Rotoprofessor’s Breaking Down the Backfield: A Sleeper Emerging In Washington?

Aug 24, 2010

Written by Eric Stashin of


Image courtesy of Icon SMI


The Washington Redskins have three established, veteran running backs on their roster, not too mention youngsters Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams.  Let’s take a look at the battle for playing time and try to determine who may have fantasy value for the upcoming season:


Clinton Portis
The odds on favorite to emerge as the Redskins starter, when healthy he has proven to be among the best running backs in the league.  In the six seasons where he has played at least 13 games, his worst season is 1,262 yards and only once has he had less then nine rushing TDs.


He’s also a receiving threat out of the backfield, routinely topping 30 receptions.  The addition of Donovan McNabb, who knows how to integrate the RB into the passing game from his time with Brian Westbrook, certainly makes this seem like a perfect marriage.


He’ll turn 29-years old on September 1, so there certainly is a chance that he’ll start slowing down, but he’s not over-the-hill by any stretch.  He’s also coming off a year where he played just eight games due to concussion problems, the more worrisome proposition.


Of course, let’s not forget that Portis thrived under Mike Shanahan’s system when both were in Denver.  He’s the running back I’d draft, if I were going to go with the muddled Redskins backfield, as long as I get him as my RB3.  There’s too much of a risk to draft him as more then that.


Larry Johnson
He averaged just 3.3 yards/carry last season, rushing for 581 yards on 178 carries.  While he showed flashes of returning to form (107 yards on 22 carries on 11/29 against the Browns), that was the only real positive to point towards.


Injuries have plagued him and he is now three years removed from posting over 3,500 yards between 2005 and 2006.  He’s going to need to do a lot to gain significant carries (something he didn’t do in yesterday’s preseason game, rushing eight times for just four yards), though he could remain the RB2 on the depth chart.  That’ll give him some potential value, but he’s a low-end option, at best.


In fact, after last night’s performance, would it surprise anyone if he fell to third on the depth chart?


Willie Parker
Remember the great player that he once was?  Well, forget it.  Injuries have certainly limited him the past two seasons, but there is little chance of him making a big impact, if he even makes the roster.  I wouldn’t bother with him unless something significantly changes in Washington.


Ryan Torain
Here is a player with the potential to be a monster sleeper for fantasy owners.  He had 17 carries in the first preaseason game, rushing for 62 yards.  He added a catch for 22 yards as well.  (In their second game, he had just one carry for two yards.)


He was a fifth round draft pick of the Broncos in 2008, so its obvious that Shanahan likes something about him, bringing him to Washington with him.  He had only 15 carries in 2008 and didn’t play at all in 2009, so we really don’t know exactly what the 6′1″, 218 lbs. back out of Arizona State could bring to the table.


If he makes the roster, he could see a huge opportunity, especially with the injury risks, and questionable performance of Larry Johnson, ahead of him.  He’s probably not worth drafting at this point, outside of possibly a last round flier, but keep a close eye on Washington’s situation over the next few weeks.


Keiland Williams
He had 11 carries for 51 yards and 2 TD in the preseason opener, but has a lot of work to do if he wants to make the roster.  Keep the name in mind, but consider him a long shot for now.


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

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