by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Every year there seems to be a Saints’ running back who garners a lot of attention. With a dynamic passing game, we all try to find the “breakout back”… The running back who is going to help keep defenses honest and produce viable fantasy stats (not that the team needs it). In recent seasons Mark Ingram has carried the torch. Prior to him it was Chris Ivory. This year, Khiry Robinson is the name the fantasy community appears to be latching onto.
At this point, should we all come to the realization that no Saints running back will ever truly “breakout”? That may be a bit dramatic, so let’s take a look at what the team will enter the season with and if there is any potential appeal.
We might as well start with the back garnering the most preseason hype. Robinson was an undrafted rookie last season and did make a little bit of noise, with 224 yards and 1 TD on 54 carries. He had a strong showing late in the season, including the playoffs:
- December 29 vs. Tampa Bay – 12 carries for 50 yards
- January 4 at Philadelphia – 8 carries for 45 yards
- January 11 at Seattle – 13 carries for 57 yards and 1 TD
That totals 33 carries for 152 yards, an average of 4.6 yards per carry. Also, despite going undrafted, there was a little hype behind him. Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post (click here for the article) labeled Robinson a potential sleeper, saying:
“Khiry Robinson, West Texas A&M. The 5-9½, 206-pounder has shown explosiveness in workouts with a 10-1 standing long jump and a 35-inch vertical leap. Rushed for 1,621 yards this past season and did have a slot in the Texas vs. The Nation game, so not all the way under the radar.”
There’s definitely a bit of intrigue given that scouting report and the late season surge. The question is if any running back can truly thrive in New Orleans, but that’s a question we will try to answer in a bit.
At 29-years old it’s safe to assume that he’s not going to suddenly return to being a potential lead back and get handed 200+ carries (he did have 147 last season, but managed just 3.7 YPC). What he did prove last season is that he can catch the football, however.
Thomas racked up 77 receptions for 513 yards and, with Darren Sproles now in Philadelphia, there should be ample opportunities for him to continue to produce in that regard. That makes him an ideal threat for those in PPR formats as a potential FLEX, but otherwise his upside is limited.
Is anyone going to buy into him as a breakout candidate once again? He did average a career best 4.9 YPC last season, but was given just 78 carries in 11 games. In three years in the NFL he has 356 carries for 1,462 yards and 11 TD.
Could he be a goal line/short yardage back? Possibly, but it’s going to be hard to get behind him as a “breakout” yet again.
If any RB is going to breakout, it clearly appears to be Robinson. That said, the question is if the Saints are setup to allow any back to truly emerge. Just look at their leading rushers from recent years:
- 2009 – Pierre Thomas – 793 yards
- 2010 – Chris Ivory – 716 yards
- 2011 – Darren Sproles – 603 yards
- 2012 – Mark Ingram – 602 yards
- 2013 – Pierre Thomas – 549 yards
In fact, the last time they had a running back exceed 800 yards was all the way back in 2006 when Deuce McAllister rushed for 1,057. There were different reasons, of course, and maybe they just haven’t had the talent. Is Robinson that talent, though?
He has the best chance, but that doesn’t mean it’s likely. As a RB4 or so, then why not. At that point you aren’t looking at him as anything more than a flier. However, considering the team’s track record, it’s hard to go into the year expecting him to actually contribute to your team.
Sources – ESPN, Denver Post
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