If looking for one word to sum up drafting running back Ahmad Bradshaw this upcoming year, it would be enticing. His skill set is solid. At 5'10" and 214 pounds, he is a sneaky runner, can catch the edge of the defense, and is explosive in open space. He is a reliable receiver, with a 67.7% career catch rate, and he was targeted 58 and 62 times the last two years. Moreover, having scored 18 of his 19 touchdowns over the last two years inside the red zone, he is a threat there, too. With Bradshaw, we have a player who received a good number of touches between the 20s, but also made the most of his red zone opportunities. Usually, talent plus opportunity equals fantasy success.
In 2011, Bradshaw was on a fantasy tear until getting hurt in Week 7. On limited touches, he averaged over 12 standard fantasy points per game and scored three touchdowns. In Week 6, he busted out with 26 rushes, 104 yards, and three touchdowns. It took a few weeks to round back into shape after returning from injury, but he was back on a tear during the fantasy playoffs. Bradshaw scored a touchdown in Week 15, multiple touchdowns in Weeks 16 and 17, and averaged 17 fantasy points during fantasy owners' most important games.
This intriguing performance came on the heels of a breakthrough 2010 season in which Bradshaw amassed 276 rushes, 1,235 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns, and a No. 13 fantasy running back ranking. Bradshaw's 2010 ascendance was not due to running back Brandon Jacobs fading away, either. Jacobs finished as a top-24 running back in his own right that season, rushing 147 times for 823 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. Even though Bradshaw's 2001 final season numbers may not have matched his 2010 tally, it's important to remember that he averaged more points per game in 2011 (13.25) than he did in in 2010 (12.68).
The Giants' offensive system and history under OC Kevin Gilbride supports the notion that Bradshaw might see double digit touchdowns. Over the last five years, the Giants finished an average of eighth in the league in rushing touchdowns, including sixth place finishes each of the last two years. Jacobs was a touchdown vulture, but he is now in San Francisco. There is no true big back on the Giants' roster to replace Jacobs and steal red zone looks. If the name of the fantasy game is touchdowns, then Bradshaw is poised to hit a career high.
Moreover, the Giants finished as a top-10 offense each of the last four years, with top-10 rushing attempt finishes every year except last year. Last year's 411 attempts was the team's lowest output since 2003. Given that history, it is reasonable to expect the team to run more often. Even if they do not, it is reasonable to assume Bradshaw will receive a higher share of those attempts than in prior years. With Bradshaw's attractive average draft position of RB15 (32nd overall), he enters 2012 with a high floor and solid upside potential.
However, there is another side to Bradshaw's 2012 fantasy outlook. And, if looking for two words to describe his downside outlook, they would be fool's gold. When we examine his situation a bit more closely, potential pitfalls exist.
Let's start with his injury history because that is the most likely reason owners will hesitate about drafting Bradshaw. Bradshaw has suffered through nagging foot and ankle injuries, dating back to his freshman year in college. His most recent injury (a broken foot in 2011) necessitated a procedure this offseason where Bradshaw received stem cell injections. He hopes to be ready for the start of training camp, but there are no guarantees of that timeline.
Next, though Brandon Jacobs is gone, the team drafted a first round running back in David Wilson from Virginia Tech. At 5'10" and 205 pounds, he is a virtual clone of Bradshaw's body type. Moreover, Wilson is a fast, explosive, tackle-breaking runner, who catches the ball well. With Bradshaw sidelined into training camp, Wilson will have every opportunity to prove his worth to the team. Even though Bradshaw signed a contract extension in 2010, the team has more invested in finding out the potential feature back capabilities of their first round pick than seeing what Bradshaw has to offer.
To add even greater reason for hesitation, owners may worry that the Giants did little to improve an offensive line that helped contributed to the team's 32nd-ranked running game in 2011. Starting left tackle William Beatty is returning from an eye injury that ended his 2011 season, which will likely slide veteran David Diehl back to left guard. The team spent two late-round draft picks on line depth, but will they be ready to help as rookies? Stability on the left side and an infusion of raw players for depth and development may not be enough to improve the run blocking of this unit. This is especially true since the team (and the league, for that matter) is firmly committed to passing the ball. Finally, the Giants are a team with a history of platooning running backs in a committee. It is entirely possible that even a healthy Bradshaw will not see as many touches as owners would be led to believe.
- He has to be an explosive player when healthy
- He is the starter and doesn't have to deal with Brandon Jacobs any more
- He boasts an attractive average draft position for a RB2 with a high floor and good upside potential
- The Giants have balanced red zone attack; with Jacobs gone, Bradshaw could have increased goal line opportunities
- Giants had the 32nd-ranked run game in 2011 and have not done much to improve the offensive line
- David Wilson, this year's first-round draft choice, has the potential to be a feature back in his own right
- Bradshaw is recovering from foot surgery and has a long history of foot injuries
It's easy to be in the enticed camp for Bradshaw. His average draft position is reasonable for a second running back, especially one with a high floor. Folks can debate his upside potential, and his injury history is certainly a concern. But, if Bradshaw plays close to 16 games this year, his owners can expect at least 10 rush touchdowns, a career best fantasy finish, and possibly RB1 numbers from a third round draft pick.
Marc Levin's Projections for Ahmad Bradshaw
14 games 252 attempts 1,058 rushing yards 4.2 YPC 10 rushing touchdowns 52 targets 35 receptions 364 receptions yards 1 receiving touchdowns 207 fantasy points