Wonder Woman Got a PR Agent: Best Available Running Backs in NFL Free Agency

By Ha Kung Wong

Twitter: @FBGarbageTime

A couple years back, I wrote an article where I mentioned that in light of all the amazing super hero movies coming out, including the Avengers and all its many spin offs plus the great Dark Knight series, it was bizarre that Wonder Woman never had her own movie.  I even posited that perhaps she needed a new PR agent as it was clear that she wasn’t getting her fair share of screen time.  Heck, when you think female super hero, you don’t think the Black Widow or the Scarlet Witch (at least you didn’t use to).  You think Wonder Woman.  How in the world did DC Comics screw that up?  Well, looks like that’s all about to change.

Yup, Wonder Woman is FINALLY getting her own movie.  After a cameo in the upcoming “Batman v. Superman” movie, she’s finally getting her own movie in 2017, played by Gal Gadot and also including Captain Kirk himself.  Chris Pine, of course, not William Shatner.

And it sure looks awesome.  Just check out this trailer:

Anyway, the point is, great things, like Wonder Woman, sometimes get overlooked.  Then you give her a shot and remember how awesome she is again.  And sometimes obscure things, like Black Widow and the Scarlet Witch, become great if given the opportunity.  The same thing is true for RBs in the NFL.

And at no time is it more important to remember that than in free agency, which will be starting on Wednesday, March 9.  Lots of these RBs came to greatness out of obscurity, lots of these RBs were great and can be great again, and some of them are still waiting for their opportunity.  Whichever it is, it would behoove teams to look deeper and take some chances.  And which should they take chances on?  Well, let’s take a look.

Tier 1 – Solid Acquisitions

Doug Martin
Doug Martin - AP Photo

Doug Martin – AP Photo

  • Age: 27
  • Previous Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 632 snaps
    • 288 attempts
    • 1,402 rushing yards
    • 6 rushing TDs
    • 271 receiving yards
    • 1 receiving TD

Keep in mind that Martin had almost identical rushing yards (1,454) with more rushing TDs (11) in his breakout 2012 year, but proceeded to have two disappointing injury plagued seasons before his revival in 2015.  The good news is that he’s improved on his yards per carry from 4.6 in 2012 to 4.9 in 2015 and had the second most rushing yards in the NFL last season.  The bad news is that he’s catching less passes and he fumbled a total of 5 times, which is 5 times more than he fumbled in the rest of his career combined.  That notwithstanding, Martin was effective with a rookie QB at the helm and will garner a ton of attention if the Buccaneers can’t retain him.

I’d expect him to get a big payday from the Bucs, since his OC was promoted to HC after Lovie Smith was fired, but if not, he could be heading for 2015 DeMarco Murray money.  Of course, we saw what happened to Murray last year, so it might be in Martin’s best interest to stay where he is.

Lamar Miller
Lamar Miller

Lamar Miller

  • Age: 25
  • Previous Team: Miami Dolphins
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 647 snaps
    • 194 attempts
    • 872 rushing yards
    • 8 rushing TDs
    • 397 receiving yards
    • 2 receiving TDs

Even though he was the “starting” RB in Miami basically all season, for some reason, old HC Joe Philbin hated him.  Miller averaged under 10 carries and 33 rush yards per game and totaled 0 TDs over 4 games under Philbin.  And after Philbin was fired?  Well, Miller went up to averaging over 13 carries and over 61 rush yards per game and totaled 8 rushing TDs.  Regardless, Miller has had two solid seasons in a row (breaking a 1,000 total rush yards in 2014), so the potential is definitely there, and the light usage may actually be a plus for a team looking to build around him going forward.  Of course, Miller’s asking price may be as high as Martins, which certainly could make him a backup free agent target instead of a primary target.

