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Rookie running backs

How much to move hot (and cold) rookies in the preseason?

The two most notable players of the weekend, I thought, were Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon. Abdullah for what he did (making guys miss and gobbling up yards) and Gordon for what he didn’t (11 yards on 6 carries). But how much should we make of a big preseason game? Is it smarter to rely more on the scouting reports that were compiled in the offseason?

I think there is value to seeing it on the field. You want to see guys being productive. And when they’re not productive – like Reggie Bush in his first year, where there was clearly too much dancing – the correct move to make the adjustment on your draft board.

Anyway, I decided to call up the 1,000-yard rookies of recent years, then go back and look at what they did in the preseason. Try to go into the time machine and remember what I was thinking at the time.

There have been 11 rookies going over 1,000 rushing yards since 2006, and I have a handful of recollections about them:

Adrian Peterson:
I remember seeing him rip through the line for a big gain at the Meadowlands for a big gain and thinking “this guy looks really good – he’s going to be a top-10 back right out of the box.”

LeGarrette Blount:
He was heavily used in his first preseason, but he wasn’t heralded. He was working against backups. The Titans released him, and Tampa Bay picked him up. Blount played very well in the second half of his rookie season, sneaking over 1,000 yards.

Alfred Morris:
He was just a sixth-round pick, and Washington had a wide-open situation at tailback. I remember Morris playing reasonably well (but not great) in his first two preseason games, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. But they let him start their third game, and he kind of kicked the door in, running for 107 yards on 14 carries against the Colts. At that point, it was clear Morris needed to be one of the top 15 running backs selected.

Eddie Lacy:
His numbers weren’t great (just 2.0 per carry) but I remember that he made it very clear that he was going to be the guy and would be a fantasy asset. In the second preseason game, he worked with the first-unit offense and carried 8 times for 40 yards, with a 15-yard run. He was violent and broke some tackles. That was all I needed to see. Carried 10 times for minus-4 yards in the final two preseason games, but that didn’t matter. I could see the train rumbling down the tracks.

Jeremy Hill:
He was the most heavily used of all of these backs, but I didn’t think too much about him. The Bengals had Giovani Bernard, and I figured that would relegate Hill to a change-of-pace role in his first season.

2006Joseph Addai, Ind.21321.51
2007Adrian Peterson, Minn.301464.91
2007Marshawn Lynch, Buff.22371.70
2008Steve Slaton, Hou.341384.11
2008Matt Forte, Chi.27943.50
2008Chris Johnson, Tenn.331825.52
2010LeGarrette Blount, Tenn.311183.82
2012Alfred Morris, Wash.391955.01
2012Doug Martin, T.B.27973.62
2013Eddie Lacy, G.B.18362.00
2014Jeremy Hill, Cin.411904.60

—Ian Allan

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