FanPost

AFC South Position Group Comparisons: RBs

Hello. My name is Dynamic Dreadlocks, but you can call me Dr. DD. I plan on starting a weekly fanpost that will compare each AFC South team's position groups. Some weeks I might write multiple fanposts and/or compare multiple groups within one post. We will take a look at QB, WR, RB, TE, OL, DL, LB, CB/S, and Special Teams.

So instead of the typical starting point of QB, today we will begin with the RB position.

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Team: Indianapolis Colts

Players: Trent Richardson, Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw, Dan Herron, Chris Rainey, Zurlon Tipton

Analysis: The Indianapolis Colts may have lost notorious Titan killer Donald Brown, but they still have a rather decent backfield, depth wise. Trent Richardson was pretty much anything but good last year, but the hopes are that he returns to the productive form he had as a rookie in Cleveland. The Colts should at least give him one more year to prove he was worth their 1st round pick they traded to get him, so expect him to start and get the bulk of the carries. I still believe he has potential to be a solid NFL starter. He needs to work on his fumbling problem if he wants to stick as the starter, though. Vick Ballard is a nice runner, not overly explosive, but he's made some plays before in the Colts' backfield (such as doing a barrel roll touchdown dive against the Titans a few years back). Ahmad Bradshaw is best remembered for his productive days as a New York Giant, but injuries have kept him off the field in recent seasons. He appeared in 3 games last season for the Colts and had 2 touchdowns. I would expect to see him beat out the 3 guys behind him, unless Indianapolis wants a younger 3rd RB. Bradshaw is entering his 8th year in the league.

DD's Projected Opening Day Depth Chart: Trent Richardson (starter), Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw

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Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Players: Toby Gerhart, Storm Johnson, Jordan Todman, Beau Blankenship, Terrance Coby

Analysis: Jacksonville said goodbye to long time workhorse RB Maurice Jones-Drew. They ended up signing Toby Gerhart away from Minnesota. That is an interesting move. Gerhart is listed at 6'0", 231 pounds. With a body like that, you know what kind of runner he is. He'll come at you with both hands protecting the ball, head ducked down looking to run you over. That isn't completely different from what Jones-Drew provided for the Jaguars, but Jones-Drew did have speed to boot. Gerhart is not explosive but he does have the ability to break off big runs from time to time. What I find even more interesting is that Jacksonville also brought in Storm Johnson from UCF. It does make sense to pair QB Blake Bortles with his running mate from UCF, but Johnson is similar to Gerhart in that neither possess breakaway speed. Johnson has good burst and vision to get through holes, but I don't feel like he'll provide much difference as a change-up from Gerhart. Jordan Todman is intriguing. In his only start last season against Buffalo, he rushed for over 100 yards. At 5'10" and 198 pounds, he would be an interesting change of pace RB for the Jaguars. But outside of his 100 yard game, he was not given much of an opportunity to produce, often just averaging 2-3 carries a game. I would say he will stick as the 3rd RB on the Jaguars roster, and could spell Gerhart/Johnson when necessary, but his production will likely be on par with what it was last season, not much. ***NOTE: Denard Robinson probably gets some looks at RB as well, but he is listed as a WR on the Jags roster***

DD's Projected Opening Day Depth Chart: Toby Gerhart (starter), Storm Johnson, Jordan Todman

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Team: Houston Texans

Players: Arian Foster, Alfred Blue, Andre Brown, Jonathan Grimes, Dennis Johnson, Toben Opurum

Analysis: Ben Tate is no longer on the Texans roster, meaning the backfield tandem of Arian Foster and Ben Tate has now split up. Foster himself has dealt with injuries recently, coming off of back surgery. When healthy, there is no denying Arian Foster is one of the NFL's best RBs. He makes seamless cuts and runs with long strides. He has come a long way since his days at the University of Tennessee. Health, obviously, will be his biggest issue going forward. If he is healthy, I expect him to produce as a Top 10 RB. Houston will likely spell Foster more than in recent seasons to keep him fresh, and I expect a run-first mentality from the Ryan Fitzpatrick led Texans. The question is, who will be the main guy behind Foster? Alfred Blue could fit the bill in time. He is a rookie from LSU, but had limited opportunities in the past due to injuries as well as now-Bengals RB Jeremy Hill being the go-to guy in 2013. Houston will give him every opportunity to earn his playing time this year and I expect he will make a good impression. Andre Brown is another interesting name. He turned some heads in the past with having big games for the New York Giants. His edge over Blue is his experience. He did not have a terribly productive 2013, but he has typically made the most of his playing time. He has 11 TDs in 18 games played over the past two seasons. Most of that damage occurred in 2012, where he compiled 8 TDs in 10 games. I believe he will get the nod over Blue at the onset, but Blue has a chance to make plays as well.

