Entering the NFL season, all the focus was on the five rookie quarterbacks that were set to begin the season as starters. However, with half of the season concluded, an equally compelling storyline of rookies finding success has emerged in the productivity of running backs Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris, who have all become valuable running backs in a passing-oriented league.
Richardson was expected to be a feature back immediately, picked by the Browns as the third overall pick in the draft. While he has struggled with injuries at times, he has also proven to be a productive, tough runner, amassing 575 rushing yards and five touchdowns, ranking 13th and seventh in the NFL, respectively. Richardson may not have gotten off to the start many expected from him, but he is still producing as a Top 15 back in the NFL.
Martin meanwhile was a late-first round draft pick for the Buccaneers and was expected to split carries. His performances in the previous two weeks, however, show he is ready to become one of the best running backs in the world. In week eight, he slashed the Vikings’ defense apart on way to 214 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
Week nine, however, truly showed Martin’s talents as he produced one of the best performances in the history of the NFL by a running back, let alone a rookie. Martin rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns, leading Tampa Bay to victory with touchdown runs of one, 45, 67 and 70 yards. He is the first player in history to have three rushing touchdowns of over 45 yards in a game. With back-to-back performances of this impressive nature, Martin has thrown his name into contention for one of the best young running backs in the NFL and a candidate for offensive rookie of the year.
Morris may be the most surprising of the group. Acquired by the Redskins as a sixth-round draft pick, Morris ranks fourth in the NFL with 793 rushing yards, one behind Martin, and has looked like a reliable veteran, ranking seventh in rushing touchdowns with five. Washington has rookies manning both the quarterback and running back positions, something quite uncommon in the NFL. The most pleasant surprise of the draft has to be Morris. Fans and experts alike questioned Mike Shanahan after he chose Morris to start this season, but it looks like Shanahan saw something in Morris the rest of the football world failed to see. Everyone should know that the Redskins want one thing from their rookie back: Run, Morris, Run!
While the rookie quarterbacks may receive more attention this season, the rookie running backs have shown the NFL is not all about the passing game. New school backs are bringing an old-school feel to the NFL this season.
Pickups of the Week
Danny Amendola, Wide Receiver; St. Louis
Sidelined back in week five by a broken collarbone, Amendola is scheduled to return this week for the Rams. Even after missing three games, Amendola is still the team leader in receptions, targets and receiving yards. He has shown he can be a reliable and productive fantasy option as the unquestioned number one receiving option for St. Louis. The importance of quarterback Sam Bradford’s chemistry with Amendola cannot be undervalued as Bradford frequently finds the shifty receiver multiple times per game.
For those fantasy owners who remained patient and stuck with Amendola, expect your waiting to pay off. An unfavorable matchup in week 10 against the 49ers aside, Amendola should return as the prominent threat in the St. Louis passing offense. If he can pick up where he left off before his injury, Amendola will quietly become one of the biggest weapons in the second half of the season.
Brandon Myers, Tight End; Oakland
The fourth-year player is having a solid year for the Raiders thus far in the season, reeling in his first two touchdowns of the year against the Buccaneers on Sunday. Myers ranks in the top 10 in terms of fantasy points amongst tight ends entering week 10, and will provide a consistent 40 yards or more, failing to eclipse the mark just once this season. He will not always put forth the same numbers he did last week, but he can be a reliable backup tight end for fantasy owners.