Matt Forte
Matt Forte

Matt Forte

  • Age: 30
  • Previous Team: Chicago Bears
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 612 snaps
    • 218 attempts
    • 898 rushing yards
    • 4 rushing TDs
    • 389 receiving yards
    • 3 receiving TDs

Being a longtime Bears fan, this one is tough for me.  Forte has been a Bear since he entered the league in 2008 and it’s going to be strange to see him in another uniform.  He’s the best Bears running back since Walter Payton, and that’s saying a lot. Over eight seasons, he has 8,602 rushing yards and 64 total TDs, adding 487 receptions for 4,116 receiving yards.  Honestly, there might not have been a more versatile RB in the NFL during his time.  But, the Bears are moving on, and Forte is looking for a new home.

In 2015, Forte was limited to only 13 games due to injury and accumulated his lowest rushing total in his entire career, even compared to 2011 when he only played 12 games.  Even with the down year though, Forte has had five 1,000+ rushing yard seasons and has never had less than 1,250 total yards in any season.  Further, if you project his 2015 numbers over 16 games, his production was right on pace with where he is every year.  Unfortunately, he’s going to be on the wrong side of 30 and more injuries could be coming in the future.  I think he still has a lot in the tank, and he’s certainly a positive influence in the locker room with lots of great experience, but he might be a better fit as part of a running-back-by-committee so as to preserve his health throughout the season.

Chris Ivory
Chris Ivory - NY Post Photo

Chris Ivory – NY Post Photo

  • Age: 28
  • Previous Team: New York Jets
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 551 snaps
    • 247 attempts
    • 1,070 rushing yards
    • 7 rushing TDs
    • 217 receiving yards
    • 1 receiving TD

Ivory just came off his best season of his career, and his second quality season in a row.  His low snap total is good in light of his hard contact running style.  He might be scary good if he gets all the carries, or he could be injured, but at least with his current workload, he’s only missed 2 games in three years since joining the Jets.  At just 27, Ivory still has plenty of run to give.

It’s interesting that Jets haven’t expressed significant interest in keeping Ivory in town, particularly with fellow RB Bilal Powell also heading to free agency, but his loss can be another team’s gain.  And it’s apparent that many other teams are interested:

But perhaps teams should be wary of overpaying, as although Ivory’s 1,070 rushing yards were good for 5th most in NFL, he only ranked 20th in yards per carry (4.3).

Arian Foster
arian-foster new

Arian Foster

  • Age: 30
  • Previous Team: Houston Texans
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 193 snaps
    • 63 attempts
    • 163 rushing yards
    • 1 rushing TD
    • 227 receiving yards
    • 2 receiving TDs

Foster is definitely one of my favorite running backs of all time.  From UDFA to lead RB to most rushing attempts, yards and TDs in Houston Texans history.  That’s an ESPN “30 for 30” special waiting to happen.  But the big news isn’t Foster’s accomplishment as the most prolific RB in Texans history, it’s his spotty injury history.  Since taking over as the lead back in 2010, he’s played all 16 games only twice, missing a whopping 26 games, 23 of them in the last three years.  This, of course, ultimately lead to Foster’s release from the Texans.

Foster is still just as dynamic as always, but he consistently seems only one step away from being placed on IR.  I can imagine that he’ll still be high on many team radars, but will find the most success as part of a running-back-by-committee.

Tier 2 – Upside Acquisitions

The next tier of available RBs are little more risky.

Lagarette Blount

Lagarette Blount

Each one of these free agents carry some risk, as they haven’t proved that they can be consistent feature backs.  But for the right price, they certainly have upside for any team willing to take the chance.

LeGarrette Blount
  • Age: 29
  • Previous Team: New England Patriots
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 310 snaps
    • 165 attempts
    • 703 rushing yards
    • 6 rushing TDs
    • 43 receiving yards
    • 1 receiving TD

Blount has been productive in New England, but aside from his first year in Tampa Bay in 2010 when he exceeded 1,000 rush yards, he’s been basically terribly before that and during his short stint in Pittsburgh.  Plus, his attitude in Pittsburgh when he wasn’t getting the playing time he wanted really calls in to question his potential impact in the locker room.