DD's Projected Opening Day Depth Chart: Arian Foster (starter), Andre Brown, Alfred Blue

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Team: Your Tennessee Titans

Players: Shonn Greene, Jackie Battle, Antonio Andrews, Dexter McCluster, Leon Washington, Bishop Sankey, Collin Mooney, Waymon James

Analysis: The Titans have the most crowded group at RB of anyone in the AFC South, and several will probably end up making the 53 man roster for a variety of reasons that may have nothing to do with being listed as RB. Chris Johnson is no longer here, but Bishop Sankey was drafted in the 2nd round and should immediately take over as the starter on opening day. He has Rookie of the Year potential because he's in one of the best situations to produce. He may not have any one outstanding trait, but he is a guy that does pretty much everything well. He has solid vision, solid speed, makes solid cuts, blocks fairly well, and catches the ball well. He is very well rounded. Behind him is anyone's guess at this point. Shonn Greene likely fills the primary backup role if he's healthy. Right now, he's not healthy. I could see him getting cut prior to opening day, but I think at least for this year he will be safe. Everyone's favorite RB Jackie Battle also returns after re-signing early in the offseason. He is the backup to the Shonn Greene role (power RB), and if Greene is cut and/or injured, Battle will likely see the field some. He will definitely see the field as a special teamer and he does well there. Newcomer Dexter McCluster will likely see as much, if not more time at WR than he will RB. He will probably snag a carry here or there, but I don't think it will be much. He has game-breaking speed and Whiz will find a way to utilize his strengths on offense. He will also likely be the primary punt returner. Collin Mooney is a fan favorite, and is a straight up bowling ball out there. I think he'll stick on the roster but his role will be limited obviously. Leon Washington should never see a carry on offense, and assuming he makes the roster, his role will likely be KR. Antonio Andrews is a WKU product, but he'll be fighting an uphill battle to make the roster. He might be able to sneak on the practice squad and is an intriguing prospect to take over the power runner role from Greene/Battle one day. I don't even know who Waymon James is, so I won't even try to say something about him other than good luck.

DD's Projected Opening Day Depth Chart: Bishop Sankey (starter), Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle, Collin Mooney (primarily FB), Leon Washington (primarily KR)

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So, here is how I would rank the RB group from bottom to top in the AFC South:

4) Indianapolis Colts. Trent Richardson was woeful in 2013, and Donald Brown is no longer there. Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw are nothing more than serviceable backups at this point, so if Trent Richardson doesn't step up and produce, this is by far the weakest group of RBs in the division, and one of the weakest in the entire league. If Richardson does step it up, they will obviously be a much more dangerous offense.

3) Jacksonville Jaguars. Toby Gerhart and Storm Johnson will be an interesting duo to watch in Jacksonville. Gerhart is a tough runner and should help ease the loss of Maurice Jones-Drew. Johnson has potential to be a solid NFL starter in time as well, but he will likely be given more of an opportunity in a year or two when his former UCF teammate Blake Bortles takes the reigns in Jacksonville.

2) Houston Texans. Arian Foster, when healthy, is the best RB in this division. No arguments there at all. But because of health issues and potentially unknown commodities behind him, I rank Houston 2nd. Will we see the productive Andre Brown behind him? Will it be Alfred Blue instead? There's some questions there, but it's a better situation than others are in.

1) Tennessee Titans. I did not make this pick simply on bias. I tossed it back and forth whether Foster being the best in the division was enough to tip the scales in Houston's favor. I decided that our depth and weapons at the position were enough to put us at the top. Bishop Sankey will produce good numbers this year and should be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year. Behind him is Greene/Battle who are good power RBs. Add the swiss army knife, Dexter McCluster, to the equation, as well as a great FB in Collin Mooney, and you've got yourself a pretty darn good group of RBs.

This is obviously subject to change as the season nears, but this is how I feel that the RB position shakes out in the AFC South right now. Thanks for reading. Join me next time, where we will look at the TE position.

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