This is indeed the value pile of the 2012 running back position. If you are willing to wait, and wait a little more, you too can have a very inexpensive #2 running back, and likely the starting one for Indianapolis (Donald Brown), Cincinnati (BenJarvus Green-Ellis), Pittsburgh (Isaac Redman) and/or Green Bay (James Starks). At MFL.Com, these four RBs slot somewhere between the #28 and #34 RBs selected on average; at fantasyfootball calculator, they rank somewhere between #22 and #30 among RBs.
A former first-rounder for the Colts, Donald Brown averaged just 3.8 YPC heading into 2011 and had been out-played by then 3rd-stringer Mike Hart as well as undrafted street free agent Javarris James in 2010. Brown surprisingly played well last year, finishing with 645 rushing yards, a 4.8 YPC average and scored 5 TDs after sitting the first five weeks of the season. The Colts didn't add a running back in free agency and didn't select one in the draft until the 5th round in Vick Ballard. It's looking more and more like Brown will open the season as Indy's #1 RB. Brown led the NCAA in rushing yards in 2008 at Connecticut.
Benjarvus Green-Ellis totaled 1,008 rushing yards in 2011 and has averaged 12 TDs the last two seasons. He leaves New England but BGE has a great chance to be the featured back in Cincinnati in 2012 with Bernard Scott as the only other viable RB on the roster (the Bengals didn’t add a back in the draft until the 6th round in Dan Herron). This is an amazing BGE stat – his lifetime fumble total: zero. On the downside, Green-Ellis hasn't been much of a contributor in the passing game and averages just 7 receptions per season over his 4-year NFL career. BGE averaged a quite uninspiring 3.7 YPC last year and he was the only RB in the league last year to top 120 carries and fail to have a single run over 20 yards.
With the ACL tear to Rashard Mendenhall in January, it was a little surprising that the Steelers added no RBs in free agency and didn't really address the position in the draft either, finally taking scat-back/returner Chris Rainey in the 5th round. Thus, Isaac Redman could be in for a much bigger role by default. The former fullback trimmed down to 230 lbs prior to the 2010 season and logged one official start last year in the regular season. He finished with a solid 4.4 YPC average on 110 rushing attempts with 3 TDs. Redman's ultimate value depends on whether Mendenhall can play and how much (early projections are Mendenhall will likely start the season on the PUP list and therefore miss the first six weeks before making his return from the ACL tear). The former undrafted player out of Bowie State, Redman projects to add little value in the passing game. He tacked on 78 yards last year on 18 receptions (a somewhat bizarrely-low 4.3 yards per reception average).
With Ryan Grant now off the roster, the starting role RB in Green Bay is squarely there for James Starks' taking. Starks officially started two games last year, finishing with 578 yards on the ground on 133 attempts and added another 216 yards through the air on 29 receptions. However, Starks was abysmal with respect to scoring last year (Green Bay pulled him in goalline situations) as Starks added just one TD on the season, an especially low number on a team that piled up 63 TDs. He also failed to have a single game with more than 13 carries last year. Three years in a row, including college, Starks has missed at least three games with injuries.
Let's say you have a crafty plan to wait on your 2nd running back while you get your QB(s), load up on WR and nab a tight end early. Who would you saddle up with here: Donald Brown, Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Isaac Redman or James Starks?
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