The 49ers look to replace the franchise’s all-time leading rusher (Gore) with more than one person. Carlos Hyde is best-suited to be the back on base downs and short-yardage situations. Reggie Bush, a free-agent pickup, and Kendall Hunter can play base downs behind Hyde, but they might be better-suited as third-down backs.
Hyde is expected to take over as the team's primary ball-carrier, with Bush assuming the passing down role. Given Bush's presence and Hyde's 4.0 YPC during in his rookie season, Hyde's upside may be somewhat limited. Expect 250 or so carries and a limited role in the passing game. That may be his ceiling with Bush (along with Kendall Hunter and rookie Mike Davis) eating away at his snaps.
Carlos Hyde, expected to become the San Francisco 49ers' lead running back in the wake of franchise rushing leader Frank Gore's free-agent departure, will begin training camp on the active/non-football injury (NFI) list.
Hyde is one of four players placed on the list Tuesday by the Niners.
In OTAs, Niners rookie coach Jim Tomsula explained Hyde's absence as "nothing serious" at the time, though it was believed to be a calf issue.
"Carlos is -- look, we're not in a hurry with him right now," Tomsula said on May 29. "It's nothing serious, but let's be at 100 percent when we get to training camp. He's in all the meetings and he's here and he's working out and he's doing his stuff. It's just more on the cautious side of just making sure we've got everything healed, and then we move forward.
"It's not even a hamstring; it's a muscle pull. You talk to our medical people -- (at a) different time of the year, Carlos would be pushing through. But why? That's my whole point on everything. Why do that now and take any kind of chances on things? Let's just get it healed and get going."
It doesn't sound like it's anything to worry about at this point and the team is just being cautious. The 49ers signed veteran running back Reggie Bush as a free agent, drafted Mike Davis out of South Carolina in the fifth round, and welcomed back Kendall Hunter from a torn ACL that cost him last season. The team opens training camp with its first practice Saturday.
It's a lot to put on the fifth-year quarterback who has struggled with consistency for much of his career, especially when he'll be without coach Jim Harbaugh, and teammates Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Justin Smith, who are either playing elsewhere or retired.
A season ago, when the 49ers finished 8-8, Kaepernick had career bests in attempts (478), passing yards (3,369) and rushing yards (639), but he also threw more interceptions, took more sacks and lost more fumbles than at any time during his four years in the league.
But according to offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, Kaepernick didn't take a step backwards in 2014.
"And then last year, you're playing with some different sets of challenges," Chryst said, via the MercuryNews.com. There was more change within the offensive line than he had experienced the last couple of years. How does that affect your production as a quarterback? You're behind more often in games. How does that affect your production as a quarterback? I cite the fact that we had six touchdowns nullified by penalty. You plug that back into his formula, he really wasn't ... he didn't regress off his line as much as perceived."
First-year coach Jim Tomsula said in March that Kaepernick not only didn't regress in '14, but he had his best season as a professional, according to the story. The piece added that Kaepernick ranked eighth in QB efficiency in 2013 and 13th the season before that, but none of that matters now because this 49ers team barely resembles the ones that had so much success under Harbaugh. Kaepernick ranks just 14th among QBs on our list. He could turn out to be a nice late-round QB2 who ends up having a bounce-back year, especially if the offense moves to more of a read-option.
It turns out that 69 percent of Frank Gore's rushing attempts last year with the 49ers were made against a defense that had seven or fewer players in the box. Gore rushed for 833 yards and three touchdowns on 179 attempts when there were seven men in the box.
When it came to facing at least eight men in the box, Gore rushed 76 times for 273 yards and a touchdown last season. Gore's 833 yards against seven or fewer defenders in the box would have been enough to lead the Colts in total rushing in each of the past seven seasons.
The Colts didn't have much success rushing the ball when teams loaded the box against them. Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Andrew Luck, Zurlon Tipton and Daniel “Boom” Herron combined to rush for 153 yards on 59 attempts, which is more than 100 yards less than what Gore rushed for.
The numbers don't lie.
The writer concludes that Gore should have plenty of success running the ball this season if the offensive line does its job, because the Colts have too many weapons on offense for defenses to load the box to try to slow Gore down. The hope for the Colts is Gore finally gives them a consistent rushing attack to go with Luck and give the team a bit of balance. Gore is listed 12th on our RB list making him a low-end RB1. Based on ADP, he falls right in that "next tier" of RBs - as the first 11 RBs on our list have ADPs in the first or early second rounds, while Gore's ADP is the early third round. He presents a nice value if you can land him in the third.
Sparano, a former NFL head coach, who spent last year as the Raiders' interim head coach, was blown away by the athletic specimen Davis still is at age 31.
“I’d like to drink from the same fountain as Vernon drinks from because he’s not a 31-year-old athlete,” Sparano said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “This guy takes care of his body, he can really run, he’s athletic and still very, very explosive."
