June 20, 2008

RB with a new QB

Someone asked me whether or not I thought Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant could repeat his amazing rookie breakout performances this season without Brett Favre. That's big question because without Favre they're going with Aaron Rodgers, who has never started in his career. Being thrusted in this type of role will be a huge responsibility. I don't know about Rodgers but personally I'm not too worried about Grant. I have him in one of my keeper leagues as my #3 RB behind Steven Jackson and Maurice Jones-Drew although I'd argue Grant could be my 2nd best guy.

I'm sure many other fantasy owners are wondering whether opponents will just stack the line and stop Grant, forcing Rodgers to win games with his arm and hope he makes tons of rookie mistakes. I won't disagree that Rodgers has to be half-decent for Grant to have a great year, but I don't think it's reason to downgrade Grant.

Grant became the main ball carrier for Green Bay starting week 8, and amassed 1048 yards (929 rushing) and 8 touchdowns in that span. He did that in 10 games. This means he averaged 104.8 yards (93 rushing) and 0.8 touchdowns per game as a starter.

Over a 16 game span, Grant would have had 1677 total yards and 13 touchdowns. That's pretty good for a rookie.

In the past there have been several RBs who not only performed well despite a rookie quarterback taking over, they did exceptionally well -- some of them turned in career bests. Marshall Faulk was huge in Peyton Manning's first year. (I'm not comparing Aaron Rodgers to Peyton Manning, so take a chill pill.). Hold your breath, there's more -- Antowain Smith had his best season playing for the Pats in Tom Brady's first season. In Phillip Rivers' first season as starting quarterback, LaDainian Tomlinson had his best career as a professional football player. Frank Gore had his best season in Alex Smith's first full season as a starter -- in fact if you count Smith's starts in 2005, Gore career pretty much took off the same time as Smith's did. I don't know if you remember this far back but Duce Staley had a pretty nice year til he got hurt, and Jerome Bettis was so good in relief he made it to the Pro Bowl, his first time in 3 years. That was in Ben Roethlisberger's first season. In Tony Romo's first season 2006, that was the year Marion Barber broke out for 14 TDs. Heck, even when Kyle Boller took over as starter in Baltimore in 2003, Jamal Lewis had his best year ever as pro.

I've included average QBs such as Kyle Boller, Alex Smith, Tom Brady (just kidding!) to prove that Aaron Rodgers doesn't need to be a superstar quarterback for Grant to succeed.

The only guys I can think of where a young quarterback took over for a team and the RB sucked was Jay Cutler (no notable breakout for any RB in Denver), Matt Schaub (TJ Duckett and Warrick Dunn, neither had a huge breakout season).

As long as Aaron Rodgers doesn't turn out as bad as Cutler or Schaub (two guys who aren't necessarily bad QBs as they just didn't have good runningbacks), I think Grant is going to be just fine. And you can only assume that Rodgers will get better or they'll get a better QB. Packers fans simply won't stand for years of mediocrity at QB (see Baltimore, Miami for details,).

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