When creating this list of five Fantasy running backs with a difficult schedule to start the season, I focused primarily on three factors: A) Schedule B) Injuries and C) Changes in Offensive Line. I have not included Maurice Jones-Drew, Ryan Mathews, or Adrian Peterson, as I feel that all three are obvious choices for this list.
5 Fantasy Running Backs with Tough First 5 Weeks
1. Shonn Greene, RB, N.Y. Jets: I learned in college that past performance is no indication of future results. However, I’ve learned in the real world that zero touchdowns through three preseason games is not something to take lightly.
This Jets offense is in shambles.
Stephen Hill appears to take pregame baths in margarine and Santonio Holmes can’t get along with his own quarterback. Also, camp stud TE Dustin Keller has a hamstring injury that could linger well into the season. Call it a hunch, but something tells me that defenses will stack the box early and often against the Jets.
But wait, there’s more! The Jets will face Miami, Pittsburgh, Houston, and San Francisco all within the first five weeks. Last time I checked, those teams were hard to run on — very hard.
2. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: A camp in which the Law Firm lost his starting center and staring left guard was not one to write home about.
Center Kyle Cook is the biggest loss, since he’s the leader of this group and started the last 50 regular season games for the Bengals. With little depth behind Cook, the Bengals were forced to bring in veteran Jeff Faine, whom ProFootballFocus ranks among the bottom five centers from a year ago.
The Bengals are on the road for three of their first four games and will struggle to find an identity in the trenches. Should they fall behind early in their games (which I expect them to), you’re going to see a lot more of Bernard Scott and even Brian Leonard in catch up mode.
In three of their first five games, the Bengals will face Baltimore, Jacksonville and Miami, all of which were ranked in the top 10 in fewest rushing yards allowed per game last season. The Law Firm will quickly learn how different it is to play in a backfield without someone named “Brady.”
3. Cedric Benson, RB, Green Bay Packers: A lot of hype surrounds Ol’ Ced right now and that’s why I’m including him on this Fantasy running backs list. Though recent reports indicate that both he and Alex Green may split time initially, I’m refusing to call this a committee. Benson will get twice as many carries as Green.
Why do I think Benson has a tough five weeks in front of him? Well, for starters, his first three games are against San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle.
Shall I keep going?
Those defenses all ranked in among the top 12 in 2011, according to ProFootballFocus. I’m not saying Cedric won’t have a decent year, I just don’t see him having a decent start.
In addition to his brutal schedule, Benson will have to prove to the coaching staff that he knows this offense well enough to stay in games regardless of scenario. Until he does this, we won’t see consistent production from him.
4. Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams: The offensive line in St. Louis is a mess. Newly acquired Wayne Hunter and current Ram Barry Richardson will battle for the Right Tackle position. Of the 76 tackles rated by ProFootballFocus, both Hunter and Richardson are among the bottom four.
Center Scott Wells was acquired from Green Bay this past offseason, but only began practicing this week after missing the majority of camp following knee surgery. Assuming he doesn’t experience any setbacks, he will have only one week to get on the same page with Sam Bradford and the rest of the offensive line.
In his first five games, Jackson faces the Lions on the road, the Redskins at home, then travels to Chicago in Week 3 before coming home to play Seattle and Arizona in Weeks 4 and 5. Last year, he rushed for 45 yards on 17 carries against Washington and averaged just 52.5 yards per game against Seattle in two games.
Look for S-Jax to be his old self in Week 5 versus Arizona, but struggle to find his way in his first four games.
5. Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins: Let me start off by saying that I think Bush will have a decent Fantasy year. Miami’s lack of offensive firepower enables him to put up good Fantasy numbers because they have no choice but to get him the ball.
So why have I put him on this list of expected slow-start Fantasy running backs?
The answer is simple. I see three red flags that point to a shaky start:
- Flag No. 1: Miami has changed to a zone-blocking scheme and this will require some time for the offensive line to master. (Jake Long tweaking his knee at practice this week complicates this even more!)
- Flag No. 2: There are a number of college football teams with better receivers then Miami, hence, the box will be loaded. Like, loaded all the time loaded.
- Flag No. 3: A holdout rookie quarterback that was named the starter less than a month before the opener does not bode well for a balanced attack. Until Ryan Tannenhill can consistently move the chains with his arm, opposing defenses will gear up to stop the run. … Did I mention the box will be loaded?
If Miami can find creative ways to get Bush the ball in space, I think he poses the least amount of risk out of these five backs over the course of the first five games. That being said, there is no way he has the success he did last year running between the tackles through the first five games of this season.
The Fantasy Ace has been playing Fantasy Football for over 10 years — and he’s damn good at it. His view of heaven consists of a golf course, a draft board, and a shark lagoon. When he’s not working on his 4-putts, reviewing Sunday’s game film, or planning his next shark dive, he’s running his family’s saloon, The Blue Beet, the oldest bar in Newport Beach, California. His passion for Fantasy Football is second to none. Follow him @TheFantasyAce