The Running Back Situation
With the injury to Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis (knee), Ladell Betts is in a position to take the carries again. However, the likely scenario is that Portis will be ready to play this season, and the two will be forced to split time. This will give the team two quality rushers and could affect the passing game as well.
Portis is a very talented player that reached the 1,300-yard mark every season before last season. He was forced to miss eight games as he was placed on Injured Reserve with a broken right hand. He was the clear workhorse back before the injury, being utilized in 29 percent of the team's plays and 52 percent of their red zone plays when healthy. In eight games, he rushed for 523 yards and seven touchdowns.
Betts became even more of a workhorse back than Portis was after the injury, but this was more because the team didn't have any other options. Betts was utilized in 43 percent of the team's offensive plays while being used in 40 percent of the red zone plays. He rushed for 1,154 yards with four touchdowns. One of the clear differences between Portis and Betts is that Portis has more scoring potential. However, Betts showed more receiving ability as he caught 53 passes for 445 yards and one touchdown.
It should also be noted that Betts' effect on Portis may not be a huge one. In the first eight games, Betts was used in 19 percent of the team's offensive plays, and Portis was still on his way to a productive season. Betts will remain involved, but Portis is expected to be the clear No. 1 running back as long as he's healthy. Not only is he more proven, but Betts may be more of a turnover risk. Betts fumbled the ball six times last season, which is more than Portis has ever had in a season despite seeing more carries every season except 2006. Portis has fumbled once every 86 carries in his career while Betts has fumbled once every 51 carries.
Running backs Derrick Blaylock and Rock Cartwright are competing for the No. 3 job. Blaylock disappointed the last two seasons with the New York Jets, taking 42 total carries for 97 yards, which gave him a 2.3 yards-per-carry average. Cartwright has been with the Redskins his entire career but has taken only 34 carries over the last three seasons.
The Receiver Dilemma
The performance of the Redskins' receivers will largely be dictated by the play of quarterback Jason Campbell, who is entering his first full season as the No. 1 quarterback. Campbell was given the starting job during the season and performed well late in the season. He threw for 1,297 yards in seven games, which was only 185 yards per game, and he threw for 10 touchdowns with only six interceptions.
Campbell still has some work to do, but he should at least be able to get the ball in the hands of No. 1 receiver Santana Moss downfield. Moss was affected by the quarterback change because he was targeted in 13 percent of the team's offensive plays after Campbell took the starting job while he was targeted in 15 percent before. However, the quarterback change may have ended up helping him since he caught 24 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns in six games with Campbell. In two of those games he hit the 100-yard mark, which was a feat he accomplished only once that season before Campbell took the starting job.
Brandon Lloyd has been replaced as the No. 2 receiver after a disappointing season last year. He caught only 23 passes for 365 yards and no touchdowns. His lack of production wasn't because he wasn't given the opportunity. He was targeted 117 times, meaning he caught less than one-fifth of the passes that went his way. Having a year of experience in Washington's system should help him, but he did not show any signs of improvement last year.
Wide receiver Antwaan Randle El has surpassed Lloyd as the No. 2 receiver. He caught 32 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns last year. Like Lloyd, he wasn't very effective as he was targeted 89 times. However, he was still able to catch more passes despite being targeted fewer times.
Wide receiver James Thrash could also catch a few balls, although he likely won't be targeted very often. In three seasons, he caught 43 passes for 548 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Todd Pinkston is also available, although he has not played in a game since 2004.
Despite his injury situation and the presence of Betts, Portis remains a No. 2 fantasy option. In general, he is being taken in the third round, where he has great value. Due to the concerns surrounding his injury, it would be a good idea to handcuff him to Betts. Betts could be drafted as a No. 4 running back for teams without Portis, but his best value is as a handcuff. He is being taken on average in the middle rounds, so Portis owners should be ready to draft him before adding depth anywhere else.
The receivers don't have much value due to their inconsistency. Moss can be drafted as a No. 2 receiver. However, fantasy owners have to be ready for him to mix a few dominant games with a few games where he barely does anything. Lloyd or Randle El should not be drafted in most leagues.
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