Redskins’ Head Coach Mike Shanahan loves a murky running back situation. He loves his opponents not to know what kind of back they’ll have to game plan against and he loves to be able to switch running backs depending on the matchup. It’s a smart football philosophy, but it creates a wasteland in fantasy leagues. Alfred Morris, Evan Royster, and Roy Helu all will probably start at some point this season and not just that, any of those 3 could start this week. I’d also be willing to be bet that a running back not currently on the Redskins’ roster (Steve Slaton? Tim Hightower? Ryan Torain?) will get a start for the team this season.
Shanahan has one of his murkiest running back situations ever this season. Not only do we not know who the starter will be, as Shanahan refused to name one publicly, preferring to “keep them guessing,” the players themselves don’t seem to know either. Evan Royster, one of the candidates, says “I think they’re going to keep us pretty much in the dark until probably the day before the game.” That may be a smoke screen, but former Redskin Chris Cooley, who has no reason to lie on behalf of the organization that cut him last month, says that he didn’t know who the starter would be last season on a weekly basis.
Cooley recounts a story to CBS Washington about last season saying “I walked up to Torain in the locker room and said, ‘Dude, you’re starting on my fantasy team this week. And I’m hoping for a big week. I’m playing my wife,’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, cool man. Yeah, I’ll see what I can do.” Roy Helu started and totaled 141 yards. “I’m in the locker room and I don’t know who’s starting,” Cooley continued. “So, it’s kind of a mix up and I’m not exactly sure what we’re doing or who’s going in.”
The signs would point to Alfred Morris getting the start. The Washington Post believes he’s the “probable” starter according to “several people with knowledge of the situation.” Morris got the start in the 3rd week of the preseason and those are normally the week 1 starters barring injury. He impressed, rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Morris also did not play the following week, when Shanahan rested his starters. Both Royster and Helu did play.
Though Morris is technically listed as the 3rd string back behind Royster and Helu, it’s really anyone’s job and Morris’ performance in the 3rd preseason game would suggest he’s the “hot hand,” and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said they’d be going with that approach this season. It’s definitely not ideal to be starting any of these backs in fantasy this week as two of them won’t see much work, but if you have to start one, Morris seems like the guy. Whoever starts has a nice matchup against a New Orleans run defense that ranked 29th last season and Robert Griffin’s running ability will open things up for the starting running back on the ground, much in the way Michael Vick does for LeSean McCoy, Vince Young once did for Chris Johnson, and Tim Tebow once did for Willis McGahee. Whoever starts is a RB2/Flex, but it’s risky.