Fantasy football general managers can try as hard as they want, but trying to figure out the New Orleans Saints backfield may be one of the most difficult task to conquer in the fantasy realm. Head coach Sean Payton and his staff seem to be the only ones who understand what is going on and regularly dispatched four different running backs throughout the 2013 NFL season.
On the surface, it appears that one could say that the Saints use four backs because each of the excellent depth they have at the position. Payton was recently quoted as saying, “Each one of those guys has a different skill set, and the versatility is important.”
The Saints’ running back stable includes 30-year-old Darren Sproles, 29-year-old Pierre Thomas, the ever-so-frustrating Mark Ingram, and an undrafted player from West Texas A&M entering his second year Khiry Robinson.
Last season, New Orleans’ running game ranked 26th in the NFL and averaged 3.8 yards per carry. In two games last season, Robinson showed good burst and vision and ran for 102 yards on 21 carries, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. According to Pro-Football-Reference, Robinson produced 28 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues in his brief appearances. Not bad for an undrafted rookie, huh?
The Saints possess the second ranked passing offense in the league, so their deficiencies running the ball appear to look like a deep backfield with quality depth. If they would be able to employ a stable running game, their offensive production could skyrocket.
Robinson would be an ideal candidate to lead the charge considering he showed some serious skill in his short time on the field. If he was given a heavy workload, he would be an ultimate fantasy sleeper. Not many owners even know who Robinson is, so he could be taken with a very late pick in fantasy drafts.
In the playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks, Payton chose to give Robinson the ball a team-high 13 times, so his faith in him appears to be growing. If Payton can just relegate the aging Sproles and Thomas to third down and change-of-pace back duties, Robinson can become a fantasy stud as soon as 2014 if he is given the stability of a proper workload. He would be a nice complement to one of the most high powered offenses in the league, and he could be a major fantasy force in the upcoming season.