It’s hard to determine whether the Cleveland Browns have been more irrelevant in the NFL or in fantasy football, but players are starting to scout out the Browns’ backfield which will be prominently featured during the absence of Josh Gordon.
There are moments during your fantasy draft where you will to take a risk on a certain player, but fantasy football is ultimately about limiting the amount of risks you have to take and drafting the best player available. It would appear that drafting a starting running back for any team makes sense, but not all players are in the best of systems or have the best track records of success.
Formerly playing second fiddle to Arian Foster, 25-year-old Ben Tate will get the opportunity to lead the rushing attack for Cleveland. Tate was consistent in his duties as the lead back for the Houston Texans, but he was never convincing as the primary starter. He only had one game with 100 or more rushing yards, but part of that was due to the fact that he was playing with several broken ribs. Tate’s injury history, however, is a huge issue of concern for potential fantasy owners.
He may not have played for a big college, but Terrance West was able to set school records for the Towson Tigers with 2,509 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns in his final season with the Tigers. It wasn’t an issue of talent that prevented West from playing for a bigger school. The running back struggled academically to qualify for colleges but eventually found a spot at Towson. The fact that the Browns traded up in the third round to select West, however, should indicate the potential talent that he has. West has been compared to Alfred Morris, and when you combine his his great field vision with the fact that defenses struggled to bring him down, you need to have him on your radar now.
Many fantasy owners will be drawn to Tate because of the name recognition and the fact that the Cleveland offense will go very run heavy to start off the season. He will be an overreach in many leagues, but his running style makes him more of a grinder than a playmaker who racks up big yards and scores touchdowns. I can’t see him as more than a top-15 back, and that is not worth the second or third-round pick your competition is willing to spend on him.
You can’t really predict how his skills will translate into the NFL, but using a late-round pick on West is a great investment that could pay huge dividends. If Tate is injured or is outshone by West, you have instant trade bait with a player you can draft in the last round. If one of your early-round running backs becomes a bust, you can easily slide West into the lineup. Overreaching for Tate doesn’t make sense, but adding West for almost no cost does.
Being on a run-heavy offense with unlimited upside is the reason fantasy owners need to have West on their team in 2014.