NFC West Offseason: Andre Ellington A Workhorse?


At the end of the Cardinal’s minicamp workout on Tuesday, head coach Bruce Arians said that he wanted 2nd year RB Andre Ellington to be involved in 25 to 30 snaps per game. He averaged only 8 carries a game last year, though with that limited amount of carries he led the entire NFL in average yards per carry at 5.5. The obvious concern about giving Ellington 25 to 30 touches a game, which extrapolates into 400-480 touches over the course of a 16-game season, is Ellington’s size. At 5’9″ and 199 lbs., can he withstand such a heavy workload?

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Arians obviously doesn’t think Ellington’s durability will be much of an issue, and neither does the former Clemson Tiger. Ellington is the running back of the future for the Red Birds, but I don’t imagine the coaching staff to be in any rush to give their young back that many touches this early in his career. If he does wind up getting/handling 400+ touches this year, he’d easily be a top 10 RB, but expecting somewhere between 250-300 touches is a lot more reasonable. I view him as a solid RB2.

San Francisco:

Scoring touchdowns in the red zone was an issue for the 49ers the past two seasons, so this offseason, it’s become a focal point. It’s only been a few days in, but the 49ers have been spending about 35 to 40% of OTA workouts working solely on red zone plays. On Wednesday afternoon, QB Colin Kaepernick worked with Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Brandon Lloyd on various red-zone passes, from fades to slants to back-shoulder throws. Stevie Johnson was held out of OTAs due to an undisclosed injury.

The most impressive play of the afternoon when Kaep hit the newly acquired Lloyd, who made a nifty move to get open, in the front corner of the end zone for a short TD pass against Perrish Cox. Lloyd, who is one of the craftiest WRs in the NFL when it comes to footwork and making plays in tight spaces, was seen teaching Boldin and Crabtree the little tricks of the trade. That can mean nothing but good things for the 49ers offense. While Kaepernick’s value is still tied to his legs, if he can improve on his red zone productivity, he can be a top 5 fantasy QB.


WR Percy Harvin has looked great thus far in OTAs, and seems poised to make a big impact for defending champions. While Harvin only played one regular season game and one playoff game prior to the Super Bowl, he said that his hip injury is in the rearview mirror. Harvin slid to grab several tough passes Tuesday afternoon, and was playing with a spring in his step, the same type of spring that he showed on his kickoff return for a touchdown against the Broncos. With Golden Tate leaving for Detroit, Harvin will be Russell Wilson‘s number 1 target in 2014. The key for Harvin has always been his durability: he’s missed 22 games in the past two seasons. While that is what will keep you from drafting him among the top 20 WRs (WR and QB is very deep this year), but he’s definitely a guy I would take a chance on after you fill your first two WR slots.

St. Louis:

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One of the biggest questions raised this offseason was whether or not Sam Bradford should still hold the reins to the Rams offense in 2014. Head coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead have been resolute in their support of Bradford, and for good reason. Bradford had his best NFL season in 2012, the first year that Fisher was the head coach, and set personal bests for yards per passing attempt and passer rating. He also had the 4th best QBR, an advance metric for evaluating QB play, in 2012. He’s also been efficient in the red zone under OC Brian Shchottenheimer (15:1 TD:INT ratio with a 95.8 quarterback rating) in his last 15 games.

With the Rams switching to a run-first offense led by Zac Stacy, Bradford will be able to do what he does very well: play action passes. According to Pro Football Focus, here are his stats under Fisher on play action the past two seasons: a 61% completion rate, 8.89 yards per attempt, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. So what does this all mean?

By no means am I suggesting that you draft Bradford in redraft leagues where you only need to start one QB. What it does tell me is that 1. I wouldn’t worry about defenses loading the box against Zac Stacy (a top 12 RB for me) and 2. it wouldn’t be a shocker if one of the Rams WRs finish 2014 in the top 30. The obvious candidate is Tavon Austin, who finished with 48 fantasy points over his last 4 games of the season (not including his special teams contributions). The Rams will be known for their disgusting defensive line and power run game, but if Sam Bradford plays the entire season, his success shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Editor’s note: Want more Sam Bradford? Fakepigskin’s Joshua Lake gives an even more in depth look at the Rams’ QB. 


Notes: 49ers Marcus Lattimore, who is still recovering from his knee surgery 2 years ago, is taking handoffs at less than full speed so far…Vernon Davis is not present at OTAs…St. Louis signed former Pro Bowl Guard Davin Joseph to a one year contract…Seattle’s Sidney Rice is expected to be ready for training camp…Marshawn Lynch is expected to star in a movie…about himself…


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