With so many NFL teams going with a committee backfield the past few years, it’s really hard to find that one running back who is going to have a spectacular fantasy football season. After much self debating and pondering on who I think could finally have a breakout year in 2012, here are five guys who I think could make a name for themselves and should be on everyone’s radar come draft day. Keep in mind that these names are in no particular order in terms of value or 2012 stats.
1. Jacquizz Rodgers (Atlanta Falcons) – Michael Turner is slowly being phased out of Atlanta’s offense, which is expected to be more pass heavy in 2012. Also, Turner has a lot of wear on his treads in the four years he’s been a Falcon starter, carrying the ball 300+ times three out of the last four years, which included a whopping 377 in 2008. Turner may be coming off back-to-back 1300 yard rushing seasons, but he offers close to nothing in the passing game. Rodgers is already predicted to be involved in more passing and off-screen tackle plays. Rodgers is small at 5’9 and 196 pounds, but so was a certain guy named Warrick Dunn, who ran for 900+ yards four out of the six years he was in Atlanta. If Turner goes down with an injury, Rodgers most certainly can carve out a big role.
2. Isaac Redman (Pittsburgh Steelers) – Easily the top guy on this list, Redman figures to be the starter for most-or-all of 2012 while Rashard Mendenhall recovers from a late season ACL tear. In limited time over the last two seasons, Redman has tallied a respectable 4.8 and 4.4 ypc average. He also showed us a glimpse of what he could do as a starter when he rushed 17 times for 121 yards and caught two passes for 21 yards in the Steelers’ Wild Card round loss to Denver last year. Mendenhall refused to admit that he will be put on the PUP list to start Week One, but I find it hard to believe he will be 100 percent considering he suffered the tear in Week Seventeen against the Browns. Redman could easily be a low-end RB2 with major upside.
3. Roy Helu (Washington Redskins) – It’s so hard to predict what the Redskins are going to do with their backfield under Mike Shanahan. Tim Hightower signed a one-year deal, but he is currently dealing with a severe knee injury and really doesn’t excite me as a full-time runner. His ceiling isn’t as high as Helu’s. Helu got off to a slow rookie start last year, but he did start five games and had at least 130 yards from scrimmage in four out of five of those games. A sign of things to come? Hopefully. Hightower has yet to be medically cleared to participate in OTAs, but could be ready for the start of training camp. And while I think we will see a committee again this year, Helu should lead the team in carries and make the most out of his opportunities on the field.
4. Bernard Scott (Cincinnati Bengals) – Even though I am pulling for him because he’s on my dynasty squad, I had listed Benjarvus Green-Ellis as a running back to avoid this season. The Bengals are reportedly going with a committee system this year after letting Cedric Benson go to free agency in the offseason. A timeshare might actually help Scott’s value. BGE was really nothing special in New England. He may have had his moments here and there. But the fact that Bill Belichick refused to give him the rock more than he did tells me Ellis won’t be as big as some owners think in a new city. Scott has the upper hand in terms of knowing and being comfortable in the offense. And despite his pedestrian 3.4 ypc average in 2012, he played better than his stats dictate. I’d take a flier on Scott in the last few rounds and hope BGE continues to be nothing more than a part-time player at best. The fact that Marvin Lewis has yet to name a starter bodes well for Scott’s chances at a decent amount of weekly touches.
5. DeMarco Murray (Dallas Cowboys) – I patted myself on the back after naming Murray as one of my sleeper picks for the 2012 season last July. After a record breaking 253 against the Rams in Week Seven, Murray went on to average 81.5 yards per game between Weeks 8-14. Unfortunately, his injury history reared it’s ugly head after Murray missed the last three games with a fractured right ankle and high ankle sprain suffered against the Giants. With Murray, you get a guy who could push for his first 1000-yard season, but at the possible cost of him missing time with some sort of ailment. But in a perfect, injury-free world, 2012 could be Murray’s official breakout season.
Besides the five guys I listed above, who do you consider as a player who could finally breakout this year?