by Brad Holda
Running back situation updated – Joique Bell, having off-season hip surgery, has been on the P.U.P (physically unable to perform) list through the first two games of the pre-season. Theo Riddick has been the starter in the first two games, although he’s been over-shadowed by second round draft pick Ameer Abdullah, who scampered for 67 yards through 7 touches showing off his shiftiness, elusiveness and physicality. How, you wonder, is this going to shake down once the regular season kicks off? Jim Caldwell expects Joique Bell to be a “ bell cow “ once he returns, and is confident his knee won’t propel him into a slow start. “I think it’s going to be, whether we have Joique, whenever we get him back, whenever it is, it’s going to be a committee,” Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Joique, Ameer, Theo, all those guys, they’re talented players, top to bottom, in that lineup right now. We’ve got a lot of talented running backs, so we’ll find ways to utilize all of them. Put them in the best position where their strengths are utilized the best.” I expect the depth chart to be Bell, Riddick, Abdullah in sequential order. But we are definitely going to see a sort of running back by committee situation going on in the early games for Detroit.
So what does this mean as far as fantasy value for the three backs? Starting off I would say, Bell and Abdullah are nice bench pick ups for the start of the season. Because of the running back by committee situation afoot, they wouldn’t fit very nicely into your RB1 or RB2 position. But if you follow it all close enough, seeing who gets the majority of the carries and watching who is producing the most, I would venture to guess that a nice running back choice would eventually emerge to insert into your flex position who would net you some nice points. Theo Riddick, even being ahead of Abdullah on the depth chart, will be quickly demoted to a third down back splitting time with Joique Bell there. That said, the eye test and video review has shown me that Ameer’s skills set will quickly supercede those of Riddick. Because of the uncertainty over Bell’s overall health, him not playing in the pre-season, and his general ineffectiveness over the last two years, there is a very good chance by mid to late season that Abdullah will take over the starting duties. He has more of the intangibles you look for in a running back, with breakaway speed and the ability to make most of the LB’s miss and almost anyone in the secondary for that matter. So there’s a good possibility that, by mid-season, Ameer could be a formidable option for a RB2. I will keep you updated on the running back situation as the pre-season progresses.
Then there was Zach Zenner. Abdullah and Riddick weren’t getting the job done, with a mere 13 yards a piece. Then ZZ-Top, “Zach Zenner” was afforded the opportunity to run with the first team. The first few runs, he was able to find a hole and hit it with raw power, running over and dragging defenders for extra yards. Then the next drive, Zenner got the ball on a power sweep to the right and split two linebackers with a tremendous burst of speed and rushed for a 41 yard gain. And with only minutes left in the fourth quarter, Zach got the ball on the 3 yard line and took it to paydirt dragging and punishing three defenders with him all the while. He finished the night with 85 yards on 8 carries, leading the NFL in rushing this pre-season. Over night Zenner has become a sensation in Detroit. One just another guy fighting for a spot on the 53 man roster, he has emerged as a potential star. He’ll be buried on the depth chart as the fourth running back most likely. I don’t know enough to speculate on his fantasy value. That said, if injury occurs to another running back in Detroit or he repeats this performance next week, there’s a high probability he’ll break into the rotation of backs receiving touches.
The running back situation in Detroit is complex and confusing to figure out, but I will keep you posted. Don’t forget to subscribe to our e-mail list so you can receive a free draft kit with 60 plus pages of invaluable information to help you #ruleyourleague.