It’s obviously getting late in draft season with the start of the season only a week away now, but fantasy football owners that are drafting over the next few days can go into their drafts fairly well informed in terms of how position battles have played out, key injuries, etc. There are still key decisions to be made when left debating on who to use a draft pick or auction money on, and often correctly assessing a late pick that turns out well can help bolster a deep playoff run for fantasy owners.
Two running backs that have changed teams and look likely to have similar roles in their new address are Peyton Hillis of the Kansas City Chiefs and Michael Bush of the Chicago Bears. Both guys are ranked in a similar area on most preseason cheat sheets, and will certainly create a potential critical decision for a lot of fantasy owners in search of a viable RB3 with upside.
So which guy has greater upside potential for fantasy owners this season? I’ll take a look at each guy, then make my choice.
Hillis emerged as a fantasy force in 2010 with the Cleveland Browns, as he had 270 carries for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns along with 61 catches for 477 yards and two more scores. But 2011 was a different story, as he missed six games and had just 587 yards on 161 carries with just three touchdowns while adding 22 catches for 130 yards. It’s fair to wonder if Hillis is a one-year wonder, as 2010 represents career-highs for him across the board and he has not posted any of those totals in his other three NFL seasons combined.
Hillis signed a one-year deal with Kansas City during the offseason, where he will be reunited with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland during his breakout 2010 campaign. Chiefs’ running back Jamal Charles is working his way back from an ACL tear early last season, and even though he has looked healthy to this point Hillis should still see plenty of work in what should be a fairly run-heavy Kansas City offense. Charles’ lack of ideal skills to be a prolific goal-line runner makes Hillis a perfect compliment to him.
Bush took advantage of another injury-shortened season from Darren McFadden with the Oakland Raiders in 2011, and posted career-highs in rushing yards (977), carries (256), receptions (37) and receiving yards (418) while starting nine games. He was particularly strong late in the season, with 644 rushing yards and 26 catches over the final eight games. Bush procured that production into a four-year contract from the Chicago Bears this offseason, where he will step in as the primary backup to Matt Forte.
Forte’s shortcomings as a touchdown scorer, particularly around the goal-line, are well documented and Bush is virtually certain to be deployed as the Bears’ primary goal-line back in his stead. But Bush’s all-around skills, which he showed last season, should not be undervalued and it is possible he vultures more than just short yardage touches from Forte, who missed the final four games of 2011 with a knee issue of his own.
Hillis and Bush are both worth considering as a solid RB3 and are among the top handcuffs in all fantasy formats. When we look back, I feel like their overall numbers will be remarkably similar as long as both stay healthy all season. The difference maker for me when making this choice is the talent around each guy, and with that Bush is my choice here. Simply put the Bears’ offense has better talent top to bottom than the Chiefs’ offense does, which stands to give Bush more opportunities as the primary goal-line guy and perhaps more opportunities elsewhere on the field as well.