Question: It seems to me that there is a growing perception that Joseph Randle is the lead for most carries among the committee of running backs. This seems to be a reasonable assumption based on his one-cut skill set aligning better to the Cowboys running scheme as opposed to the other backs. Would you agree with that assessment?
Cowboys beat writer Rainer Sabin: Yes. I agree with that. Plus, he has played more regularly in this particular system and behind this line before. And he has experience as a starter. Don't forget that as a rookie he replaced DeMarco Murray as the primary running back in 2013 when Murray was injured.
Darren McFadden is going ahead of Randle in early drafts, but Randle may be the better bet. He was highly effective (6.7 YPC) in 2014 and is reportedly showing more maturity after several off-the-field issues. He's not going to see a DeMarco Murray-type workload, but 225-250 carries is feasible if he wins the lead back job. Don't forget about McFadden's struggles when the Raiders' moved to a zone-blocking scheme in 2012.
We'll see how this plays out, but if Carr has to go under the knife, it's going to impact his ability to prepare for the season. If he were a five-year vet, it may not matter, but he can use all the practice he can get as he enters his second season.
In hopes of complementing Alfred Morris with their first true big running back since Stephen Davis left after the 2002 season, the Redskins drafted Florida's 6-2, 226-pound Matt Jones in the third round this month.
"Alfred's a darn good halfback," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Saturday on the second day of Washington's three-day rookie minicamp. "In order to take carries off of him, you gotta show a lot. "So far, Matt's taken the right steps to take a little bit of the load off of Alfred (who had 85 percent of the carries by Washington's running backs the past three seasons). If you want to commit to running the football, you gotta have a couple guys that can tote it."
By hiring offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who helped make Dallas the NFL's top rushing offense in 2014, and using three of their first five draft choices on Jones, tackle Brandon Scherff, and guard Arie Kouandjio, new Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan has shown how committed the Redskins are to a power running game. McCloughan called Jones "a physical player and as tough as crud." And yet, Gruden raved about the rest of the rookie's game.
"You think of him as a big, power-type back, but Matt's done some things out in space that have been very, very impressive, making moves on the second level, in the passing game, running some option routes on linebackers," Gruden said. "He's got natural hands."
Jones only had 19 catches in three years at Florida, but it sounds as if he may compete for third down duties now that Roy Helu is no longer locking down that role. Morris has caught 68.5 percent of his targets, which is a higher rate than what Shane Vereen and Jamaal Charles posted last season, but he has yet to make much of an impression in the passing game.
“The running game nowadays, you need to have a couple of guys that can tote it,” Redskins HC Jay Gruden told Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980 earlier this week. “Sixteen games is a long time, that’s a lot of games, a lot of carries, that’s a lot of hits on these running backs.”
Gruden said that he would like to split up the carries more than he did last year, when he went with what was mostly a one-back attack. Alfred Morris had 265 rushing attempts. The other tailbacks on the roster, Roy Helu, Silas Redd, and Chris Thompson, combined for 59 rushing attempts. That is 82 percent of the carries for Morris, 18 percent for the rest.
In his three years as the offensive coordinator with the Bengals, Gruden spread the workload in different ways in different seasons. In 2012 he had BenJarvus Green-Ellis take 80 percent of the tailback rushing attempts. But in 2011 it was a 70-30 split between Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott. And in 2013 Cincinnati drafted Giovani Bernard and gave him 170 carries to 220 for Green-Ellis (that’s a 56-44 split in percentage terms).
So maybe splitting up the running back carries isn’t so much a matter of philosophy for Gruden as much as doing things the way the quality of his stable of running backs dictates. He told Sheehan and Loverro that he will see who can earn the carries that Morris won’t get.
“I think you give Alfred the bulk of [the carries] and then Matt Jones comes in there, it could be Chris Thompson, it could be Silas Redd,” he said. “We’ll see how camp goes to see who deserves the carries, who’s going to get the carries. They have to prove then can protect the ball, No. 1, and prove they can pick up blitzes, No. 2 and then they will get some carries behind Alfred.”
We're still expecting Morris to see the vast majority of the carries, but this is something to keep in mind if another back flashes in the preseason. In his first three seasons, Morris has finished #5, #14 and #13 in standard formats. He's more of a RB2 in PPR leagues (#7, #19, #17) since he has only averaged 0.8 receptions per game in his career. Bill Callahan's arrival (as offensive line coach) should help the effectiveness of the team's running game, which in turn will help Morris's fantasy production. He's a solid value and a safe pick in the 3rd/4th round of early PPR drafts. He should go in the 2nd/3rd in standard leagues.
The Raiders signed veteran Michael Crabtree from San Francisco on April 13 and then used the No. 4 overall pick on Alabama receiver Amari Cooper in the first round of the draft last Thursday night. Cooper and Crabtree are both expected to start.
Crabtree hasn't been himself since his Achilles injury, but there is opportunity in the Raider receiving corps. The problem is that he's not markedly better than Andre Holmes or Rod Streater, so Crabtree could end up anywhere from second to fourth in the pecking order by the time preseason rolls around.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have made running back Melvin Gordon the favorite to with the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The sportsbook Bovada.com lists Gordon's odds at 13 to 2.
All six players were first round picks. We agree that Gordon has the best chance to shine among the running backs, especially since Gurley is coming off of an ACL tear.
