We're a little more than a week away from the first game of the 2014 regular season, and fantasy drafts are in full effect. We've been through it all so far this summer from splitting hairs on early round studs to debating which draft strategy is best. There is a lot of chatter about the wide receiver position growing greater in value for fantasy rosters but the fact remains that one of the most important positions on any fantasy team is the running back. Everyone is always trying to make a call on who will be this year's biggest bust and which unknown rookie will breakout.
In this edition of Committee Meetings, we'll do our best to settle stomachs on Knowshon Moreno and help to curb some of the extreme level of hype that a couple of rookies have generated. Both Bishop Sankey and Devonta Freeman have loads of potential, but when it comes to drafting your team, you have to be realistic with your expectations. Let's get into it.
It might be tough, I know, but try to remember back to early June when it was announced that Knowshon Moreno underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. His fantasy stock plummeted and speculations grew that he might not be starting running back material after finishing as a top-five fantasy back in Denver last year with 1,038 rushing yards on 247 carries and 13 total touchdowns. And yes, a lot of his success did have to do with Peyton Manning and the off-the-charts season the Broncos had offensively. He also collected 60 catches for over 500 yards, which contributed to a huge chunk of his fantasy success, especially in PPR leagues.
Now consider this: In 2009 Moreno played a full 16 games with Kyle Orton as his quarterback for 15 of them. He carried the ball 241 times and collected 947 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns. The point is, Moreno was pretty successful before he teamed up with Manning, and that was in his rookie year. It's not like he came out of nowhere and rose to fantasy stardom solely due to Manning. He's a talented runner and probably has a lot left in him at age 27.
In his preseason debut with Miami over the weekend, Moreno ran for 64 yards on 10 carries. It's a great sign as concern was growing earlier this summer about Moreno's ability to perform after knee surgery, but take the small sample size with a grain of salt. Lamar Millerrotated in with the first-team offense against Dallas, which will likely be the team's approach during the regular season. Miller got first-team reps all through training camp and was looking like a lock to be the starter come Week 1, but coach Joe Philbinwasn't so sure on Saturday and said that he wasn't ready to name a starter.
Moreno seemed to be in midseason form taking his first carry for a 19-yard run and was cutting and hurdling over tacklers with ease. At his current Round 13 ADP in NFL.com leagues, there's almost no risk taking a late-round shot with Moreno and considering how he looked last week, I would be fine with drafting him late and seeing what unfolds in Miami. Maybe he's a total bust. Or maybe Miller sputters out and Moreno takes over more of a featured role. Either way, you won't have to waste a high pick on him and although he might not finish as a top-five fantasy back again, he does have some upside and experience on his side.
Like I mentioned earlier, everybody needs to pump the breaks on Bishop Sankey. The guy is being drafted as high as the fifth round according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com, which is just outrageous. The rookie is listed as the Titans No. 3 running back behind both Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster and Greene is going virtually undrafted in NFL.com leagues.
Although Sankey has the potential to work his way up playing a part in a timeshare as part of what is already a committee in Tennesee, he has a long road ahead of him. Greene is a proven veteran with two 1,000-yard-plus rushing yard seasons on his resume and should get the early down and goal line work come Week 1. Don't risk a high pick on Sankey as he's likely to burn a hole in your fantasy bench for weeks, pending an injury to Greene. I'm not saying that Greene should be drafted as an RB1 or even an RB2, but he should still go ahead of Sankey.
Coach Ken Wisenhunt has said that Sankey is improving but he is still working exclusively with the second and third team offense in practice and during preseason games. The fact that his ADP in NFL.com leagues is ahead of proven backs who are in line for high volume workloads like like Ben Tate, Shane Vereen and Joique Bell is absurd.
Despite his impressive play in preseason action, the team still has Freeman listed behind both Jacquizz Rodgers and Antoine Smith on their depth chart. But he's not set to take over all of the first-team reps should Steven Jackson suffer another injury. I think if Jackson does go down, the Falcons will implement a committee approach in his absence with all three aforementioned backs.
Freeman is still one of Michael Fabiano's players to target late in drafts and is a popular sleeper pick in fantasy circles for good reason. But the key words in this case are "late" and "sleeper." You should be able to get a better, more proven player in Rounds 10 or 11 like Mark Ingram or Russell Wilson if you're waiting on a signal-caller, but if Freeman hasn't been snatched up by the last three rounds of your draft, you're better off taking a chance on his upside than going with a wideout like Kenny Britt or another veteran who has an extremely low floor.
For those of you wondering about Jackson, don't forget that he finished last season with six touchdowns in the Falcons final six games behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. The veteran recently returned to practice after missing the majority of the preseason with a hamstring injury and should still see the lion's share of carries in Atlanta as long as he can stay healthy, and his Round 10 ADP is a steal considering his potential workload