Teams are moving or have moved to committees at running back to keep their players healthy and productive for a full season, but injuries are still common. Even when healthy, the weekly pounding takes its toll as 49ers RB Frank Gore proved last season when his touches and production slowed down.
Darren McFadden, Raiders – Lisfranc sprain
McFadden practiced in mid-May and fully participated. That's good news, because with Michael Bush now a Bear, McFadden will have to carry the load. Considering McFadden has been injury-prone, he could drop on draft day, giving you great value. He’s a viable pick starting late in the third round.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals – knee
Wells, who played with a knee injury last season, had offseason surgery, the precise details of which he declined to share with the media. The team hopes he’s ready by camp. You should have a red flag raised right now and not target him as your No. 1 fantasy back, but as a No. 3 with upside. However, he’ll never last that long in the draft, which means you should probably let someone else take the risk. In three seasons he’s only completed 16 games once – his rookie season, when he did not start a game.
Ryan Williams, Cardinals – ruptured patellar tendon
Williams, limited in OTAs, according to The Arizona Republic, is slated to be a complementary, pass-catching back behind Wells. Williams’ value will be dictated by how he looks in camp but right now only warrants a late-round pick at best. In some ways, this injury can be more serious to the long-term ability to regain pre-injury skills. I would avoid him if possible, especially since the team will have Wells as its primary ball carrier.
Mark Ingram, Saints – turf toe and knee
The team expected Ingram to be ready by camp with the turf toe injury suffered a season ago, but the knee injury is another he must overcome. He reportedly had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in May, though the procedure was regarded as minor. Coming out of college, his knee was the source of some concern. After his play last season and sharing touches with two other backs — Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas — and with the Saints being a pass-first team, Ingram is a flex back, bye-week and injury fill-in right now. However, his talent and the Saints' offense means he could have upside if Sproles or Thomas leaves the lineup.
Jahvid Best, Lions – multiple concussions
Best practiced recently with the first-team, per the Detroit Free Press, and was not limited at the no-contact practice. The real point is it was no contact and eventually he has to take a hit. With his history of concussions, I believe it's only a matter of time before he suffers another one. The team believes Best will be a full go by June and 100 percent by the start of the season. I would avoid him on draft day unless he drops and I can pick him up as fourth back.
Mikel Leshoure, Lions – torn Achilles
Leshoure’s problem is no longer his Achilles as he’s looking at a potential suspension after a pair of offseason marijuana arrests. He’s enrolled in the substance-abuse program and is being tested regularly, according to The Detroit News. Regarding the injury, he’s on schedule and expected to be 100 percent by the start of the season. If he can overcome the Achilles, he has fantasy value, but that won’t be determined until camp starts. For now he’s a lesser risk than Best and a fall-back option if you don’t trust Best.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys – fractured ankle
Murray is 100 percent and has been cleared to practice. He will be the No. 1 back with Felix Jones spelling him, but realize he was injury-prone in college, so his injury is not as much a freak incident as a potential trend.
Brandon Jackson, Browns – turf toe
Jackson is healthy and took part in OTAs after missing the 2011 season. He may have some value as he will compete to be the backup to rookie Trent Richardson, making him a late-round flier candidate. However, this will not be a time-share, rather a depth chart designation, with some touches going to the backup to rest Richardson. As the season wears on, the No. 2 back will gain greater value. Jackson, Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya are vying for reserve roles behind Richardson.
Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers – broken foot
Despite feeling soreness in the foot, Dwyer told PFW in May that it's it's nothing serious. Right now he projects as the primary backup to Isaac Redman entering the season. He’s a great late-round flier pick — if he lasts that long.
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