Tim Hightower
  • Age: 30
  • Previous Team: New Orleans Saints
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 197 snaps
    • 96 attempts
    • 375 rushing yards
    • 4 rushing TDs
    • 129 receiving yards
    • 0 receiving TDs

Hightower was highly touted when he started in Arizona in 2008, but then flamed out of the league by 2011, only to miraculously reappear in New Orleans for an amazing four game stretch to end the season amassing 327 rushing yards, 129 receiving yards and 4 TDs.

Alfred Morris
  • Age: 27
  • Previous Team: Washington Redskins
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 414 snaps
    • 202 attempts
    • 751 rushing yards
    • 1 rushing TD
    • 55 receiving yards
    • 0 receiving TDs

Morris was amazing when he broke on to the scene in 2012 (1,613 rushing yards and 13 TDs), but has been trending down steadily each year since to the point where he totaled in 2015 less than half the yards he had in 2012 and has dropped in yards per carry from 4.8 to just 3.7.  And he provides no support in the passing game.

Ronnie Hillman
  • Age: 24
  • Previous Team: Denver Broncos
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 588 snaps
    • 207 attempts
    • 863 rushing yards
    • 7 rushing TDs
    • 111 receiving yards
    • 0 receiving TDs

Hillman was up and down as CJ Anderson’s running mate in Denver, starting many of the games in the back half of the season, only to lose that spot in the post season.

Tier 3 – Dart Throws That Could Pay Off

These RBs are basically all risk, but getting them on the cheap could pay off.  Think of them as lottery tickets.

Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

James Starks
  • Age: 30
  • Previous Team: Green Bay Packers
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 614 snaps
    • 148 attempts
    • 601 rushing yards
    • 2 rushing TDs
    • 392 receiving yards
    • 3 receiving TDs

I actually think Starks could have been good.  But he had his opportunities and wasn’t able to hold off an out-of-shape Eddie Lacy that had to turn to Tony Horton and P90X to get back in shape.  Plus he’s also going to be on the wrong side of 30.  But he’s a great passing down back coming off his best receiving season of his career, meaning he could certainly be a good change of pace back.

Chris Johnson
  • Age: 30
  • Previous Team: Arizona Cardinals
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 370 snaps
    • 196 attempts
    • 814 rushing yards
    • 3 rushing TDs
    • 58 receiving yards
    • 0 receiving TDs

Johnson was once CJ2K in Tennessee, and looked like he was back on track in Arizona after a less than stellar stint in New York.  But an injury sidelined him after 11 games, opening the way for breakout rookie RB Dave Johnson.  Who knows if he can pick up where he left off, as even in his resurgent season, his per carry average dipped such that it was just 2.9 over his last 4 games.

Travaris Cadet
  • Age: 27
  • Previous Team: New Orleans Saints
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 119 snaps
    • 11 attempts
    • 28 rushing yards
    • 0 rushing TDs
    • 214 receiving yards
    • 1 receiving TD
Pierre Thomas
  • Age: 31
  • Previous Team: Washington Redskins
  • 2015 Season Stats
    • 71 snaps
    • 15 attempts
    • 64 rushing yards
    • 0 rushing TDs
    • 84 receiving yards
    • 0 receiving TDs.

Thomas and Cadet are kind of in the same boat.  I see them both as passing down or change of pace backs as well, but it’s unclear how effective they’ll be on another team.  Thomas had over 1,000 total yards in 2013, half of which through the air.  And Cadet had 296 receiving yards in 2014 and managed 214 receiving yards on three different teams in 2015.  Plus, he’s only 27.  The potential is still there for both Thomas and Cadet to be an effective passing down back and both could be a real bargain for RB needy teams.

***

So listen up, RB needy NFL teams.  Time to give some guys a chance, because you never know what’s going to happen.  As Michael Jordan said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.  So take the shot.  Thank goodness Marvel did.  Otherwise we’d have Avengers without any women.

Which would make the Scarlet Witch very angry.  And trust me, you don’t want that.

Scarlet Witch

 

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