Raiders beat writer Jerry McDonald on expectations for WR Amari Cooper: "Anything less than 70 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving from Cooper will be a disappointment, considering his skill set, experience as a route-runner and status as the fourth pick in the draft."
Adding five touchdowns to the mix would give Cooper about 200 fantasy points in PPR formats, or about what Eric Decker scored as 2014's #26 receiver. Cooper is currently going #22 in early best ball PPR drafts.
“Alfred won’t be affected,” said Jay Gruden soon after the team handed in the card with Jones’ name on it. “Alfred’s still the running back here. He’s had three great seasons and that won’t change, but to add another guy that can come in here and pound the rock a little bit doesn’t hurt anything. It’ll help Alfred in that regard taking some carries off of him, but for the most part, Alfred will be getting the bulk of the carries and Matt will get some too, obviously.”
Of course Morris will be affected by Jones, but Gruden's attempt to minimize the impact is encouraging for Morris owners. Jones could see a few more carries than Roy Helu did -- Helu had 40 carries in 14 games last season -- though Morris could see a bit of Helu's workload (42 catches) in the passing game. This would boost Morris's value in PPR leagues, though we've been waiting for Morris to get an expanded receiving role for a few years now. Don't count on it.
Scouts like Clive Walford’s ability to work the middle of the field, with his quickness off the line of scrimmage and good route-running ability.
“He’s a complete tight end,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Are you a blocking tight end or a receiving tight end? We think he’s both.”
It's difficult for a tight end to make a big fantasy impact as a rookie, especially since Walford would have to beat out Mychal Rivera, who caught 58 passes for 534 yards and four touchdowns and averaged 4.5 catches over the final 10 games. He was the #6 PPR TE in that span. One thing working in Walford's favor is that the coaching staff is new, so they have no ties to Rivera other than what they've seen on film.
The team selected Alabama receiver Amari Cooper with the No. 4 overall draft pick in last week’s draft.
The article didn't mention Andre Holmes, but he's also in the mix for snaps. Jones led the team in receptions and touchdowns, and was second to Holmes in receiving yards. The only receiver we would trust in Oakland is Cooper, since he's likely to be immediately thrust into a starting role. Crabtree, Streater and Holmes will battle for playing time.
Raiders WR Michael Crabtree admitted he has a chip on his shoulder after a frustrating free-agency experience left him with a one-year, prove-it deal that guarantees him only $1.3 million. (He can make another $400,000 for 70 catches or 900 yards, $1.4 million for 100 catches for 1,400 yards and $400,000 for being named to the Pro Bowl.)
“I have a lot to prove,” Crabtree said. “A lot to prove. Ain’t got nothing to lose and have a lot to prove.”
“I would say the year prior to last year was me recovering, trying to get back right,” Crabtree said. “This year I don’t feel a thing. Just go out there and play.”
Crabtree hasn't been himself since his Achilles injury, but there is opportunity in the Raider receiving corps. The problem is -- he's not markedly better than James Jones, Andre Holmes or Rod Streater, so Crabtree could end up anywhere from first to fourth in the pecking order by the time preseason rolls around.
Roy Helu, 26, looks like a perfect fit for Oakland’s new up-tempo offense that will often feature a no-huddle approach. ESPN scout Matt Williamson thinks Helu can be one of the Raiders’ most productive offensive weapons even though it will be in a limited role.
“While he isn’t great in protection, I think he will be a very valuable piece and a quick safe option for Derek Carr in this up-tempo passing game and offense overall,” Williamson said. “Helu has been extremely productive on a per-snap basis.”
Helu has averaged 2.69 catches per game in his four-year career, and is expected to serve as the team's primary passing down back while Latavius Murray and Trent Richardson compete for early-down duties. The Raiders are planning to move to a more up-tempo offense under OC Bill Musgrave, who spent last season working for Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Helu is likely to be fantasy relevant in PPR formats, though the explosive Murray should hold the most fantasy value in 2015.
Moore caught 33 passes for 618 yards and five touchdowns while also running for one score that season and he followed that up with seven more touchdown catches the next year. He continued to play a prominent role in the offense in 2013, but drifted into an insignificant role with Oakland last season.
Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was the head coach in Oakland when Moore was a rookie during the 2011 season. The problem for Moore's fantasy potential is he'll be behind A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and the recently re-signed Brandon Tate, at least heading into OTAs and camp.
Monday, April 6, 2015, 1:07pm
The Cowboys certainly hope that's the case. McFadden averaged less than 3.4 yards a carry the past three seasons with Oakland. He rushed for a total of 1,620 yards, which is less than DeMarco Murray accumulated for the Cowboys last season.
So, what do the Cowboys see in McFadden?
"We liked him a lot coming out of college,'' head coach Jason Garrett said. "He came out in '08. That was the same year we drafted Felix Jones. We spent a lot of time with him and on him. I think he was the fourth player taken in that draft. There was a lot to like about him.
"We are confident in the environment we can create for our guys to bring the best out in him.''
McFadden played in 16 games for the first time in his career last season. He missed 19 games over the previous three seasons and has played in more than 13 games in a season only once in his career. There is no doubt McFadden will be behind a better offensive line this year, but the Cowboys could very well address the position in the draft. There is a lot to settle between now and fantasy draft day in terms of McFadden's possible value.
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