The Washington Redskins running back situation is shaping up to be an absolute nightmare for Fantasy Football owners in 2012, as the recent re-signing of Tim Hightower took an expected timeshare between Roy Helu and Evan Royster into a three-man cluster headed by head coach Mike Shanahan.
Shanahan is well known for his constant torment of Fantasy owners by constantly sharing carries and mixing them up seemingly at random. Before the announcement of Hightower came in yesterday, it appeared as though Helu would assume the starting role and Royster would be the backup. Now things do not appear to be quite so clear.
Helu, a fifth-round pick by the Redskins in 2011, has loads of potential and is tailored to play in the west coast offense. He is a decisive, one-cut runner, who excels in the zone-blocking scheme and as a receiver.
As a rookie, Helu played in 15 games, starting five. He carried the ball 151 times for 640 yards (4.2 YPC), while also posting 49 receptions for 379 yards (7.7 YPR). Most of that production came in the last half of the season and in his last seven games, Helu averaged 72 yards rushing and 35 yards receiving, which equals an average of 107 total yards per game.
In that same eight-game stretch, Helu caught 37 passes (4.6 per game) and scored five total touchdowns. Therefore, it was easy to assume that if healthy, he would take on the starting role, leaving Royster to be the backup/change of pace guy.
The rookie free agent from Penn State, did not see much action in his first NFL season, but when he did get on the field, he flashed some potential. In the last four games of the season, he carried the ball 56 times for 328 yards (5.6 YPC).
As a starter in the last two games, Royster was even more successful, posting back-to-back 100-yards games to end the season against the Vikings and Eagles, respectively, while Helu was hindered by injuries.
With their success at the end of the season, both backs proved to be fits in the system, thus it appeared that Shanahan was willing to roll with the two youngsters until Hightower recently worked his way back into the picture. Questions still remain about the health of Hightowers knee and whether he will be 100 percent by the start of the season, yet his presence on the depth chart is still disconcerting for fantasy owners because it causes even more uncertainty, especially with Shanahan.
So how will the addition of Hightower detract from the PPR Fantasy value of Helu and Royster?
Well as any diehard Fantasy owner knows, it is hard to trust any running back, who plays for Shanahan, particularly when there are not just two but three potential backs to share carries. So here is a full projection for all three Redskin runners.
PPR Fantasy Football Projection: Redskins Running Backs.
Despite the addition of Hightower, the former Nebraska product still has the most upside as a PPR Fantasy player, simply because he is so well-rounded and efficient as both a runner and receiver. The only thing that can hold him back will be Shanahan. Yet, if he can get 20 touches a game, he should be a solid RB2. Yet, caution is required here so be conservative when drafting Helu and look for him in rounds 7-8.
That being said, FantasyPPR.com projects Helu for 1,080 yards rushing yards and 336 receiving as well as 50 catches to go along with eight total touchdowns, numbers that would make him a low end RB2 or a high end RB3.
Royster is more difficult to project but at this point. Currently we see Helu being the starter, so Royster should produce something in the vicinity of 500 rushing yards and 200 receiving, making him more of a depth option at this point. However, he will be a great handcuff for Helu, so if owners draft Helu, Royster should be a target in the late rounds, as a handcuff/depth player.
Hightower is the biggest mystery of the three. He was productive last season (his first with the Redskins) before injuring his knee after five games and some experts have argued his return will be as the starter but that is a BIG if and will depend not only on his own health but also the development on Helu and Royster.
It is hard not to like what Hightower brings to the table for PPR owners. He is a solid runner and excels at catching the ball out of the backfield. Yet, at this point it is unclear what exactly his role will be in 2012. If healthy to start the season, he is a guy to keep an eye on but is still more of a waiver wire pickup.
Conservatively, we are projecting Hightower for 400 yards rushing and 250 receiving. It is a modest projection at this point but if he were named the starter at some point, he would be a low-end RB2 or a very solid flex option.
Below is a highlight video of Helu and Royster as rookies in 2011: