Steelers’ Jonathan Dwyer has strong preseason finale, fantasy sleeper?

Jonathan Dwyer officially launched himself onto the fantasy radar with a strong performance in the Steelers’ final preseason game, rushing for 63 yards on 13 carries. This gives him 147 rushing yards on 28 carries this preseason. Dwyer has always had talent and rushed for 2790 yards and 26 touchdowns on 435 carries in his final 2 seasons at Georgia Tech, but work ethic concerns dropped him to the 6th round and he was in less than great shape to start his career. As a result, he had just 151 career rushing yards on just career 25 carries.

However, now he finally seems to be in shape and is having a strong preseason. There’s definitely a wide opening in Pittsburgh’s backfield because Rashard Mendenhall will miss at least the first 3 games of the season coming off a torn ACL and Isaac Redman, still an unproven player remember, is nursing groin and hip problems that he says could bother him all season. Redman is probably the most talented of the bunch, but injuries could really hurt him. The Pittsburgh Post-Tribune says of Dwyer that they “probably won’t hesitate to give him considerable playing time. “Respected beat writer Dale Lolley of the Washington Observer-Reporter even goes as far as to say “don’t be surprised” if Dwyer gets the week 1 start.

I don’t know if I’d go that far, but new offensive coordinator Todd Haley has always been a proponent of a multi-back system. Jamaal Charles owners in 2010 know this well as Haley insisted on giving Thomas Jones equal carries with Charles even though Charles was on a record pace for YPC and Jones was a washed up back averaging 3.7 YPC. Haley has to know he can trust Dwyer now as much, if not more than Redman and will use both of his backs pretty equally early in the season.

Dwyer’s biggest flaw right now is probably pass catching and pass protecting. He was very raw as a pass protector and pass catcher coming out of Georgia Tech’s triple option offense. He caught just 20 passes in his collegiate career and only has one 6-yard reception in his NFL career so far. However, he does have 4 catches for 46 yards this preseason so maybe he’s developing that part of his game. Either way, Redman’s specialty is pass catching and pass protection so he’ll see the bulk of the 3rd downs like he did last year even when Mendenhall was healthy, but Dwyer could get the majority of the 1st and 2nd downs, at least until Mendenhall returns.

When Mendenhall returns, expect Haley to utilize all 3 of his backs, possibly splitting running down snaps between Mendenhall and Dwyer and using Redman as a pure 3rd down back. All in all, it looks like a less than ideal situation for fantasy football, to say the least. However, Redman is currently going in the 7th round on average, Mendenhall in the 9th, while Dwyer is going undrafted in the average league. I’d much rather have Dwyer in the late rounds than Redman or Mendenhall at their current ADPs. He’s a nice late fantasy sleeper.

If you’re interested in doing a fantasy football league with me, here’s the link (standard league, draft day Sunday at 3 PM ET, 2 spots left). http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/football/commissioner/Registration/Private.aspx?league=55086&password=FanSpot2

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