of a season with no value whatsoever.
A play on a speculative RB is really maybe 70% a play AGAINST the current starter. The other 30% comes down to ability and the quality of the other secondary options on their team, a.k.a. the role they would play if an injury DOES occur to the starter.
However, sometimes it’s hard to tell ahead of time who will get an opportunity and run with it (Arian Foster, Charles and Harrison in 09) and who will only kind of tread water (BJax, Maroney, etc). But here’s how I handicap it:
1. Bernard Scott – Benson is as good a bet as any RB1 right now to not play in all 16 games. Couple that with the fact that Scott has shown flashes of serious talent, the Bengals will probably still run a lot even if Benson gets hurt, and his only competition is Brian Leonard (more of a FB/3rd down guy) and he’s a good speculative add. Downside is that Cinci plays a lot of remaining games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, so there would be some weeks where he’d be a flex at best.
2. Isaac Redman – Mendenhall is young, but has had a few ouchies already in his career so it’s not out of the question that he might get hurt with his current workload. Redman has run tough when he gets the chance and the coaching staff likes him. Compare him to Mike Tolbert. If Mendy goes down, he would likely take over 1st and 2nd downs – 3rd downs already belong to Mewelde, and it hasn’t hurt Mendy so I wouldn’t worry about him.
3. James Starks – He’s an unknown since he hasn’t seen any NFL action yet, but he has been practicing and getting experience in the system over the last few weeks so they might not treat him with kid gloves when he comes off the PUP in Week 7. However, there’s no guarantee he’s a better RB than Brandon Jackson. Even if he is, Jackson would still be the 3rd down back and Kuhn would still see some carries here and there.
If BJax gets hurt however, nab Starks immediately. If the Packers don’t trade for any RB before the deadline, I’d also take that as a sign that they think Starks will be able to contribute. A lot of unknown variables here, but his upside in GB’s offense is up there with anyone on this list.
4. Derrick Ward – Judging from his usage the last 2 games, he’d stand to grab the majority of the work if Foster gets hurt. Slaton would get a bigger share than he’s been getting with Foster hogging carries, but I think Ward would still put up RB2 numbers. The odds of Foster getting hurt aren’t as high as some other feature backs in this league, but hey, every RB is in some danger of injury.
Is there really any reason to think he couldn’t put up 75-80% of the numbers Foster has put up if he became the starter. Sure he’s not as talented, but that line has been beastly and with 17-20 carries per game plus goalline work, Ward would have great value.
5. Deji Karim – he looks good, but he’s got MJD and probably Rashad Jennings to contend with before he can get enough PT to be worth playing. MJD is one of the better bets to get hurt at some point among starters, but the Jags are very inconsistent and his ultimate upside would really be a decent flex option. You could do worse, but I’d definitely rather have anyone above.
6. Mike Hart/Danny Ware – Both are essentially 3rd RB on good offenses. Hart could turn out to be the best short-term option on here if you need a flex starter in Week 6, but Addai and/or Brown will be available most weeks so he’ll never get a comfortable, guaranteed workload. Plus I think his upside is limited since the Colts would probably be willing to throw 60 times a game if Hart is the only RB healthy, giving him upside limited at flex.
Ware might have a little bit higher upside, but he’s also stuck behind 2 guys. Brandon Jacobs isn’t dead yet and Bradshaw has looked good, but I’d be SHOCKED if they didn’t miss 6-10 games between them. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this Ware kid, and who knows what he could do with an opportunity. As of now, it’s a little too remote, but keep an eye on him. If one of those guys goes down, he’d shoot up this list.