The Arizona Cardinals best running back in 2013 was not the player they signed $2.5 million deal. It was the player they selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Cardinals brought in Rashard Mendenhall on a one-year deal after his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had 687 rushing yards with eight touchdowns, which was good to be the 24th-best running back in ESPN standard leagues. He finish with 3.2 yards per carry, No. 44 among qualified running backs.
The best running back for the Cardinals was rookie rusher Andre Ellington. He, surprisingly enough, also finished as the No. 24 fantasy running back. Ellington had 652 yards with three rushing scores.
Mendenhall will be a free agent and will most likely play for another team in 2014. This makes Ellington the No. 1 guy. It also helps to have the support of your head coach. In a recent interview, Head Coach Bruce Arians said the Cardinals “want to build our offense around him.”
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Arians said that Ellington gained about 10 pounds during offseason work. The explosive running back will now look to become a rusher who runs between the tackles. It will also help Ellington become more durable and less susceptible to injuries.
Looking forward to the 2014 season, Ellington should be expected to carry the ball 25-30 times with either Stepfan Taylor or Ryan Williams getting a carry or two. Arians stated that he’s more of a Jamaal Charles than an Adrian Peterson. Based on what Charles did in 2013, that won’t be a bad thing for Ellington.
With just one year, as a backup, under his belt, it will be hard to draft Ellington as a top-20 back. In a 10-team league, Ellington will help owners as a No. 3 RB, possibly even a flex option. Based on his 2013 performance, he should be drafted in the middle rounds. If the offense does revolve around Ellington, he could finish in the top 20.