Davis turned in the worst performance of his career last season, catching just 26 balls for 245 yards and two touchdowns in 14 starts. As a result, Davis comes in at just 26th on our TE list this year. He's going very late in 12-team leagues with an ADP of the 14th round. If you're league uses two TEs, or even a TE flex, Davis may be worth a flier that late in drafts, but right now we list plenty more potential better options at the position.
Lions beat writer Michael Rothstein (of ESPN) projects Joique Bell to start over Ameer Abdullah, adding, "The Lions ranked 28th in rushing last season, but Bell had a career year putting up 860 yards with seven touchdowns."
Bell was the #14 RB in standard formats (#13 in PPR), while racking up 257 touches in 15 games. That works out to a 17.1-touch average. While he certainly benefited from Reggie Bush's injury-plagued season, Bell dominated the touches even when Bush was active and playing. He should continue to see RB1-type touches in 2015 with Bush out of the way, though the arrival of Abdullah is a concern.
Perriman has the physical tools (6’2, 4.24 40-yard dash), to replace Torrey Smith in the Ravens’ lineup from the start, but he has to learn Marc Trestman’s offense and prove that he can catch the ball consistently. If Gillmore wins the starting job, he'll be a deep sleeper in Trestman's TE-friendly offense.
The Lions were about a 58-42 pass to run team last season. HC Jim aldwell wants that number closer to 50-50.
Caldwell wants to run the ball more consistently and that couldn’t be more evident than with the selection of guard Laken Tomlinson in the first round and running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round.
Abdullah is going to play a similar role as Reggie Bush did in this offense and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets somewhere in the range of 15 touches per game as a runner and pass catcher.
Joique Bell was the team's leading rusher last year and averaged about 15 carries per game. If Abdullah is as good as the Lions think he’ll be, I’m guessing he gets around 15 touches per game early in the season and potentially builds on that as the year goes on.
We currently project Abdullah for 11.3 touches per game (3.6 catches), so Twentyman's projection is aggressive. The Lions are going to have to get closer to that aforementioned 50/50 split if they're going to support both Abdullah and Bell as viable fantasy starters. If he meets these expectations, Abdullah is shaping up as a nice value in the late 4th or 5th round.
Brandin Cooks should emerge as the Saints’ No. 1 receiver on deep throws and short stuff like screens and end-arounds, while C.J. Spiller should catch 60-plus passes out of the backfield in the mold of Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush.
We project Spiller to catch 68 passes, so this prediction falls right in line with what we're expecting from Spiller in 2015. Be sure to read Sr. Editor John Paulsen's case for Spiller in New Orleans.
Lions RB Joique Bell missed most of last spring’s workouts recovering from an injury and had the best statistical season of his career, but there seems to be more concern this time around with Bell. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said during OTAs that while the team expects Bell to fully recover from his knee and Achilles injuries from last season, there is concern until they see him back on the field.
Bell recently predicted a 1,200-yard season, so he doesn't seem to be too worried about his health. Bell was the #14 RB in standard formats (#13 in PPR), while racking up 257 touches in 15 games. That works out to a 17.1-touch average. While he certainly benefited from Reggie Bush's injury-plagued season, Bell dominated the touches even when Bush was active and playing. If healthy, he should continue to see RB1-type touches in 2015 with Bush out of the way, though the arrival of Ameer Abdullah is a concern.
Ravens WR Steve L Smith will presumably lock down one of the starting spots. Despite the possibility of a lightened snap count for the veteran, Smith Sr. will play a huge role in the passing game. He’s the unquestioned leader of the group.
Smith was the #20 WR in standard formats and #18 in PPR, but he did most of his damage in the first six weeks of the season when he was #3 and #4, respectively. He was a fantasy WR4 the rest of the way, though he did have his moments. The Ravens can’t afford to put Smith out to pasture because they let Torrey Smith walk in free agency and the team’s receiver corps is severely lacking experience. Smith has some upside given his ADP (8th/9th round) and the arrival of pass-happy OC Marc Trestman, who should be able to figure out how to best utilize Smith’s skill set on a more consistent basis.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015, 12:55pm
Kendall Hunter’s season was over before it started in 2014. The San Francisco 49ers running back tore his ACL on the first day of the training camp, halting the ball-carrier's growth as a fixture in the offense.
That excitement is beginning to crescendo again, however, with San Francisco's 2015 training camp just weeks away. Hunter had a fantastic offseason program, highlighted by the three-day veteran’s minicamp where he showcased his quick feet and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Each day Hunter made a play or two that had the sidelines buzzing.
“He’s coming along great,” Jim Tomsula said following the minicamp. “I think we all have strong feelings for Kendall… but we definitely have a rep count on him. You’ve got to keep him corralled, but he’s moving around really quick.”
