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2011 Draft Prep: Hedging your bets on Mendenhall

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Rashard Mendenhall is going to be good this year. He's just not going to be great. And if you have the chance to draft Isaac Redman with a late-round pick, you should plan on doing so.

Back in February, when the Steelers were set to play the Packers in Super Bowl XLV, I researched running backs who make it all the way to the final game of the season. You can see the results of that research with the interactive visualization below, and it could be a long year for Mendenhall.

The prediction here is he will struggle in 2011.

You see, running backs who played in the Super Bowl the past five seasons haven't exactly fared well the next year. The Packers don't have anything to worry about since they used a backfield by committee following Ryan Grant's ankle injury in Week 1, but Mendenhall could suffer a breakdown. And the reason could be his workload from 2010.

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Over the past five years there were 25 running backs who were significant contributors in helping their teams reach the Super Bowl. Of those 25, 12 saw a decrease in Fantasy points the following season and two did not play again (Jerome Bettis and Reuben Droughns).

In looking at the 10 starters, seven saw a decrease in Fantasy points the following season (Pierre Thomas, Joseph Addai, Willie Parker, Edgerrin James, Laurence Maroney, Thomas Jones and Shaun Alexander). And five suffered significant injuries (Thomas, Reggie Bush, Addai, Maroney and Alexander). Four of the running backs who saw an increase in Fantasy points the following season were injury replacements (Donald Brown, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and Maurice Morris).

The biggest reason for Super Bowl running backs seeing a decrease in production the next year is likely wear and tear. On top of all their carries during the regular season, they get as many as four games worth of additional touches. There were 11 running backs who played in the Super Bowl over the past five seasons that had at least 50 touches in the postseason. For Alexander, he had 370 carries in the regular season in 2005 and then 60 carries in the playoffs. No wonder he couldn't make it through 2006.

Mendenhall had 412 touches last year (385 carries and 27 catches) over 19 games, including 61 carries and four catches in the playoffs. Since he runs between the tackles and thrives on contact, that kind of workload catches up to running backs quickly.

Now, in his defense, he's only 24 and has just two years of work as a starter under his belt, so his body hasn't been beaten up too much in his career. The NFL lockout also helped him with a lack of work in the offseason. He has a favorable schedule this year and the Steelers will feature him at the goal line. He had 1,273 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last year in the regular season.

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But if you look at Mendenhall's overall body of work from last year, it can be a little deceiving. He had just four games with more than 100 rushing yards, and two of them came when Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's code of conduct policy.

Keep in mind that he had seven games with at least 22 carries and 11 games with at least 18 carries, so the Steelers tried to force feed him the ball. And if you look at his stats with Roethlisberger and without, he averaged 102.8 rush yards when his starting quarterback was suspended and just 72.8 in the 15 games when Roethlisberger was active, including the postseason.

The Steelers also continue to open up the passing game – Roethlisberger has averaged at least 32 pass attempts a game in each of the past two seasons – and they have a dynamic receiving corps with Mike Wallace, Hines Ward and Antonio Brown. The more they throw, the less likely Mendenhall is to rack up stats.

When looking at Mendenhall on Draft Day – he's being drafted at No. 16 overall (Round 2) as the No. 9 running back – he should be taken as a starter because for stretches of the season he will play well. A good comparison is Michael Turner from 2009. He had a heavy workload with 376 carries in 2008, but in 2009 he suffered an ankle injury and played in just 11 games. He still managed 871 yards and 10 touchdowns.

We can definitely see Mendenhall having plenty of positive moments, but there could also be a time where he's resting or out, based on Super Bowl history. And that's where Redman comes in.

If you can draft him with a late-round pick – his Average Draft Position is No. 158 overall (Round 13) – you could be getting a sleeper with plenty of upside. Because if Mendenhall struggles as previous running backs who played in the Super Bowl have recently, then the backup for the Steelers could be a great Fantasy running back this year.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Bears waive defensive lineman Cheta Ozougwu
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Bears announced Tuesday that they have waived defensive lineman Cheta Ozougwu. He played nine games over the last two seasons with Chicago. 

