Washington is always ready to make a splash in free agency, but this one came out of nowhere. The Redskins and Cardinals have agreed to a trade that sends defensive end Vonnie Holliday and a late round pick to Arizona in exchange for running back Tim Hightower. This move is another in the countless and not so gentle moves that reminds us the Mike Shanahan hates fantasy football. We discuss the ramifications in the latest version of “Instant Analysis.”
Tim Hightower, RB WAS
In his three years in Arizona, Hightower compiled 1,733 rushing yards, 801 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. His yards per carry has also increased each season from 2.8 as a rookie to 4.8 last season. All isn’t well though, as Hightower has lost ten fumbles over the past two seasons.
The Cardinals were already moving on by drafting Ryan Williams to play a major role in the backfield, so Hightower badly needed a change of scenery to find playing time and subsequent fantasy value again.
He found just that.
Hightower joins a Redskin backfield that’s far from unsettled. Ryan Torain is the incumbent starter and Washington added two backs in the draft in the form or Roy Helu and Evan Royster. One thing is certain – Mike Shanahan has no problem inserting any player as his featured back, regardless of draft position or salary.
It’s most likely that Hightower becomes a rotational back in the Redskin offense, but he could actually find the starting lineup sooner rather than later with the fragile Ryan Torain and unproven rookies filling out the depth chart.
Nobody can say for certain what type of role he’ll have this season, but Hightower is back on the map. He should be rostered in all leagues as a player who could ascend to provide RB2 value, or just fade away into oblivion. If you think you know what’s going to happen, you’re either new to dynasty leagues or just plain nuts.
Ryan Torain, RB WAS
This isn’t great news for Torain. Fact is, he’s an average back with a storied injury history. While he seems to be productive when he plays, you hold your breath every time he goes down. The addition of Hightower further clouds the situation in Washington and frankly makes it one to avoid in fantasy circles if at all possible.
It’s still within reason that Torain can hold off the other backs in the stable to remain the starter and provide RB2 value, but the hold he now has on the job is tenuous at best. If you can find an owner who doesn’t believe in Hightower or the others challenging Torain, look to make a deal immediately.
The risk of injury combined with a suddenly competitive depth chart make Torain a very risky player to own right now.
Roy Helu, RB WAS
Helu has been taken in the first round of many rookie drafts this offseason. Owners who have been making that call may be thinking twice about it now. While Hightower is no Barry Sanders, his addition isn’t exactly a vote of confidence in Helu or Torain, either.
There’s no doubt that Helu has talent, but this addition takes a lot of air out of his sails. In the short term, it’s going to be pretty difficult for him to be a true featured back. At best, you can hope he passes Torain for early down duties and tries to impress in an effort to land the full-time job.
There is one thing that works in Helu’s favor – running backs in the Shanahan stable always get their chance. While the carousel he employs is absolutely maddening, at least each and every player eventually gets some type of opportunity. It won’t be any different with Helu, but he shouldn’t be considered in the first round of a rookie draft any longer.
Evan Royster, RB WAS
There was a time where Royster was a possible Heisman trophy candidate at Penn State. There’s now a time where he’s going to have a hard time making this team.
After an underwhelming last two years as a Nittany Lion, Royster was a late round pick of the Redskins in this year’s draft as a running back with potential, but one that needed a lot of polish.
With Hightower in the fold, Royster is going to have an uphill battle to make the team. You have to think Keiland Williams and Royster are going to battle for one spot on the depth chart.
Keiland Williams, RB WAS
See Royster, Evan
Ryan Williams, RB ARI
Williams is a huge winner with the Cardinals jettisoning Hightower to Washington. Even if he doesn’t take the early down snaps away from Chris Wells as a rookie, there’s simply no way the Cardinals are going to be able to keep him off the field with Hightower gone.
Make no mistake, Williams is going to have his chance to shine and it’s going to come sooner rather than later. He’s an easy first round pick in a rookie draft and could put up RB2 numbers as early as this season.
Chris Wells, RB ARI
You had to figure Wells or Hightower had to go and it looks as if Wells will survive the offseason. He’s said to be in great shape and declaring this will be his year to break out. Haven’t we seen this before, though?
Wells should enter the preseason as the incumbent starter, but he’ll have to perform awfully well to keep Williams off the field. If history is any indication, his owners are going to be disappointed.
With all the weapons the Cardinals are assembling, the running back job in the desert looks like one to covet in dynasty leagues. The battle between Wells and Williams may be THE one to watch this Summer.
LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB ARI
He’s more of a kick returner than anything else and only useful in return yardage leagues, but his roster spot is solidified with the Hightower trade.
Go and party LaRod!