SB Nation released their running back rankings today, and not surprisingly the Redskins didn't rank too high.
25. Washington Redskins
From Hogs Haven:
The Redskins are a hard team to rank in the RB position. Tim Hightower, Roy Helu, andEvan Royster are all prototypical Shanahan RBs where there are no super stars, but as unit, they are productive. Football Outsiders has Evan Royster ranked as their best DVOA rusher of all-time (though he only has 56 career rushing attempts). Many media outlets will discard the Redskins in this category given Washington doesn't have an Arian Foster single-back star, but with these RBs' athleticism and Shanahan's ability to stretch the field, the yardage will come as a unit.
Now I know this seems like a low ranking, but I don't think it's too far off. Teams with an established running back who can get 225+ carries have to be ranked above the Skins. While there is some promise with Roy Helu, he's not a top 20 RB in the league, so it doesn't make sense for the Redskins to be up there. I'm sure depth played a role, but most teams have at least one good back-up running back so the Redskins won't get much credit in that area.
On top of the actual talent you have to factor that the Redskins haven't used their backs much in the last two years. They have ranked 31st and 25th these last two seasons, showing little effectiveness of the backs if that trend continues. And it's not like the Redskins have been effective in either yards per carry, 16th and 22nd, or touchdowns 24th and 26th these last two years.
Now I do think you could make a case that the Redskins should be moved up a spot or two in the rankings. The two teams I'd probably put them ahead of would be the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions.
The Patriots do have two higher 2011 draft picks than Roy Helu leading their rushing attack this year with Shane Vereen and Steven Ridley. While I understand the idea of giving NE the edge due to upside, but Helu and Royster are a bit more proven, so when it is that close I'd give them the edge.
The Lions feature Javid Best and Mikel Leshoure, two running backs with a lot of talent and potential when healthy, but both are trying to come back from serious injuries. Also Leshoure will face a two game suspension, lessening his value. Kevin Smith was effective some last year, but he also has injury issues, making this team a real unknown. If they are healthy they are better than the Skins backs, but that looks to be a pretty big if.
What do you think where do the Skins rank (and remember this is based on projections for this season)?
Check out Fanspeak.com, for Steve Shoup's additional Redskins coverage.