by Ray Kuhn
I thought it was slightly interested that, when I looked at an ADP report this morning on www.mockdraftcentral.com, Jonathan Dwyer was not among the 67 running backs listed. Aside from a few situations, there is no longer such a thing in the NFL of one running back receiving all of the work. In Dwyer’s case Rashard Mendenhall is out for at least half the season with a torn ACL and who knows what shape he will be in when he returns. With the departure of Mewelde Moore, that leaves Issac Redman, a career backup, at the top of the depth chart with Dwyer behind him.
Although I am not sure I recommend it, Mendenhall is being drafted late in drafts as a player to stash for his return. Redman is going as the 21st running back, which I understand as well. But shouldn’t Dwyer at least be drafted?
- This is not meant to completely discount Redman, as he appeared in every game last season rushing 110 times for 479 yards and 3 touchdowns. With a 4.4 yards per carry average, that does translate well into a full season’s worth of production. However, it does remain to be seen how he performs while carrying a full load. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley does like to run the ball, so at worst there will still be about 10 carries a game for Dwyer based on Redman’s role last season. That may also be conservative, as I think it is possible Dwyer could get up to 15 carries a game as Redman won’t be relied on as much as Mendenhall was, plus Moore’s touches need to be replaced.
- The last time both running backs played extensively was in college. Redman had one standout season where he played in 12 games rushing for 1,512 yards. The following 2 seasons he maintained at least 5 yards per carry average, but only played in 7 and 6 games respectively. On the other hand Dwyer carried the ball extensively for Georgia Tech in 2 consecutive seasons rushing 200 times for 1,395 yards and following that up by rushing 235 times for 1,395 yards. Based on college careers and the fact that Redman’s numbers were earned at Bowie State, Dwyer has the better track record.
- Dwyer did not start his professional career off on the right foot. He consistently had weight issues in the past, which negatively impacted both his draft position and Mike Tomlin’s opinion of him. He has had to use training camp to get in shape just to pass the conditioning test instead of learning the offense and working himself into the rotation. Last season, when Redman and Mendenhall were both injured, Dwyer did have a 107 yard outing against the Titans. However, with a full offseason and as he enters his 3rd professional season with an opportunity for playing time due to Mendenhall’s injury, is it possible for Dwyer to do a 180 degree turn?
- Based on Dwyer spending 4 weeks prior to training camp at Pete Bommarito Performance Systems getting in shape, it at least appears that entering this season Dwyer will be in the best shape that he ever has been. In Mark Kaboly’s article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (click here for the article), Dwyer had some telling quotes that lend some optimism about what could lie ahead for him this season.
- When speaking about being persuaded to spend his month before training camp in Florida with Bommarito training alongside many other NFL players by Maurice Jones-Drew and Matt Forte, Dwyer said: “They asked me to come down, and I see how successful they are and how the training is and felt it was a good idea. I thought to myself that I would be a fool not to go train down there with them.”
- Dwyer also added: “I am just realizing how much it takes to get where you are in this league and how hard you have to work and push yourself. This is my year to prove something to myself, the league, to the organization, that I am worth more than what I was.”
That is what you want to hear from a young player looking to rebound and have a breakout season. He also proved he meant what he said by working to get into shape. Jason LaCanfora’s report for CBS (click here for the article) solidifies the claim that Dwyer could be a valuable player for the Steelers this year saying, “Running back Jonathan Dwyer is in the best shape the coaches have ever seen him, and the big back could figure pretty heavily into the rotation with Rashard Mendenhall likely out until December.”
All signs lead to Dwyer having at least a pretty decent season, and possibly a breakout year. I am not saying that he will overtake Redman as the lead runner, but it is possible. Conservatively I could see him carrying the ball 10-15 times a game and perhaps being a flex option to cover bye weeks or injuries, especially in deeper leagues. He is someone I would keep an eye on and possibly take at the end of my draft because or at least have at the top of my waiver list as one performance could lead to him being an in demand running back.
Do you have the same optimistic view of Dwyer?
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