There will come a point in every single draft where fantasy owners will have to choose between two players they like. And a lot of the time, there will be more than just two players to choose from, too. Well, sucks for you.
Okay, just kidding. I’m here to help. One of those choices you may have to make will be at the running back position, and because the position is becoming more shallow, these decisions can be crucial. So, two awesomely talented running backs in the Bengals’ Giovani Bernard and Washington’s Alfred Morris. Who do you have?
Or, you know, me.
First of all, this battle definitely depends on the scoring format. If you are looking at a PPR league, the edge goes to Gio Bernard and it isn’t all that close. Morris has 20 receptions over the last two years, while Bernard hauled in 56 passes during his rookie year alone. The Redskins may be experimenting with Morris in the passing game a bit more, but his ceiling is 20 catches, while Gio’s is 60.
But let’s look at this from a standard perspective.
Let’s start with Morris, who, over his first two seasons, has accumulated an awesome 2,888 rushing yards and 20 rushing scores. He’s been one of the most productive backs in the league during that span, but because he’s only caught 20 balls in his career, fantasy owners are left wanting more. Last year, the Redskins had a catastrophic year, and as a result, Morris’ numbers faltered a bit, finishing as fantasy’s number 14 running back. But it wasn’t because he played bad, but rather because the Redskins played bad. Washington won just four games last year, holding a lead just over 10 percent of the time. And, according to Pro Football Focus, Morris played just 115 snaps when Washington held a lead last year, while playing almost 800 snaps when the team was trailing in games. That’s insane. To put that into perspective, in Morris’ rookie season, he played 377 winning snaps, compared to 425 losing snaps. And when Washington was behind, they were throwing the football, limiting Morris’ upside. This is huge for Morris’ fantasy value, as Jason Lisk of USA Today points out:
In the 13 wins over the last two years, 22.8 carries, 105 rushing yards, and 1 touchdown a game.
In the 19 losses, Morris averaged 16.6 carries, 80 rushing yards, and 0.4 touchdowns per game.
Washington should be much improved this year, too. In 2012, the Redskins ranked 11th in red zone scoring attempts per game, while they dropped to 17th a season ago (3.1). If this offense improves, which it should, Morris should see great red zone numbers once again. Over the last two seasons, he’s accumulated 91 red zone carries, as well as 39 totes from inside the 10-yard line. And even with Jay Gruden calling the shots, this team will still want to pound the rock when up close.
Meanwhile, Gio Bernard is one of the most talented backs in the league. I can’t wait to watch him build off that 170-carry season. New offensive coordinator absolutely loves Gio, stating many times that he is going to touch the ball a lot. And it also helps that Jackson loves to run the football, too.
Bernard should see between 210-230 carries this season. That number could be a lot higher if the team didn’t draft rookie runner Jeremy Hill, who has looked good in the preseason. The Bengals website predicts both backs to see 200-plus carries, and the guy Hill is replacing, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, also had 200 carries last year. Hill will be relevant, as BJGE saw a healthy 30 red zone carries and 19 touches from inside the 10-yard line last year. But that doesn’t mean Gio isn’t going to see any carries from up close, either.
I think this is a pretty clear-cut decision. If you are in a PPR league, Giovani Bernard is 100 percent your guy. But in a standard league, it’s a lot closer, and I think I might lean towards Morris, who doesn’t have any competition for carries behind him.