Ranking the Middle Tier of Rookie RBs

By Josh Johnson, DFW Senior Writer and Co-Owner @Josh _DFWPulse

We know, Ezekiel Elliott is going to slash his way to 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns every year for the next 5-8 years. We also understand the loads of literature that exists on Derrick Henry. You can even rest assured the Devontae Booker and Kenneth Dixon will be fantasy studs. And, don’t forget the future PPR monster (aka the next Fred Jackson) C.J. Prosise, his role appears rather concrete. Surely you do not what to read about longshot /dark horse candidates like Kelvin “you need a shovel to find me on the depth chart” Taylor or Daniel “combine peaker” Lasco. What about that middle tier? There are some definite RB2s (on their own team) floating around who peeps drafted with real aspirations of counting on them. How ever humble the adorations may be, the grace of winning with one these rookie runners listed below is one of envy causing fortitude.


1. Jordan Howard, CHI – Remember when C.J. Anderson appeared to be a Miami Dolphin? Well the Bears were also on his short list cooper3and rumors swirled about Chicago being his preference. Was he promised a touched minimum by his former HC John Fox? Did he think he could fill the enormous shoes of Matt Forte? To Jeremy Langford the threat was his off-season reality. Jordan Howard was selected in the fifth round as tenth overall RB. He is currently hitting the scales at 226 pounds which well is distributed on 6-foot-1 frame. Howard presents a lot more between the tackles power than the incumbent Langford. What Howard lacks is a pass catching resume to make his owner feel comfortable. We feel he may be underrated in that department as he played in a couple of offenses that did not require him to anything but mash the hole. Langford is a dump off creator who truly screams third down back. Fox is notorious for distrusting rookies. New OC Dowell Loggains has been called a man of mystery. It appears basically nobody knows what kind of offense he will run. He is the sixth OC since Jay Cutler joined the Bears in 2009. So many arrows point to ball control for us (even with three WR sets)! If Loggains does spread things out we believe Howard benefits the most as a table setter. Unless it is third down of course.


2. Wendell Smallwood, PHI – Shall we spare you the Ryan Mathews soft issue stories? You know them, right? The soon to be 29 year old has smallwood2only appeared in all 16 once (in 2013) during his career and since then has missed 13 of 32 games. He is a legitimate dual threat but that is exactly why we are falling deeply in love with Smallwood. He presents the same capabilities as Mathews which makes him a quality handcuff for now. Rumors leaked of Smallwood having some playbook issues. Yet, that was OTAs and a full training camp should hammer it home. He chunkified the BIG12 to the tune of 6.4 YPC in route to 1,519 yards in 13 games during the 2015 season. He also provided a dependable screen and wheel option with 68 collegiate receptions in 38 total games. He is also a far cheaper option than the elder Darren Sproles which is why Sproles was only re-signed through the 2016 season.


3. Tyler Ervin, HOU – The awesome power of this little man may take a injury to come to fruition. Also the new kickoffs rules may Ervinlimit his chances show what will truly appeals to his patient owners. The former non-power grinder swizzled his way to 5.5 YPC a starter at San Jose State. Not to mention 74 receptions in his final 25 college games. Lamar Miller is the big money starter who has had exactly one 1,000 yard campaign. We worry about if his body can hold up through 300 carries which is apparently expected. Our goal for Ervin this year is that he jumps Alfred Blue on Texans RB depth chart. What might already be solidified is Ervin’s usage on third down, this is assuming he proves his worth as a blocker in camp. Houston made some heads turn when they chose Will Fuller as the second WR off the board in this year’s draft. Whether you agree with that statement or not the intrigue level was raised when they picked Ervin as the fifth RB off the board above the likes of Kenneth Dixon and Devontae Booker. Ervin is an unique talent who may never be a 300 touch player but he will definitely excite with whatever touches he does get.


4. Keith Marshall, WAS – You bet your extended tail feathers it’s that odd that Marshall could either be cut or a 1,000 yard runner. marshallThe point is that he is scary talented (emphasis on the scary). He value could be earth shattering and then again he might be another Marcus Lattimore. Those are extremist viewpoint and some middle ground may be more likely. Marshall’s injury history is very really but so is his 4.31 40-time post ACL injury/rehab. That kind of speed is dangerous in many ways. The risk factor of freaky injuries reoccurring is vast at such top notch speed levels. The current starter is Matt Jones is a very no nonsense north/south runner like the former starter Alfred Morris. There is not a dynamic flash to Jones’s game and therefore we believe Washington could eventually chose the hot hand if Marshall finds his sizzle. Marshall did not start camp on the PUP list which is huge and also highly unexpected. He does profile more as the RB2 rather than a third down (that post is currently occupied by Chris Thompson). Is Marshall better that Thompson? He probably is but because of his injury history the Redskins might take a kid gloves approach to Marshall early on until there is a need to unleash. Many teams were apprehensive about Marshall and his checkered injury history as he went in the seventh round as the nineteenth RB taken overall.


5. DeAndre Washington, OAK – There is much hatred out there for current Oakland starter Latavis Murray. Redraft/Dynasty players washalike scoff at his falling but too high ADP (6.12). Zero RB theorists and even standard league dinosaurs are ready to move on and draft his cuff (Washington). His startup ADP of 18.07 in offense only leagues seems like the perfect thing to brag about next offseason. Well the genius in all of us knows that impactful rookie runners do not fall from the sky. We like Washington but he is has a lot to learn about offensive play in the NFL. It is also apparent that Murray detractors know nothing about offensive line play and the upgrades Oakland has made. So why do we have Washington ranked here above guys like Paul Perkins (who just missed this list) and Kenyan Drake (who is currently fitting Arian Foster for crutches)? Well, let’s just say the opportunity bell ring faster when there isn’t much veteran talent in your way. Depth chart competition includes Roy Helu (currently on IR) and Taiwan Jones who Oakland cannot decide if he is a RB or DB. The 5-foot-8/200 pound Washington averaged 5.6 YPC in college and 6.1 YPC as starter in the Texas Tech Spread Gun offense. His 124 receptions in 49 games as a Red Raider translate to the obvious, a third down back and possibly a role fulfillment by week one.


P.S.- You want a true dark horse, try Devon Johnson of Carolina on for size.