This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NBAandNFLInfo or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose.
The Arizona Cardinals have an answer to their lethargic rushing attack of a year ago. It’s Andre Ellington. The second-year running back out of Clemson may not look like the type of back capable of carrying a full load, but after adding 8-10 pounds of muscle during the off-season, the Arizona coaching staff has him pegged as the team’s lead back.
Rashard Mendenhall’s retirement did Ellington a favor, but with the team having little else in terms of talent behind him, they really do appear to be going all in with Ellington. In fact, head coach Bruce Arians has called Ellington a "bell cow" back and once suggested earlier in the off-season that Ellington could see close to 30 touches per game.
Even with added weight, Ellington taking on a whopping 30 touches per game sounds crazy, but the message is clear: the Cardinals need Ellington to be something close to a workhorse.
Having that explosive element in the rushing game is key for Arizona to have a chance to rise above the 49ers and Seahawks in the brutal NFC West, while simply getting the versatile Ellington involved as a receiver out of the backfield will also open things up dramatically.
From what we’ve already see, it does seem like Ellington could be on the verge of stardom. That begs the question - is Ellington also on the verge of being a standout fantasy football running back?
More specifically, with his ADP (Average Draft Position) steadily rising, does that give the second-year back a realistic shot at top-five production?
Let’s break down Ellington from both sides and see if he can soar to those kind of heights in 2014:
Why Ellington Can Be a Top-5 RB
You can’t beat elite athleticism and explosiveness. Unless you’re also versatile with soft hands and an NFL track record that already boasts a gaudy 5.5 yards per carry on 118 career totes. Ellington may be made in a small package, but this league has seen plenty of small backs prove critics wrong. If Ellington bulked up as reported and didn’t lose his trademark burst, there’s little reason to hate on him.
What makes Ellington even more interesting is that his offense needs him and it sounds like the Cardinals want to get the ball in his hands early and often. With just three career games with less than a 4.0 yards per carry average, it seems like getting the ball into his hands as much as possible is a pretty good idea.
Ellington also brings added value as a legit PPR threat and should be a yardage fiend. He might have an issue with Jonathan Dwyer stealing some touchdowns near the goal-line, but the overall production should survive that. LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles are both under six feet tall and less than 2010 pounds - just like Ellington. They finished first and second among running backs in fantasy football last year. Enough said.
Why Ellington Will Be a Bust
He’s small and weak. His offensive line has improved over the years, but they’re still not amazing and he also has to face three really good run defenses (49ers, Seahawks and Rams) twice in 2014. The rest of his schedule isn’t nearly as formidable, but all of that is enough to scare a lot of fantasy owners.
It will actually be hard for him to be a total bust without a injury, thanks to a solid ADP, but he could still disappoint greatly.
Ellington, like most over-hyped fantasy studs, is probably simply going to fall somewhere in the middle. By talent alone, he surely has every bit of a chance as any of the other superstars in the league. He’s fast, can make people miss and should have a big role. However, he’s also small, lacks bulk and strength and plays in a really tough division.
Ellington could deal with some injuries, should lose some goal-line touches and will have his share of duds. He’ll do well enough to keep him as a weekly starter in your lineup, though, too. That may not make for top-five value, but in an era where the feature back is dying off, anyone with talent that touches the ball a lot needs to be respected. With only a third round ADP, Ellington probably won’t get you top-five numbers, but he’ll surely get you value.
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