I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – this is the single worst time to trade for a running back. With the draft inching closer, the running back values and rankings are bound to see some critical changes here in the next few days. While the elite backs will undoubtedly retain their value post-draft, there are a host of others who are about to see their stranglehold on the top of the their respective team’s depth charts either be challenged or wiped out completely.
It all begins on Thursday and there’s no doubt that players like Trent Richardson, Lamar Miller, David Wilson and Doug Martin will adversely affect many player values depending on who drafts them.
As we continue to view the landscape in dynasty leagues, owners of some running backs in particular are crossing their fingers and hoping for the best, while knowing all too well their team’s overall strength and short term future hangs in the balance.
Let’s take a look at some running backs who are in real danger of losing significant value as a result of the draft.
LeGarrette Blount, RB TB
There are serious questions in Tampa about Blount’s ability to serve as a focal point of the offense, especially with his tendency to put the ball on the ground. The Bucs seem to be poised to get either Trent Richardson or Morris Claiborne in the first round and Blount’s owners have to be crossing their fingers they choose to go with Claiborne and address their defense.
Best Case Scenario: Tampa looks for a “lightning” back and sticks with Blount as a primary ball carrier.
Worst Case Scenario: The Bucs take Richardson and turn Blount into an afterthought.
Montario Hardesty, RB CLE
It seems the Browns have been connected to Richardson for the better part of the past two months. Adding T-Rich would end any pipe dreams that Hardesty owners may still have of him ever becoming the lead back for Cleveland. There’s no doubting his talent, but it seems pretty obvious the Browns can’t count on him staying healthy.
Best Case Scenario: Cleveland passes on Richardson and takes a back like Martin, Miller or Wilson later on.
Worst Case Scenario: The Browns take Richardson and Hardesty becomes a memory.
Willis McGahee, RB DEN
The Broncos have been connected to quite a few running backs both in the draft and free agency. McGahee was a revelation last year, but his best days are clearly behind him. Owners have to hope they can squeeze one more good year out of him as Peyton Manning takes the helm.
Best Case Scenario: Denver settles on a third down back like LaMichael James and rides McGahee this season.
Worst Case Scenario: The Broncos take a back like Doug Martin at #25 overall to legitimately challenge McGahee for carries.
Jahvid Best, RB DET
Who would have thought running back would be a need area for the Lions at this time just one year ago? After all, Jahvid Best looked primed for a breakout and they just picked up Mikel Leshoure in the 2011 draft.
What a difference a year makes, huh?
The Lions have brought back Kevin Smith, so the likelihood of them taking a back highly in the draft is fairly remote, but still, it wouldn’t be a total shock considering Smith and Best have major injury concerns and Leshoure is quickly looking like he can’t be trusted.
Best Case Scenario: Detroit passes on taking a running back.
Worst Case Scenario: The Lions address the need early in the first or second rounds with someone like Martin, Wilson or Miller.
Donald Brown, RB IND
Brown has shown some flashes of the ability the Colts saw when they took him in round one just a few years ago. However, his inconsistency and durability are major red flags. Delone Carter is squarely in the mix here as well, but it’s hard to see either of them (or a combination of both of them) being the future at running back for the Colts.
Best Case Scenario: Indianapolis passes on taking a running back highly since they have so many other needs.
Worst Case Scenario: The Colts take Wilson or Miller in the second or third round.
James Starks, RB GB
There have been times that Starks looks the part and others where he looks incredibly ordinary. You wouldn’t believe it with the hype that’s followed him over the past couple of years, but he has a grand total of ONE more touchdown than you or I do in the NFL’s regular season. That’s right – ONE.
The Packers don’t run the ball much with Aaron Rodgers slinging it around the field and they also have Alex Green and Brandon Saine in the mix. However, they have a lot of depth and could manage the risk of investing a pick on a runner highly in the draft.
Best Case Scenario: Green Bay passes on running backs and rolls with Starks, Green and Saine.
Worst Case Scenario: The Packers use their first round pick (#28) on one of the highly heralded rookies.
Stevan Ridley, RB NE
Go ahead and throw Shane Vereen in the mix here as well. Nobody knows what the Patriots will do on draft day and they have two late first rounders to play around with. As it sits, both Ridley and Vereen will have a chance to make a name for themselves in reality and fantasy next year. If the Pats surprise us and take a back highly, all bets are off as the committee will become a muddled mess.
Best Case Scenario: New England passes on running backs and sees what Ridley and Vereen can really do.
Worst Case Scenario: The Patriots surprise us and take Wilson or Martin with one of their first round picks.
Shonn Greene, RB NYJ
Does anyone really think Greene is the future? What about Bilal Powell? A show of hands for Joe McKnight? It’s tough to look at the Jets roster and say that running back depth chart is a strength. That being said, the Jets have a lot of other needs they may choose to address first.
Best Case Scenario: The Jets give Greene and company one more year to develop.
Worst Case Scenario: New York uses their second round pick on a back like Miller.
Steven Jackson, RB STL
This one is flat out scary.
Owners of Jackson have to be hoping the Rams don’t see Trent Richardson fall into their laps. If that happens, they may be ready to either release or trade Jackson. It would be a very unfortunate ending to Jackson’s Rams career, but it would serve as a reminder about just how unstable the fantasy careers of running backs can be.
As it stands, Jackson is a low-end RB1 or high end RB2 going into next season and is still a great asset to competing teams. If Richardson goes to St. Louis and Jackson is searching for a new home, it’s going to get interesting in a hurry. The post-draft market for running backs is always very skinny, even one as talented as Jackson.
Best Case Scenario: Trent Richardson ends up in Cleveland or Tampa Bay.
Worst Case Scenario: Richardson is picked by St. Louis, throwing Jackson’s value into serious flux.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB PIT
You can go ahead and put Isaac Redman in this basket as well. With Mendenhall recovering from a torn ACL, the last thing his owners want to see is the Steelers finding his future replacement in the draft. It would be much more palatable to have Redman carry the load until he recovers, but the Steelers addressing the position would be a surprise to nobody.
Best Case Scenario: The Steelers settle for finding a third down back like LaMichael James.
Worst Case Scenario: Pittsburgh takes Martin at the bottom of round one.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB CIN
I know the Bengals just addressed the position with BGE, but can you really look at the tandem of Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott and think it doesn’t need some type of upgrade here shortly?
Best Case Scenario: Cincinnati upgrades other positions and relies on Green-Ellis and Scott for the time being.
Worst Case Scenario: The Bengals bring in another back to truly compete for early down carries.
Roy Helu, RB WAS
Helu and Evan Royster currently make up the top of the Mike Shanahan depth chart at the moment. Look, it’s likely not a need for the Redskins, but would you really put it past the fantasy football destroyer to ruin any plans you have with Helu right now?
As a side note, I’ve mentioned I’d like to do an article at some point with ten things I like better than Mike Shanahan and the way he handles his running back depth chart. The first two on that list were death and cutting off one of my own limbs. I’d like to officially add setting myself on fire.
Best Case Scenario: We get to deal with a Helu, Royster and Tristan Davis carousel this year.
Worst Case Scenario: The Redskins trick everyone and take Trent Richardson over RGIII at #2 overall. Mike Shanahan is interviewed immediately and expresses his disgust for fantasy football.
I then set myself on fire.
Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK