Rotoprofessor’s Breaking Down the Backfield: Who Will Emerge In Cleveland?

Aug 25, 2010

Whenever you have Eric Mangini as the head coach of an NFL franchise, there are going to be question marks.  He has become well known for giving out as little information as possible, whether it is about injuries or the depth chart.


The unknown drives fantasy owners crazy, requiring us to guess what we think will happen.  When it comes to the “Man-genius”, it’s mind-blowing, because you really never know.  And that’s where we stand for the Browns backfield.


Who will ultimately be the main man?  Who knows, but here’s my take on things:


Jerome Harrison
The injury to Montario Hardesty may have cemented his spot as the top running back entering the season, but will he be able to hold down the job long-term?  He averaged 4.4 yards/carry last season, the first time he’s seen more then 35 carries in a year.


Overall he rushed for 862 yards and 5 TD.  The bulk of that damage came in the seven games he started.  In those games he rushed the ball 168 times for 778 yards and all 5 TD (these all came in the final three games).  That is an average of 4.6 yards/carry.


Those final three games were tremendous, all over 100 yards (including a 34 carry, 286 yard games against the Chiefs).  It was a tremendous show (561 yards), and it certainly gained plenty of attention.


The problem with Harrison is that he spent significant time in Mangini’s doghouse in 2009.  From October 11 – December 10, he barely touched the ball.  While he looks like a good play over the first few weeks, the fear that he could once again fall out of favor looms large.


He has showed what he can do, but drafting him as anything more then a RB3 would be a mistake.  There are just too many question marks, be it from competition or a repeat of 2009.


Montario Hardesty
The second round pick was expected to battle Harrison for starting duties, but an injury has held him out for all of training camp.  While he’s expected to return later this week, the damage is likely already done for the beginning of the season.


That’s not to say he should be written off, however.  If he can stay healthy, it’s likely only a matter of time before he forces his way into shared running duties.


Of course, should Harrison struggle or fall out of favor, he likely would be given the chance to get full-time duties.  The uncertainty makes the youngster worth the gamble, but don’t select him as more then a depth option.  Despite the upside, he has a long ways to go and needs to prove his health before becoming trustworthy.


James Davis
He has a ton of potential, falling in the 2009 draft to the sixth round after losing carries his senior year to C.J. Spiller.  Now, a year after missing most of 2009 due to shoulder surgery, he’s going to need a lot to happen to breakthrough and make a significant impact.


He averaged over five yards per carry his first three years, including a 17 TD performance his sophomore year.  Keep an eye on him, but expect him to break camp fourth on the depth chart.


Chris Jennings
He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in limited duty last season and was arrested in the offseason (though he is not going to be charged with a crime).  Given his place on the depth chart, chances are he doesn’t break camp with the team.


Peyton Hillis
Acquired in the deal that sent Brady Quinn out of Cleveland, he has led the team in carries (14) and rushing yards (54) thus far in the preseason.  Part of that could have to do with Hardesty not yet playing, but it certainly still is worth noting.


Chances are that, if he does spend time at tailback (he could also play fullback), will likely be the third man on the depth chart.  Of course, if injuries or trips to the doghouse derail the two ahead of him, he could be a major sleeper.  Keep tabs on this situation throughout the season, because you never know when/if he’ll take over, but he’s not worth drafting in any format.


What are your thoughts on the Browns’ running back situation?  Who would you draft?  Who do you see as having potential fantasy value?

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