For the past few seasons, the Arizona Cardinals have watched their running game sputter as one running back after another falls to injury. With that looking to be the case again in 2013, Bruce Arians and Co. could give rookie running back Stepfan Taylor the opportunity to shoulder the load.
A Stanford product who amassed 4,300 rushing yards and 40 rushing touchdowns during his three years as a starter, Taylor is a proven workhorse who is capable of carrying a ground attack all on his own. He helped the Cardinal become one of the most dominant rushing offenses in the nation, and also proved to be an effective receiver out of the backfield.
Known for his versatility and well-rounded skill set, Taylor is an inside grinder who never flashes much big-play ability at Stanford. Still, he is reliable between the tables, has trustworthy hands and is capable of blitz pickup.
Throughout the preseason, Taylor has struggled a bit while adjusting to the speed of the NFL. Through three games, he has amassed 93 yards on 28 carries (3.3 yards per carry) while forcing two missed tackles. Although it’s worth noting that the Cardinals’ offensive line isn’t exactly a group of top-tier run blockers, the fact that Taylor hasn’t been able to create more for himself is unsettling.
His fantasy appeal lies in the fact that the Cardinals’ starter, Rashad Mendenhall, is injury prone. Coming off a lackluster 2012 season following a 2011 ACL tear, Mendenhall already suffered a knee injury this preseason and likely won’t last long in 2013. The other semi-capable running back on the roster is Ryan Williams, whose potential has been buried by constant knee issues.
Meanwhile, Taylor has proven to be durable throughout his college career. If the other two can’t stay healthy, the Cardinals’ 2013 fifth-round pick could see plenty of carriers this upcoming season. If that’s the case, his fantasy value could sore in a big hurry.
While he’s not going to turn in a Bryce Brown-type breakout performance, Taylor has fantasy intrigue as a consistent workhorse who can pick up decent yards and a touchdown or two from time to time.
All of you runner-needy owners would be smart to keep an eye out for Taylor as the 2013 season gets under way.