Rashard Mendenhall Fantasy 2013
If 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.
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.
J.P. is an award-winning college football writer specializing in finding hidden gems at the college level who could become household names in fantasy leagues one day. He is the founder of KnowItAllFootball.com, host of Raising The Bar on RadiOmaha.com and writes a series of “Outrageous Prediction” articles for Athlon Sports. He lives with his wife and their two children in Omaha, Nebraska.