Title:A Look at the NFL Running Back Market
Date: June 11, 2008
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: Sometimes article titles are obscure and bury the lede. This is not one of those times. This article took a look at the NFL’s running back market and the teams with that particular hole to fill.
After a drunk boating charge, Cedric Benson was against the ropes. When piece after piece of suspicious procedural information on the part of the police began coming out, Benson was seemingly in the clear. To celebrate, he got drunk…and drove home…and got busted. Two strikes, you’re out, Cedric. On Monday, the Chicago Bears parted ways with the former 4th-overall pick, cutting him and the remaining three years on his massive rookie contract.
For Benson, it is a tough situation – he is young enough, at age 25, that he still has loads of potential and appeal to teams in need of a running back. However, he’s also performed poorly thus far in his career, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry last season and managing just 10 touchdowns in 35 career games. While some of this can be explained by a poor offensive unit around him (see: The Sex Cannon) or previously splitting time with Thomas Jones, it can’t be ignored that Benson has crossed the 100-yard marker in a game just twice and is a poor receiving back.
Still, there is demand out there. So today, I take a look at the biggest buyers in the NFL running back market, and some of the biggest available players.
Chicago Bears – Explained a bit already, the Bears are left with veteran and career back-up Adrian Peterson No Not The Good One The Other One and 2nd-round draft pick Matt Forte. While Forte was drafted to get playing time, he is unproven and Peterson sucks. They need a top running back to limit the damage that comes with having Sexy Rexy as your offensive cornerstone.
Denver Broncos – Selvin Young is unproven and young and…wait, these are the Broncos. I could run for 1,000 yards in their zone blocking scheme. Young has even set a goal of 2,000 yards. Still, a Pittman-Selvin duo is not imposing and the Broncos are always on the look-out for running backs on the cheap.
Detroit Lions – Tatum Bell? Yawn. They took Kevin Smith early in the second round and the kid has loads of potential, but again, this is a team that needs a strong running threat to curb the predictability of their offense.
Miami Dolphins – Only if Ronnie Brown doesn’t return healthy, because they can’t rest their future on Ricky Williams, obviously. They are a prime candidate for a cheap one-year plug-in who could split time as Brown returns to health.
Cleveland Browns – They scored Jamal Lewis in this manner and he paid off big time. That said, Lewis has shouldered a heavy workload for a 28-year old and Jason Wright isn’t scaring anybody off the bench. With a high-octane offense, it will be important for the Browns to keep defenses honest, whether that be with Lewis or someone else.
Others – Tampa Bay has four question marks (Cadillac Williams, Warrick Dunn, Earnest Graham, Michael Pittman); Philadelphia desperately needs an insurance policy on Brian Westbrook; Kansas City may want better insurance than Kolby Smith for Larry Johnson; Cincinnati is facing a tough decision with Rudi Johnson, Kenny Watson, and the future.
Cedric Benson – Explained above, Benson has loads of potential but no successful track record, on or off the field. He is a major gamble but has major upside for a weaker team.
Shaun Alexander – Alexander is maybe the most intriguing on this list because of his resounding success as recent as 2005. A former sure-fire top fantasy running back, Alexander struggled mightily last season and in 2006, posing questions about his durability and his future. Still, this guy is a 5-time 1,000 yard rusher and may have a year left in a split role at age 30.
Travis Henry – In this same boat last season, Henry’s off-field problems follow him everywhere. He has been wildly inconsistent in his career due to injuries and platoon situations, but he has crossed the 1,200-yard mark three times and had a great 2006.
Kevin Jones – A perennial afterthought and personal favorite, K-J is still just 25 years old and brimming with potential. While in four injury-plagued years he’s struggled to average 4.0 yards per carry, two truths remain true: he’s played at least 12 games every year, and his potential is intriguing coming from a run-heavy offense. Apparently healthy, Jones could be a bargain started or solid platoon back.
Others – Mike Anderson always catches on somewhere; So does Ron Dayne, for one week; former Bill A-Train Anthony Thomas; Lorenzo Neal (maybe the best fullback ever).