Andre Ellington has been riding the hype machine this offseason, and rightfully so after his impressive rookie season. But it seems the brakes are being pumped already, as his status for week 1 and beyond is in question because of a foot injury. He reinjured his left foot in practice on Thursday and his availability is currently a huge question mark. Foot injuries tend to linger throughout the season and have a very cloudy outlook. Some players heal with rest, while others succumb to the need of surgery. It is still unclear how bad Ellington’s condition is, so he is by no means droppable yet. However, it certainly does open the door for the next backs up, Jonathan Dwyer and Stepfan Taylor.
Dwyer was signed in the offseason after four seasons in Pittsburgh. His most productive season came in 2012 when he rushed for 623 yards and 2 touchdowns. Last season he produced only 197 yards behind Le’Veon Bell and left for free agency. On the depth chart, Dwyer is the next man up, so he will conceivably get the first shot at running with the starting gig should Ellington miss significant time. He already was getting goal line carries because of Ellington’s more fragile frame.
Actually selected a round ahead of Ellington in the draft last year, Stepfan Taylor has some upside. He gained a meager 115 yards last season, but the Cardinals have a draft pick invested in him which is crucial. He’ll get a few carries with Ellington out, no doubt, but he will need to impress to earn the starting job. Taylor is from Stanford and had some solid seasons there. He has more potential catching the ball than Dwyer does, so that is something to factor in as well.
Who should you pick up? Between Dwyer and Taylor, it seems 50/50 on which is the right guy to grab. Dwyer has the edge currently because of his position on the depth chart, but running backs get rotated to begin with. Taylor will get his shot because of his status as a former draft pick, but he obviously hasn’t shown enough to be Ellington’s primary backup. Dwyer might be the touchdown back and Taylor might become the receptions back. This Cardinals offense does look potent though, with Fitzgerald, Floyd, Brown, and Ginn catching passes. There should be some open running lanes while defenses are forced to respect Palmer’s passing game.
If you’re in an 8 team league, you can probably afford to wait until after week 1 to further assess Dwyer and Taylor’s abilities and roles, as well as Ellington’s health. But in a 12 team league where the waiver wire is more heated over fewer players, one of these backs could be worth a shot. Dwyer will get the first shot, but Taylor seems to have more upside. For that last RB spot on my bench I favor potential over past production, but either guy could become a FLEX option for the entire season if Ellington has surgery.