Fantasy Reaction: Rashard Mendenhall Signs With Arizona
Rashard Mendenhall takes his talents to sunny Arizona to reunite with his old offensive coordinator and now head coach of the Cardinals, Bruce Arians. Mendenhall found a soft market waiting for him and decided to choose a place with a familiar face and his best chance at playing time in hopes of resurrecting his once-promising career. However, the road to playing time is paved with poor quarterback play, few prospects in the draft or free agency, and atrocious blocking from a makeshift offensive line.
It’s hard to imagine that it was only two seasons ago that Rashard Mendenhall was being drafted as high as No. 4 overall in snake drafts. In auction leagues, teams were getting in bidding wars because they passed on that year’s “big three” backs and preferred the sure-thing back.
At the time he had it all: talent, youth, a feature back role, and he played on a great offense that afforded him a lot of scoring opportunities. He was coming directly off a season where he rushed for more than 1,500 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. So what was there not to like?
To start, we’ve learned touchdowns (17) are very likely to regress back to the norm as they did in 2011. The collapse of the Steelers’ offensive line didn’t help, but any diehard fantasy junkie should have foreseen that possibility as prior to that year they hadn’t invested in offensive line for years and were relying on old veterans who were quite frankly overweight.
But the real issue here is evaluating whether or not Mendenhall was actually an ultra-talented and explosive back or if he was just in the right situation at the right time. The numbers point to the latter. Even in his breakout season, he only averaged 3.9 yards per carry and 2.4 yards after contact.
In Arizona however, he will got a chance once again to be that grind-it-out workhorse back. When speaking on Mendenhall after the signing, Arians said, “As a running back he’s the total package. He’s a big, strong, every-down back with speed who can pass block and also catch the ball.” Although Arians did refer to Ryan Williams using similar “three-down” lingo, we know Williams can’t stay on the field if given that role. We also know that Arians is telling the truth. Watch a Colts game from last year and you will see that he rode Vick Ballard all game and pawned off five carries or less to any other back.
Although he inherits a big role, Mendenhall is lacking the true talent and explosion at this point in his career to succeed in his surrounding situation. That situation projects Drew Stanton or Kevin Kolb as its starting QB and an offensive line that just had its best player miss all of last season with an injury. I’d love to look at things on the bright side and predict that Mendy will regain explosion now that he is another year removed from the ACL, but I won’t. I never saw that explosion to start. Instead, what I saw is a back who took advantage of his situation to help lead owners to the championship in 2010.