Don’t call it a comeback. Matt Swedlund has been here for years.
Last week Swedlund won his second-straight TQ matchup, found himself in first place overall, but still has the fewest overall votes over the three week contest.
To attempt to remedy this numerical oddity, we have jettisoned the replacement moderators and come to terms with the LS Post Moderators Union on a new contract that extends until the end of the 2023 season. So, while all the votes over the last three weeks will continue count, we at the LS Post suspect some foul play. It’s quite possible that votes were bought and sold. It’s even more possible that favors were exchanged for not voting at all. This week we need to see a serious quantity of votes so we can feel confident that there has not been shenanigans.
Remember, we’ll need your help to determine who has “won” each battle. Please vote in the poll at the end of the article so that we can determine the winner. Please keep in mind that you’re not voting for your best buddy, but rather making an objective determination about which of our contributors has penned the most coherent, entertaining, and well-researched argument to support their answer. Polls will close on Monday at high noon.
As we sit, here are the TQ standings.
Rank these four first-year running backs for the rest of the season; Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, Mikel Leshoure, Ryan Williams. (Yes, we know that Leshoure and Williams aren’t technically rookies, but it’s their first season of actual NFL play).
So this week we will be comparing the rest of the season fantasy outlook for the two premiere, first-year running backs, Trent Richardson and Doug Martin versus Ryan Williams and Mikel Leshoure, two second-year backs both of whom missed the entirety of last season due to injury. Here’s my rankings, then my explanations from worst-to-best.
1. Doug Martin
2. Trent Richardson
3. Mikel Leshoure
4. Ryan Williams
Last week, the oft-injured, Beanie Wells, who has had only ten career games with over 75 total yards, and who is now headed to the not-quite-PUP-not-quite-IR list, ceded the ball to Ryan Williams. However, due to his own injuries, Williams hasn’t been a bell-cow running back since 2009. With games against the Rams, Bills, Packers and Falcons remaining, he has a few good matchups. However, the murderer’s row of rushing defenses he faces during the fantasy playoffs (Seattle, Detroit, Chicago, and San Francisco) makes him the low man on this four-person totem pole.
Compared to that formidable lineup, Mikel Leshoure has a cake walk through his fantasy playoffs with games against the Pack, Cards, and Falcons before facing the stout Bears in Week 17. Detroit lives and dies through the big play arm of Matthew Stafford. The extremely brittle Matthew Stafford, who is perhaps only slightly less fragile than the entire cadre of Lions’ running backs. I mean do you really want to hang your fantasy hopes on one game against the leagues’ fourth-worst rushing defense? Leshoure is coming off an Achilles injury, is part of a pass-centric offense, has Kevin Smith, Joique Bell and perhaps even Jahvid Best still lingering and will likely be without his top quarterback for at least one game at some point this season. I like Leshoure but he is no Leshoure-thing.
So at first glance it may seem like Trent Richardson is the best of the four. He was at least drafted the highest of the four in your league draft this year. The best thing he has going for him is that he is the Browns’ offense. Of their 173 offensive plays Richardson has touched the ball 61 times or 35% of the snaps. In addition, while each of the other three still need to contend with the potential of sharing some carries, Richardson has no such competition. Upcoming games against mediocre-to-awful run defenses such as the Bengals, Colts, Cowboys, Raiders and Chiefs, as well as a pair against the surprisingly mediocre Ravens run defense helps him hold his high upside but he falls just short of…
…Doug Martin, who has the highest upside of the four. Martin faces only two teams in the top ten against the run the rest of the season and faces eight defenses ranked 20th or worse. This reeks of rushing yards aplenty for Martin. While everyone concedes that Richardson is the Browns’ offense, what people don’t realize is that Martin actually has touched the ball on 42% of the Buccaneers plays. LeGarrette Blount has only been seen on milk cartons lately, meaning this is Martin’s offense to lead. So far this year Tampa has run the ball on just under 50% of their plays (that is more than 1-1/2 times the frequency that Cleveland has run the ball). In addition, if (or more appropriately) when Matthew Stafford misses significant time, Tampa Bay’s offense will likely be the best and most reliable fantasy producing offense of the four.
Things change, that’s just the nature of life. The leaves change every fall, cell phones have turned land-line phones into an endangered species, Miley Cyrus now looks like a punk Justin Bieber and NFL rookies (almost completely ignored in fantasy drafts of the past) are now starting on multiple teams in leagues around the country. At the start of the 2012 season, five teams were starting rookie quarterbacks and five more were starting sophomore slingers. Rookie running backs Doug Martin and Trent Richardson started Week 1. As we look at the start of Week 4 that number has doubled with Mikel LeShoure and Ryan Williams taking over as the lead rushers in Detroit and Arizona. That leads us to the Tough Question for the week, how would I rank those four rookie running backs for the rest of the season? Very carefully…
1. Doug Martin
2. Trent Richardson
3. Ryan Williams
4. Mikel Leshoure
Trent Richardson received so much hype heading into the draft, but those managers who were able to snag Martin later in the draft have been pleasantly surprised with his production. Tampa has always been a run-focused team, so despite a down week against a tough Dallas defense, I expect Doug Martin to pick it back up. The NFC South is a very weak division against the run, with the three other teams landing in the top 10 for points allowed to running backs. Unfortunately, the Bucs lead the league in passing yards given up and with four games against Atlanta and New Orleans that is not likely to change. But the Bucs can’t go toe-to-toe in the passing game with these teams so they will need to play ball-control football. That is where our friend Doug comes in. He leads all rookie rushers with 63 carries, 13 more than Trent Richardson and I expect that to increase.
