Old faces in new situations: Running backs

Former Cardinals running back David Johnson has found a new home.

A change of scenery. Sometimes it happens when a player moves on to a new team. Sometimes the scenery changes without a player needing a new helmet, when the situation on his current team has turnover. Regardless of how, the scenery changed for more than a few veteran running backs. Figuring out which backs benefit from the changes… well, there’s the trick.

DAVID JOHNSON – Houston Texans

A show of hands please. Who is still infatuated with David Johnson? Let’s see them. Hands please. Anybody? Other than The Czar? Who still has the hots for David Johnson? Anybody? Going once, going twice…. well, we understand. Sort of.

Our infatuation for the Pride of Northern Iowa is alive and well, because 2016 is burned into our brains. Over 1,200 yards rushing, almost 900 yards receiving, 20 total touchdowns, all from a 6’1, 225 pound back who looked like a fantasy force for years to come. Fight on Arizona Cardinals!!!

And since that glorious 2016 season in the desert? Well, uh…. injuries, 3.6 yards a carry, losing the starting gig to a guy who couldn’t take hold of the same gig in Miami, and a trade to the Houston Texans. Well David, Bill O’Brien still believes. Either that, or he had to get something back for D’Andre Hopkins. Not really sure which. Either way, O’Brien and Houston seem to get good productivity out of veteran backs (Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde), and here’s betting it’ll happen again with Johnson.

MARLON MACK – Indianapolis Colts

Time for a quiz. What happens when your rushing totals improve from 358 yards as a rookie, to 908, to 1,091 yards. But, you miss a few games each season (8 total), you’re going into the final year of your rookie contract, and extension talks are a myth?

Your team drafts Jonathan Taylor in the 2nd round, that’s what happens. Welcome to “The Marlon Mack Story.” The Colts running back has had some fabulous moments in his first three seasons. He’s averaged 4.4 yards a carry. He’s only 24. And he’s probably entering his last season with the Colts.

With Taylor now on the roster, can’t imagine that Mack will be able to come close to his numbers of the last two seasons. But if you’re in a dynasty league, might be a nice guy to have on your roster. Better opportunity is likely a year away.

KENYAN DRAKE – Arizona Cardinals

Remember this line in the David Johnson stuff…. “losing the starting gig to a guy who couldn’t take hold of the same gig in Miami.” Well, that guy was Kenyan Drake, and man was he good in eight games after being traded to Arizona – 643 yards, 5.2 per carry and 8 TDs good.

It’s not like he stunk in his first three seasons with Miami — he just never solidified his spot as a starter. Or a go to guy. Or much of anything else. He was just there, and was pretty good, but…. Different story now in Arizona. The Cardinals used the transition tag on Drake – he’ll make about $8.4 million in 2020. Unless he gets an extension, he’ll be running for money again this year. Enjoy the ride.

MELVIN GORDON – Denver Broncos

So how’d that whole contract holdout thing workout Melvin? Sorry. Had to ask. Moving along. Gordon leaves the Chargers for a 2-year, $16-million deal in Denver. He reportedly would have made more had he signed (instead of holding out) with the Chargers, and he reportedly had better offers than what he took from Denver. Wants to play the Chargers twice a year, supposedly.

Good luck with that Melvin. Even with all that, should be a solid fantasy back in Denver. Think a good #2 fantasy back. But odd stat – averaged under four yards a carry in four of his five seasons with the Chargers.

PHILLIP LINDSAY – Denver Broncos

If Marlon Mack is steamed, then Phillip Lindsay has to be REALLY steamed. He rushed for 1,000+ yards and caught 35 passes in each of his first two seasons. He scored 17 touchdowns. And as a reward for his fine work, he gets Melvin Gordon. No one ever said being a running back in the NFL is easy. Or fair. Lindsay will still be just as good as he was in his first two seasons. But with fewer opportunities comes less production. Sorry Phillip.

TODD GURLEY – Atlanta Falcons

Want this in your #1 fantasy running back? History of knee issues, at least 223 carries in each of his first five seasons, in his last two seasons a drop in rushing yards from 1,251 to 857, and in yards per carry from 4.9 to 3.8. Oh, and he no longer get to play his home games on natural grass. Not very appealing, until you attach the name Todd Gurley to all of the above. Gurley is now an Atlanta Falcon, and of course he played his college ball at Georgia. Maybe that’ll mean something. But with that knee history, can’t imagine Gurley will suddenly flashback to the glory days with the Rams. It might be wise to grab Atlanta Falcon back-up running backs. Chances are they’ll be put to use.