Hunter said mental reps have helped him transition nicely into the 49ers new-look, up-tempo offense under Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, according to the story. Hunter will be a featured piece in that offensive scheme as one of the ball carriers in the team’s running back by committee. He’ll likely split carries primarily with second-year back Carlos Hyde and veteran free-agent Reggie Bush, the story said. But Hunter ranks just 83rd on our list of RBs, as we think Hyde gets a bulk of the work with Bush a big part of pass-catching. Hyde ranks 19th on our list and presents a much better value at this point.
Detroit has thrown the ball more than it has rushed it every season since 2001 according to ESPN Stats & Information. The closest the Detroit Lions have come to "balance" was in 2004, when Detroit ran the ball 407 times and attempted 505 passes.
In Detroit's more successful seasons, the Lions have trended much heavier toward the pass. In 2011, one of the two seasons Detroit made the playoffs this century, the Lions rushed the ball 356 times and had 666 passing attempts, completing 423 of them.
Last season, Detroit ran the ball 396 times and threw it 604 times, completing 365 passes. So while the Lions appeared to focus their draft on improving a run game that had its worst yards per carry since 2003, don't expect to see a massive play-call shift.
"It's all quarterbacking," former NFL QB Elvis Grbac said. "I got in a league where Drew Bledsoe was starting to come in and just in the last 10 years, retired since 2001, so it's been some time. But just the league in general, it's quarterback-driven. If you don't have a quarterback, you're screwed."
The story went on to say: A 50-50 split hasn't been typical for Jim Caldwell historically. In his three seasons as head coach in Indianapolis, the Colts never rushed more than 393 times in a season. They never threw less than 534 times in a year, and that was in 2011 when Peyton Manning was injured. The only sample size in which a team coordinated or led by Caldwell has had more runs than passes came during the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl run in 2012, when Caldwell took over leading into Week 15. Through the final three weeks of the regular season and the playoffs, the Ravens ran the ball 249 times and passed it 235 times. The following season was more in line with what happened in Indianapolis, where Baltimore had 423 rushes to 619 passes.
Much of the same is expected this year, and the story mentioned how Grbac thinks QB Matthew Stafford has progressed nicely in the offense. The team lost pass-catching RB Reggie Bush, but seems to have a more than capable replacement in Ameer Abdullah, who looks like he's going to hurt the value of Theo Riddick. Both Joique Bell and Abdullah crack our top-31 backs, with Abdullah having top-25 potential in PPR leagues. Stafford is just 13th on our QB list, but if WR Calvin Johnson can stay healthy Stafford could crack the top-10 and be a nice value at QB with an ADP of the ninth round.
Just like in the game of cards, jokers are amazing weapons in football because they don’t fit into the book easily when it comes to figuring out ways to defend them.
It is often used to describe the difficult to handle tight ends, but I think we can also list the running backs who aren’t actually running backs. Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, maybe even Randall Cobb, and yes, the Cowboys hope, Lance Dunbar is at least a “poor man’s” version of that. He is listed as a running back, but if we judge him as running backs are judged, we will quickly be underwhelmed with his running the ball (especially inside) and his pass protection. Both are just not up to the NFL grade.
This is a very detailed story breaking down Dunbar's strengths and weaknesses. The article goes on to say the Cowboys remain convinced that his role must be expanded as a weapon used in ways that are simply difficult to account for by a defense. The author added Dunbar as a runner has a 2-year track record of A) not getting the ball as a RB and B) not being productive enough to compel the staff to give him the ball more. But, he pointed out a Dunbar-led attack helped to knock off Seattle on the road last year, however he wasn't used much after that. The story also says his pass protection is suspect and the team doesn't appear to want to simply hand him the ball as a RB. He's capable of big plays, but probably not consistent fantasy points. Joseph Randle is ranked 24th on our RB list and is expected to at least split carries with Darren McFadden.
It is not just the Cardinals and their fans who are expecting WR John Brown to be a difference maker in the Cardinals offense. NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling ranked Brown sixth in his list of players he believes will "make the leap" this season and start to become a household name around the NFL.
"It's rare to come across an offseason hype bunny who meets expectations as a rookie. It's even more rare to find an NFL draft sleeper in the height of the Twitter era. A hidden gem from small-school Pittsburg State, the third-round pick immediately impressed the Cardinals with his high-end speed, uncanny instincts and unexpected understanding of route concepts.
The article went on to say Wesseling thinks Brown needs to work on his strength, but he believes it's not out of the question Brown could pass teammate Michael Floyd this year. Right now we have Brown ranked 45th on our WR list with an ADP of the 9th round. Interestingly, we have the Cardinal WRs all going around the same time in 12-team formats: Brown 9.07, Floyd 8.04 and Larry Fitzgerald 8.11. However it's Fitzgerald who we have rated the highest at 24th (Floyd's ranked 39th on our list). Fitz could end up being the best value among the three as other WRs ranked around Fitzgerald are all going as many as three rounds earlier. A healthy QB Carson Palmer is the key to how successful the Arizona passing game is this season, and of course all three of these guys will help boost Palmer's value.
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