Head coach Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals has announced that he expects his new starting running back Andre Ellington to see 25-30 touches per game. That immediately raises eyebrows.
Remember last season, when the Buffalo Bills said they planned to run C.J. Spiller until he pukes? That was all smoke and mirrors in the case of Spiller, leading to massive fantasy disappointment. But I have a suspicion that Arians isn’t completely blowing smoke on this one, though he may be exaggerating his figures.
Some are quick to point out that Ellington has only seen an average of 10 touches per game, but that was while he was playing second fiddle to now-retired Rashard Mendenhall, who saw 15 touches a game. Combining their touches, the duo saw 25 touches per game.
Obviously, Ellington isn’t going to just absorb the touches from Mendenhall. He’ll be sharing them with Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer. However, he could certainly see somewhere in the neighborhood of 17-22 touches per game depending on the opposing defense.
What will those touches consist of? Ellington brings diversity to the plate. About a fourth of his touches will come off of receptions, and his signal caller Carson Palmer has averaged to give 52 receptions to his tailbacks over the last five seasons (dumping off 39 to Ellington last season as the backup).
I’d project Ellington to see improvement in that category, reeling in about 60 receptions this season. He’s also proven effective with those touches coming off the pass, averaging about 10 yards per reception as well as finding the end zone once last season. Assuming he can maintain nine yards per reception and tack on a TD, he’ll have 60 points coming off of receiving totals.
To manage my estimation of 17-22 touches per game, he’d have to have approximately 240 rushes on top of his 60 receptions. That’s completely manageable because he won’t be under the same timeshare Mendenhall faced last season, taking on 217 attempts in 15 games. Last season, Ellington averaged 5.5 yards per carry and would likely drop down a yard per carry if he were to see this increase in attempts.
With those projections, he would be in store for a season near 1,100 yards with great potential to move up. This would leave him with 1,700 yards from scrimmage, placing him in the top five in yards from scrimmage using last season’s numbers.
I know there’s really nothing to really back this up since Mendenhall only punched it in eight times last season, but I’m expecting Ellington to make at least 10 trips to the promised land this season. It’s been reported that he’s added more muscles this season to prepare for his featured back role, and I’d assume the coaching staff will utilize his build to their advantage.
With that in mind, Ellington would be punching in about 230 fantasy points this year on the high end — a guaranteed top-10 season.
Call me crazy, but I really believe that will happen. Even on the low end, he’ll give you about 170 points, making him at least a top-15 back. And right now, he’s only the 17th RB taken off mock drafts. He’s well worth your pick. When you take him, I guarantee the rest of your league will be upset that they missed out on him.