Rashard Mendenhall: Better Than You Think

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Published: August 12, 2013

Rashard Mendenhall Fantasy 2013

Rashard Mendenhall Fantasy 2013If you forgot all about Rashard Mendenhall, don’t worry – you’re not alone. The new Arizona Cardinal running back is currently being drafted 70th overall in standard 12-team leagues and 31st among running backs. Quite simply, the guy has value written all over him at those positions.

Think about it: Are there 30 other backs in the NFL who are going to get a heavier workload in their respective teams’ run games than Rashard Mendenhall? I just don’t see it. In fact, I notice that three backs who aren’t even the primary ball carriers on their teams are consistently being drafted ahead of Mendenhall: Shane Vereen, Darren Sproles and Giovani Bernard. Unless you are in a PPR format, I wouldn’t take any of those three over Mendenhall.

Mendenhall is in great position to have a bounce-back year in 2013. He is as healthy as he’s been in nearly two years and has been reunited with the man (Bruce Arians) in whose offense he’s had the most success during his career.

As the full-time feature back in Arians’ offense in Pittsburgh, Mendenhall averaged 1103 rushing yards and over nine touchdowns a season over a span of three years. Those averages are on par with the rushing totals Ray Rice put up in 2012. He very likely would have topped the 1,000 yard mark for the third consecutive year in 2011 had he not torn his ACL in the first quarter of the last regular season game against Cleveland.

Rashard Mendenhall Stats

Season Team G Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Rec Tgt Yds TD
2008 Pittsburgh 4 19 58 14.5 3.1 0 2 3 17 0
2009 Pittsburgh 16 242 1108 69.3 4.6 7 25 32 261 1
2010 Pittsburgh 16 324 1273 79.6 3.9 13 23 34 167 0
2011 Pittsburgh 15 228 928 61.9 4.1 9 18 28 154 0
2012 Pittsburgh 6 51 182 30.3 3.6 0 9 11 62 1
Career Totals 57 864 3549 62.3 4.1 29 77 108 661 2

In my opinion, Pittsburgh seemed to have rushed him back too early in 2012. He posted respectable numbers during his first outing last season, carrying the ball 13 times for 68 yards and catching three passes for 33 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles on October 7th. Pittsburgh would play Tennessee just four days later in a Thursday night contest and Mendenhall’s season went downhill from there – likely due to a lack of proper rest coming off a severe knee injury.

Now Rashard Mendenhall has had an entire offseason to get back into real NFL shape. He has a clean slate in Arizona with a coach who knows how to use him. He also has the benefit of sharing the huddle with one of the most respected receivers in the game in Larry Fitzgerald. For the first time since the departure of Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald and the other Cardinal receivers will have a legit NFL quarterback throwing them the ball. Carson Palmer’s skillset will require opposing defenses to once again respect Arizona’s passing game. This should lead to a lot of running room for Mendenhall – much like he saw during his best years in Pittsburgh.

Something else to consider with Mendenhall is his age and potential durability. Although it may seem like he has been around forever, he just turned 26 in June. Adrian Peterson just turned 28 in March. Since he broke into the league in 2008, Mendenhall has carried the ball 864 times. Peterson has carried the ball 1,516 times during that same time and suffered arguably a worse knee injury than the one Mendenhall did. Quite simply, Mendenhall still has relatively fresh legs.

If you are looking for an RB2 or a flex guy anywhere around the sixth round, Mendenhall would be a solid pick at that spot. Should he win the starting job in Arizona outright like many expect him to, I’d count on him for close to 1,100 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground and nearly 200 yards through the air – similar production to what Steven Jackson had last season in St. Louis. Jackson was taken around 14th among running backs in 2012 drafts.

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Discussion4 Comments

  1. Gary says:

    What about the offensive line? It’s one of the worst in football. How will he solve that little problem?

    • Gary,
      Things that happened last year, happened last year. Sure the O-Line is a work in progress, but spending a first round pick on OG Johnathan Cooper, signing Eric Winston and making the line a focal point of training camp are signs the coaching want improvement. The Arizona Media were impressed with the early signs from the first preseason game.

      • Gary says:

        I forgot about Cooper and Winston. Definitely not an instant solution, but still an upgrade over what they had last year. That, plus Carson Palmer and Arians’ offense might just be enough to give Mendenhall a fighter’s chance. You’ve convinced me, assuming Mendenhall ADP stays around where it is now, Mendenhall will probably end up on my fantasy team this year. You should mention the upgraded line in your article.

  2. JFresh says:

    Just managed to get him as a complete steal at adp 78 overall. Ridiculous ranking and I agree with you 100%. He is my FLEX 1.

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