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RB Pierre Thomas
Pierre Thomas was one of only two undrafted rookie free agents in 2007 to make the Saints' roster and has remained with the team for his entire career. He recently signed a 3-year $6.9 Million contract, including $2.4 Million guaranteed and a $1.25 Million signing bonus. His yards per carry dropped back to 3.7 last year, after averaging 4.8 for the previous two seasons, but he tied his career high for rushes with 147 and also caught a career high 77 passes. For his career, Thomas has rushed for 3,522 yards, caught 284 passes for another 2,231 yards and scored 37 TDs. He seems to excel for the team in critical spots, particularly third downs. He always runs hard, rarely goes down on first contact and averages 4.6 ypc over his career. His per game opportunities had decreased somewhat for the past three seasons since his career high 1,095 yards from scrimmage in 2009, but last year he totaled 1,062 yards on a career high 224 touches. His opportunity for receptions should remain high with the departure of Darren Sproles and he should continue to a part of this year's version of the Saints' RBBC. Thomas had 7 games last year with double digit rushes, which was more than his career average and now has 34 games out of his 94 career games with double digit rushes.
RB Lamar Miller
Lamar Miller had his shot to take on the full time lead back role, but he doesn't run strong enough consistently, and doesn't play physically enough. This makes it tough for him to run the ball as effectively as he should be able to. While he has talent, Miller just doesn't seem to be able to take full advantage of it. Knowshon Moreno was signed to play a big role in the backfield, but he showed up to OTAs overweight. Miller has a chance to capture more of this backfield if he can outplay Moreno this summer.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew
After eight years as the face of the Jaguars franchise Maurice Jones-Drew signed with the Oakland Raiders in the offseason. Jones-Drew was a perennial fantasy RB1 for the first 6 years of his career averaging more than 1500 total yards and 12 touchdowns per year. In 2012 he struggled with injuries and played only 6 games and was ineffective in 2013 in a disjointed Jaguars offensive attack. He averaged 3.4 yards per carry in 2013, the first time in his career that he's averaged less than 4.2. In his prime Jones-Drew excelled in the passing game, averaging nearly 50 catches a year from 2008-2011. At 29 years old Jones-Drew is entering the twilight of a typical running back's career but he'll have plenty of opportunities to earn touches in Oakland. His main competition for touches will be the oft-injured Darren McFadden and the unproven Latavius Murray.
RB Stevan Ridley
Stevan Ridley was given a chance to secure the lead back position last season, but a bad case of fumblitis put the kibosh on that. The team drafted James White in the fourth round and still has Brandon Bolden waiting in the wings as well. Ridley will get a chance to retain the first spot on the depth chart, but there will always be a question of confidence in his ability to maintain that spot. Even if he stays with a decent share of the carries, it will be difficult for Ridley to be more than a low-end fantasy RB2.
RB Danny Woodhead
Danny Woodhead had been a productive role-player for the Patriots for the three seasons preceding 2013, but he had his best season last year with the Chargers. Woodhead is a versatile back who can run inside effectively despite his small size (or perhaps because of it, if his diminutive stature makes him harder for defenders to find), but is at his best in the open field. He is a tough, smart runner who earned the coaches' trust last season, getting playing time in important situations and even leading the team in goal-line opportunities. While Woodhead finished 2013 as a top-twenty fantasy RB, however, his role in the offense this season is less certain. It is possible that Ryan Mathews will grow into more of a workhorse back, and will not come out of the game as often on third downs, around the goal line, or in the two-minute drill. It is also possible that Donald Brown, not Danny Woodhead, will be Mathews' primary backup. Finally, there is a small chance that rookie Marion Grice, whose skills are similar to Woodhead's, will earn the third-down role at Woodhead's expense. Woodhead is a dependable, versatile running back whom the Chargers' coaches grew to trust last season, but with the increased competition for playing time this season, consider Woodhead more of a borderline RB3-RB4 in standard leagues this season, rather than the solid RB2 he was last year.
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