There is no denying that Trent Richardson is talented, but unfortunately the rest of his team isn’t. Which is why it is disappointing that he only tallied 12 carries last week in a loss to Buffalo. The assumption was that even if he struggles and has a low YPC average, he’d still be getting 20+ carries a game. Unfortunately that is something he has yet to do in any game this season. Richardson owners can keep their head up though as he has scored twice in the last two weeks and leads rookie running backs with 65 receiving yards on 11 receptions. He is the best offensive weapon Cleveland has and you have to assume that his role will only increase as his season progresses. I just think at the end of the season Martin will have the bigger fantasy impact.
Beanie Wells injury will cost him at least six week, which gives Ryan Williams the rule of the roost in the Cardinals backfield. After losing two fumbles in the first two weeks on a minimal workload, Williams put together an excellent 83-yard effort against the Eagles in week three. The Cardinals are a very surprising 3-0, but it has almost nothing to do with its dreadful offense that is bottom four in passing yards and bottom seven in rushing yards. I’m blaming most of this on the very pedestrian Wells, and like I stated above, once Williams got the bulk of the carries he excelled. The “Cardinalis Phoeniceus” will need Williams to churn up the yards and the clock in order to keep their defense rested, so expect his carries and production to jump up in the next couple weeks.
I know, this looks like an odd choice since Mikel Leshoure came straight off the trainers table to log a 100-yard game, but stick with me as history is heavily stacked against him. First off, the Lions haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2004, which puts them dangerously close to a decade drought in the backfield. Its also been 12 years since they had a running back score 10 or more touchdowns. And finally, Leshoure’s week three effort was only the ninth 100-yard game for a Lions running back since 2008. You are better off trusting Joe Cullen to deliver you lunch fully clothed than trust a Lions running back to log significant yards and touchdowns. But, you say, won’t the Lions run more if Shaun Hill is behind center? Not really. In 2010 when Shaun Hill played 11 games for Matthew “I have a body with the integrity of blown glass” Stafford, Jahvid Best rushed for a miniscule 555 yards and four scores. You can play Leshoure if the matchup is favorable, but know that there are 12 years of Lion rushing futility hiding in the bushes outside your house ready to light a paper bag on fire on your doorstep. It’s your choice.
Three weeks are in the books and I have gone from the penthouse to the outhouse in the standings. However, just like the fantasy season, we are less than a quarter of the way through and I am definitely in it for the long haul. Let’s get down to it for this week.
1. Mikel Leshoure
2. Ryan Williams
3. Trent Richardson
4. Doug Martin
Mikel Leshoure is my best option going forward. Strength of schedule doesn’t help his cause (worst among the four backs at 28th overall), but that can’t be the only factor in your decision when ranking these guys. Through three games consider this. The Lions are scoring at least 7 more points per game than the Cards, Bucs, and Browns. From a yardage standpoint the difference between the Lions and the next closest team in this article (Browns) is 581 yards. That is a game right there. In Leshoure’s first game out of the gate he totaled 30/134/1. Also remember that Leshoure is surrounded by some tremendous weapons in Megatron, Brandon Pettigrew and Matthew Stafford which will keep teams from loading up the box with eight man fronts.
Ryan Williams is next. I believe to be successful a RB needs a special player on the outside to keep defenses from loading up the box. That is where Larry Fitzgerald comes into play. If it wasn’t for the fact that Leshoure has Megatron on the outside, nobody on this list would have a better playmaking compliment than Williams. Also, remember that the Cardinals are committed to letting one guy run with a job (Beanie Wells?) and the fact that there is no immediate competition for carries and you could do a lot worse than Williams as your RB2. Finally, don’t forget that Arizona is a different team at home, and in weeks 15 and 16 they get home games against the Lions and Bears.
Holding down the third spot is Trent Richardson. While I definitely like Richardson the most from a keeper/dynasty standpoint, he still has to show me that he can stay healthy for a long stretch of time. Durability is key at the RB position and right now you have to wonder how many games you are going to get out of those knees. Add in the fact that he plays in the brutal AFC North, and there is no doubt that there will be a few really tough games for Richardson going forward. However, you can’t deny volume and the fact that he is the absolute focal point of this offense. Touches alone will keep him in your starting lineup week in and week out.
Last in my rankings is Doug Martin. Head coach Greg Schiano is fully committed to running the ball and that is a great asset for Martin owners. However, the team is really struggling to find yardage and sustain drives. Through three games, Tampa ranks last in total yards and first downs. This is from a team that has played the Giants and Carolina in two of their first three games. These defenses have a history of giving up yardage in huge chunks, and yet the Bucs are at the bottom of the league. Not a recipe for RB dominance if you ask me and I need to see this team consistently move the chains before I get on board with Martin.
Who made the most convincing case to support their argument?
- Harley Schultz (42%, 23 Votes)
- Matt Swedlund (35%, 19 Votes)
- Don Hanson (23%, 13 Votes)
Total Voters: 55