The Player Profile series breaks down the 2012 performances of key players at each position in order to project where they should be drafted in 2013. Dig in, read up, and look ahead.
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
2012 was a year in which we saw a lot of young players step into big roles. Many of these players performed admirably, and Stevan Ridley was no exception. Ridley was a rookie in 2011 and filled a small role behind the Patriots’ two-headed running attack of Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. In 2012, Green-Ellis was playing in Cincinnati, and Ridley saw a huge increase in carries. He quickly became the number one running back in New England and put together a season well worth his initial 2012 ADP.
Ridley finished the 2012 season with the 9th most fantasy points among running backs. His point totals were surely helped by the 12 touchdowns (tied for second most among running backs with Adrain Peterson and Alfred Morris) he scored, but his production numbers weren’t terrible either. Ridley averaged 4.4 yards per carry with an average workload of 18 carries per game. He had four weeks with over 100 total yards, and one week in which he gained 98 and another where he tallied 97.
While Ridley was a fantastic value pick in 2012, there is no more questioning his talent and opportunity in 2013. He looks to be a consistent RB2 in standard formats, but he has the upside to perform at a RB1 level during any given week. His value is diminished significantly in PPR formats, as Ridley is almost entirely not involved in the passing game. Outside of weeks 1, 2, and 6, Ridley saw a total of zero receptions.
Despite nice totals in 2012, some owners were frustrated with Ridley’s inconsistent production. The Patriots’ back had 3 weeks in which he posted a YPC average above 5.0 and had 8 weeks in which he posted a YPC average below 4.0. There’s certainly reason to be weary of a running back who was somewhat unproductive for 50% of the season.
Ridley’s inconsistent performances should alarm owners in 2013. With the emergence of great change-of-pace back, Shane Vereen, Bill Belichick will have no qualms about benching Ridley if he becomes ineffective. It wouldn’t be astonishing if Vereen carves out a significant role in the Patriots high-powered offense.
All this considered, I don’t think Ridley will be a bust in 2013. I do, however, think he carries more risk than other top running backs. Given New England’s backfield situation and Ridley’s inconsistency, I wouldn’t be terribly shocked if his workload decreases. The bright side here is that Ridley’s ADP reflects his risk of regression. His ADP currently sits at 30th overall, and assuming his ADP doesn’t rise, I’d be willing to draft Ridley at that value.
While there’s reason for concern here, gamers, don’t be afraid to draft Ridley if he’s available in the third round. This should give you enough of a buffer to get some depth at running back to weather any potential Ridley regression.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore is one of the truest models of consistency among current NFL running backs. He has gained over 1,000 yards in all but two seasons with the 49ers, and he’s missed a total of 10 games throughout his career. To top it off, his lowest amount of carries in a season was 128, occurring during his rookie season when he was running behind infamous suck-fest Kevan Barlow. Outside of 2005, Gore has not had a season in which he received less than 200 carries.
In 2012, Gore gained a total of 1,448 yards and scored nine times. While his rushing totals were, at times, underwhelming, his involvement in the 49ers pass attack helped provide some stability. He finished 2012 with the 11th most fantasy points among running backs, despite only seeing just 5 weeks of 20 or more carries.
Looking ahead to 2013, Gore’s workload could improve, but this running back has a lot of miles. The caveat here is that Gore has managed to be productive with any amount of carries he has received. He had a nice 4.7 YPC average in 2012 and I don’t have a lot of reason to believe that he will be significantly less productive in 2013.
You could make a case for concern for Gore in 2013, as 2nd year backup, LaMichael James, looks to be involved more in 2013. While James showed flashes of talent at the end of the 2012 season, he seems more like a change of pace option rather than the every-down presence that Gore provides.
From where I sit, I don’t see Frank Gore going anywhere. He’s not flashy, but he gets the job done. He’s a great option as a RB2 for your fantasy squads. His ADP currently sits at 43rd overall, although I have seen him go off of the board in the 3rd round in early mock drafts. I’ll take Gore at any point after the 2nd round, but I realize I might be a little higher on him than some. Regardless of when you draft Gore, it won’t be a bad idea to grab LaMichael James as a handcuff.
I expect the 49ers back to give us another 1,000-yard season and 9-10 scores. Let me put it this way; you could do a lot worse than Frank Gore in 2013.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
I know, I know. Chris Johnson screwed you in 2012. You spent your first round pick on a back who failed to live up to massive expectations. Fortunately, the 2012 season is over, and I’m guessing that CJ2Lame is glad that 2012 is over as well.
Johnson finished the 2012 season with the 12th most fantasy points among running backs. He managed to gain 1,243 yards on the ground for the Titans and reached paydirt six times. He also averaged a decent 4.5 yards per carry. This was an all around disappointing performance from a running back that was just two years removed from a season in which he rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 16 scores. Johnson’s 2012 performance doesn’t look as bad as it was when examined by cumulative statistics. In fact, it was an (slight) improvement from his dismal 2011 campaign.
Entering 2013, I have a lot of mixed feelings about Johnson. On one hand, he is one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL and he has done more than enough to prove that he is talented. The Titans are also doing work on their mediocre offensive line. On the other hand, however, he has severely regressed throughout the last two seasons. Simply put, it seems as though the things that were working so well for Johnson and the Titans in 2009 and 2010 are no longer working.
Now, as 2013 drafts approach, we have to figure out if CJ2K will continue to decline or if he will bounce back. Personally, I have a feeling that Johnson will bounce back. Now, when I say this, I don’t mean that he will rush for over 2,000 yards. For me, bouncing back involves Johnson rushing for 1,300–1,600 yards and scoring 8–10 touchdowns. To give this a little context, if Johnson had these totals in 2012, he would have finished in the back half of the top 10 fantasy running backs.
As of this writing, Johnson’s ADP is hovering at 21st overall and I don’t see it moving too much between now and August. I think that this is a pretty accurate reflection of his 2013 value. Johnson is ultimately a low-end RB1 with top-five upside during any given week. I’m not terribly comfortable drafting Johnson, but if you are able to secure a strong RB1, Johnson could make for a great RB2.
There will be a lot of varying opinions on CJ2K and I encourage you to figure out how much risk you’re willing to handle. I think Johnson’s week to week production will be hard to predict, but if your blood pressure can handle, CJ2K could pay big dividends for patient owners.