A year ago, Matt Jones had a tenuous hold on the Washington running back job. He faltered early, and Rob Kelley took the reigns. This August, it feels like Kelley is far from a sure thing to stick as the team's starting running back. Draft pick Samaje Perine is listed as a backup to Kelley, but the rookie has generally been the first Washington back taken in fantasy drafts. And Chris Thompson is still around. What does your crystal ball say here? Is there any value to be found?
Andy Hicks: It looks like the complicated backfield that is Washington is going to be shorter by what looks like a serious injury to Keith Marshall. The main focus though is going to be Samaje Perine V Robert Kelley as the lead back. Chris Thompson is destined to be the 3rd down, receiving back. Matt Jones is likely to be cut or traded, but if bodies keep falling may be kept around. Mack Brown didn't make the final roster to start the 2016 season, but looked great in preseason and made an impact in week 16 against the Bears. I wouldnt rule him out as the worst deep, deep sleeper out there. Essentially though we need to concentrate on Kelley v Perine.
I have not been a fan of running backs drafted from the 4th round onwards, although in each of the last 3 years we have seen Jordan Howard, Jay Ajayi and Devonta Freeman make me reconsider that proposition. Ajayi and Freeman however offered very little as rookies and almost always a back drafted in the 4th round onwards fails to reach the level of a fantasy RB2/RB3, if he is considered a draftable back. Kenneth Dixon was the boom rookie late round back last year, David Cobb the year before that. Samaje Perine has the opportunity to make an impact, if he can learn to pass protect and adapt to an NFL offense. He seems like a good guy and will play to his talent level, but is that good enough? A below par 40 time indicates he may struggle to make a major impact and I have a preference for the slightly more experienced Robert Kelley. For better or worse, Washington knows what it has in Kelley and the rookie will have to out play him. Kelley is more than likely to start the season and if he and the team are playing well then it will be hard to displace him as the lead back. Either way, I wouldnt be surprised if we are in the same boat for the 2018 season as Washington adds to the talent pool through the draft or free agency. Right now Perine seems overpriced, and that price could go up further if he doesnt look lost during camp. Obviously he is the shiny new toy and in a seemingly open competition all we are seeing is upside. Often the reality is different. Kelley has limited upside, but we have seen him play and he can play to the level of a bottom end fantasy RB2.