Arizona Cardinals RB Rashard Mendenhall announced his retirement on Sunday. The announcement wasn’t much of a surprise to anybody. In the 2013 NFL season, Mendenhall looked like a shell of the former versatile and light-footed back that he was when he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. What made things worse for Mendenhall was the entrance of the rookie from Clemson, Andre Ellington.
Ellington made the entire NFL realize he shouldn’t have dropped to the sixth-round of the draft. He made Mendenhall look like he was in slow motion the entire season. Ellington finished last year averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and Mendenhall averaged 3.2 yards per carry. He showcased his abilities in a Week 8 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.
Mendenhall picked up an injury and Ellington was given the start. He finished the game with 154 yards on 15 carries, which was highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown run.
According to Pro Football Reference, both Cardinals running backs finished with the same amount of fantasy points in standard scoring leagues with 126. It was frustrating to watch all season long as head coach Bruce Arians chose to pledge his allegiance to Mendenhall time after time, even though Ellington was clearly the superior of the two.
Now that Mendenhall officially won’t be back next season, Ellington will be the main man in the Arizona backfield in 2014. According to Cardinals beat writer Darren Urban, GM Steve Keim will employ multiple backs in the upcoming season. Keim claimed that Ellington will receive more work than he did last year, but Stefan Taylor will receive some time as well. The Cardinals may also choose to bring in a low-level free agent to instill more competition as well.
Ellington will not be a “feature” running back next year, but he should still see his fantasy value increase from last year. Without Mendenhall in the way. he could be in line to push into the top 20 running backs in fantasy this year in standard leagues. Ellington already enjoyed mild success in PPR leagues last year, and there is no doubt that his increased role in Arizona’s pass-first offense will benefit his value in PPR leagues as well.
His ability to work out of open spaces will make him a hot PPR commodity this year. He can be considered a mid-range RB-2 heading into fantasy drafts and can be considered a legitimate RB-2 option in PPR leagues.