Written by Josh Haymond Follow on Twitter: @JPesoFF
The conundrum – rushing consistency and lack of versatility versus maddening health and big upside.
Stevan Ridley, NEP
Stevan Ridley followed up his rookie year (87 carries on over 5 yards per carry) with an impressive sophomore campaign in 2012, rushing 290 times for 1263 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and 12 TD, adding 6 catches for 51 yards, good for 207 PPR points (RB15), or 13.0 PPR PPG (RB21).
Danny Woodhead has moved on to tandem with Ryan Mathews in San Diego, opening the door for more touches in the Patriot backfield – Woodhead received 76 carries and caught 40 passes during the regular season. Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount will fight for scraps as the third running back, a battle Bolden is expected to win if he proves healthy. The most significant drain on Ridley’s value is the multi-dimensional Shane Vereen, who was drafted 17 picks before Ridley in 2011. Vereen will likely flirt with 200 touches, and could find himself with more on his plate if he delivers. Luckily for Ridley, Aaron Hernandez’ legal woes and release from the team figure to keep Vereen busy in ways other than rush attempts and routes out of the backfield.
Ridley is a solid but not world-beating runner. He does nothing great, thus is susceptible to replacement. The Patriots usage of running backs does not bode well for Ridley repeating his prior year 290-carry campaign. Further, Ridley has been ineffective in the passing game dating back to LSU, zapping his fantasy upside. With other viable weapons in New England, the Patriots are unlikely to give Ridley the chance to be an every-down player.
2013 Projection: 16 games, 260 rush attempts, 1150 rush yards (4.42 YPC), 10 TD, 10 receptions, 90 receiving yards = 194 PPR, 12.1 PPR PPG
Darren McFadden, OAK
Since entering the league in 2008, few players have been as enigmatic as Darren McFadden. DMC’s largest success came in 2010, rushing 223 times for 1157 yards (5.2 yards per carry) with 7 TD, adding 47 catches for 507 yards with 3 TD. In the first six games of 2011, McFadden teased his owners with 614 yards on 113 carries (5.4 yards per carry) and 4 TD, adding 19 catches for 154 yards and 1 TD, a 20.6 PPR PPG average. But once again, McFadden was injured, the culprit this time a season-ending Lisfranc foot injury.
McFadden was faced with new challenges in 2012. Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp installed a zone-blocking system that didn’t suit the team’s personnel, a seemingly obvious mistake that led to Knapp’s replacement. McFadden also missed 4 games in 2012 with a nagging high-ankle sprain. Still, he finished with a sizable workload – 216 carries for just 707 yards (just 3.3 yards per carry) and 2 TD, adding 42 catches for 258 yards and 1 TD (equal to 12.9 PPR PPG, just .1 shy of Ridley’s 2012 PPR output).
Rashad Jennings, Marcel Reece, and 6th round draft choice Latavius Murray will compete for #2 running back duties, but the winner will not impact a healthy McFadden’s touches.
The new regime in Oakland has scrapped zone blocking disaster in favor of a downhill scheme. McFadden may prove to have lost some of his early career juice, but his versatility will restore his fantasy output in upwards of the NFL’s best. As the focal point of the offense, the starving McFadden will touch the football 20+ times per game, providing a delectable upside in a contract year.
2013 Projection: 14 games, 250 rush attempts, 1180 rush yards (4.72 YPC), 9 TD, 56 receptions, 440 receiving yards = 272 PPR, 19.4 PPR PPG
Yes, Ridley is 1.5 years younger than McFadden. And yes, Ridley is a lower injury risk than McFadden. And yes, Ridley has been more “reliable.” But reliability is worth little in the semifinals.
Ridley, with one year of not-so-tasty RB2 stats under his belt, isn’t sexy enough to offset the allure of the competitive edge – McFadden has a better chance of winning his owners championships, and for that, the winner of this battle is Darren McFadden.
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