The contract year player series is all about finding that guy who’s going to go all out this year and play for a new fat contract.  It’s not always that cut and dried though.  Sometimes a guy goes down with a devastating injury going into his contract year.  So devastating that he’ll likely land on the PUP list.  What then?  Will he see enough playing time to make his contract year count?  Can extra motivation help a guy heal faster?  The answers aren’t clear but these are the question we need to answer and the case we need to address with Rashard Mendenhall in 2012.

Now on the surface Mendenhall is a guy no one would touch with a 10 foot pole right now.  He performed like a fairly pedestrian fantasy back in 2011, put up his standard 4.1 yards per carry, and suffered a torn ACL in week 17 of the NFL season.  As a result he quickly fell out of favor with fantasy owners and Pittsburgh coaches alike.  But that is what Mendy looks like on the surface.  Let’s dig a little deeper shall we?

If you take a look at Mendenhall’s 2011 stats they aren’t all that bad.  Sure it’s what most of us would consider a down year but he put up 928 rushing yards and 9 TD’s despite carrying the rock the fewest amount of times since his rookie season. This isn’t production to scoff at in a fantasy league.  Especially if it was truly just a down year and he has a chance to rebound.

With that thought in mind it is a contract year for Rashard and he needs to show he can still be a starter for the Steelers or some other NFL team.  The fact that he’ll likely be still recovering from his torn ACL when the season starts will make that an uphill battle for him.  Still, he’ll be extra motivated to rehab and come back strong.  Once back he’ll try his damnest to prove he can still be a starter in this league and earn that contract for 2013 and beyond.  Mendy is one of the few back in the league that can shoulder the load all by himself.  With RBBC on the rise in the NFL he’s one of the few prototypical workhorse back so he has great potential if he can prove himself again.

Considering everything we’ve gone over here I really feel like this offseason is the time to buy Mendenhall in dynasty leagues.  Not only because he’s in a contract year but because his value is at an all time low.  No one wants him right now because of the combination of injury and his perceived mediocrity.  Remember that this guy is still only 24 years old.  That’s the same age as such up and coming backs (who are perceived as very young) as CJ Spiller and DeMarco Murray.  He’s definitely got a number of years left ahead of him.  The nice thing is you won’t have to give up much for Mendy making him a low risk play and a perfect target for a team in rebuild mode.   Be aware he’ll likely start the 2012 season on the PUP so you’ll need to be prepared to wait on the payoff.  Still, if he comes back from his injury and returns as a starter somewhere in 2013 (which I think he will) you just bought a solid back capable of carrying the load for a team in the NFL.