The Washington Redskins have been a thorn in the side of fantasy football players most of the season. If there is such a thing as cruel and unusual punishment in fantasy sports, the Redskins and head coach Mike Shanahan are probably it.
To start the year, Rex Grossman, Tim Hightower and Santana Moss showed some promise, but it quickly fell apart. Fast forward to present day: There is a very different group of characters starting and it has become a very fluid, ugly situation.
Coming out of Week 9, we may have one potential bright spot in this steaming pile of muck known as the Washington offense ... rookie running back Roy Helu Jr.
I have been high on Helu since the summer, and the Redskins finally put him in the starting lineup against the San Francisco 49ers over the weekend. The matchup was not ideal; San Fran's D has been dominating runners this year. The final result, however, was positive: 10 carries, 41 yards rushing, 14 receptions, 105 yards receiving and no touchdowns. He also coughed up the football up once, losing it to the 49ers.
Following the game, Helu was bothered by the turnover. "The stats look good, but I had the fumble, and that was the biggest difference in the game score-wise. Just can't have that stuff," he said.
Had the Redskins not been playing from behind all day (which will likely be an ongoing problem), Helu likely would have had more opportunities on the ground. His 4.1 yards per attempt against the 49ers is encouraging. Most of his receptions came in the second half, as quarterback John Beck was dinking and dunking his way down the field and the 49ers were playing a soft zone aimed to prevent big plays. Read as the 49ers were fine with Helu picking up catch after catch underneath because it wasn't going to kill them or affect the game results.
Helu, however, showed the coaching staff he is more than capable of playing in this league. At the very least, he has to be a factor as the team's third down back moving forward. This one-cut-and-go runner could be a special fantasy option moving forward if the Redskins utilize him enough, and he holds even higher value in point per reception leagues.
Will the Redskins continue to use him enough? That is the million dollar question. The way Shanahan has used his backs in recent history points toward Helu being more of a tease than putting out. This isn't due to Helu or his talent, but due to the poor Washington offense and Shanahan's mood swings surrounding the position. Shanny is at least saying the right things about Helu, but he has been known to hand out a few lines of coach speak over the years.
"Helu has got the speed to make big plays. We have to get better offense. That's obvious. For an offense to work, you need 11 guys going in the same direction," Shanahan said following the game.
"I think you can see that he is a pretty good all-around back. He makes some plays, obviously, like a Pro Bowl back."
As we noted in the latest Fantasy Football Insider, our sources in Washington believe Tashard Choice will be given every opportunity to start when healthy and acclimated with the playbook. Helu's Week 9 performance may have helped change the mind of the coaching staff. At the very least, look for Helu and Choice to share carries moving forward. In a best case situation, Helu will be the feature back and Choice will spell him from time to time or see some short-yardage work.
While I'm not ready to go all in on Helu right now, he should be acquired in all formats and viewed as a matchup play or flex option while this situation plays out. Choice should also be held onto for the time being. If you were still holding out hope on Ryan Torain, he is easily expendable after his two touches in Week 9 coupled with his recent poor showings.
About Ryan R. Bonini
Founding KFFL in 1996, Bonini now serves as VP of Fantasy Sports Solutions for USA
TODAY SPORTS, KFFL's parent company. Bonini was named 2009 Fantasy Football Writer
of the Year by the FSWA,
received honors with the Best Fantasy Football Series in '10 and was named into their Hall of Fame in '13.
His work has been found in USA TODAY Sports, Yahoo!
Sports, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NFL.com, and many others. He has also been featured
on numerous radio programs around the country. Bonini is a member of the PFWA,
FSWA and FSTA.
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