Steelers land punter Adam Podlesh
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Steelers have signed punter Adam Podlesh, who previously served with the Jaguars and Bears. He was released from the Bears in March, saving nearly $1.5 million. 

Podlesh ranked 29th last season with an average of 37.9 yards per punt. 


Texans sign Ricardo Mathews
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Texans have signed defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews to a contract. Originally a seventh-round pick of the Colts, Mathews sparingly played last year. He'll compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Falcons waive two players
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Falcons waived tight end Adam Nissley and cornerback Saeed Lee on Tuesday. Neither player ever appeared in a regular-season NFL game. 

How Lloyd's signing impacts 49ers' receiving corps
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The 49ers signed Brandon Lloyd on Tuesday, which should impact Kassim Osgood and Jon Baldwin but not matter much to Quinton Patton, reports ESPN.

The 49ers are locked in with their top two receivers in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, and Patton is expected to be No. 3 on the depth chart. After that, the 49ers are wide open, and Lloyd could be No. 4 ahead of Baldwin and Osgood.

The report says if Lloyd makes the team Baldwin will likely be out. The team re-signed Osgood this offseason because he is a huge part of the special teams. But the 49ers will likely not keep more than six receivers.

Patton, who finished the season strong in 2013 as a rookie, should have time to develop as the No. 3 option. The 49ers are also expected to take a wide receiver in the draft.


Josh McCown 'impressed' with Vincent Jackson
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) New Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown started throwing with his No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson on Friday. McCown said he came away impressed.

McCown said in an interview with CBSSports.com that he's worked with some top-notch receivers in his career -- Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery -- and Jackson is "right there with those guys."

"I'm very, very impressed with him," McCown said. "You know when you have one of those special guys. You can tell the first time you work with him, you see it and feel it. That was the case throwing with Vincent. You can see why he's been so good for so long because of his work ethic and his attention to detail."


Marshall excited for Josh McCown in Tampa Bay
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(4/15/2014) Bears receiver Brandon Marshall played with Josh McCown last season when he started five games for the injured Jay Cutler. McCown signed with the Buccaneers this offseason, and Marshall expects him to play well.

"Josh is going to do some good things," Marshall said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "The way he leads. It's not about what he can do physically. What puts Josh in the position to be successful is the man he is, the character and his leadership skills. I'm sure he'll be the first one in Tampa -- he was the second one behind me to arrive at the facilities -- but he'll be the first one there and the last one to leave. He prepares like he's the coach. That's what makes him special."


Josh McCown likes 'wrinkles' of new offense
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown went through installing a new offense last year as the backup for the Bears. This year, he's doing the same thing, only as the projected starter for the Buccaneers.

McCown, who recently started throwing with No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson, said he's excited for the new offense in Tampa Bay under coordinator Jeff Tedford.

"We went through it last year in Chicago where we were building an offense with coach (Marc) Trestman. it's the same thing all over again with Jeff Tedford, learning his offense," McCown said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "Just trying to help everyone get on the same page and begin to build this thing. ... There's some cool wrinkles (to the offense). There's some new things to it that I have not done yet. I'm excited about running those plays and putting those systems in place and seeing how they go."


Marshall: Marquess Wilson poised for big year
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) Bears receiver Brandon Marshall is expecting a big year out of new No. 3 receiver Marquess Wilson.

Wilson is expected to be Chicago's No. 3 receiver this year behind Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and Marshall said in an interview with CBSSports.com that Wilson has worked hard this offseason. The trio of wide receivers have trained together in South Florida to get ready for this year.

"I really want to talk about Marquess Wilson," Marshall said. "He came down and trained with us the whole offseason. We're really looking for him to do some big things. This guy, he's probably the steal of the draft last year. I'm going to say that. He came in, he put in the work, he looks like a body builder. Fast, strong, explosive. I'm looking forward to seeing him in OTAs."

Wilson, who is 6-foot-4, 184 pounds, was drafted in the seventh round out of Washington State last year. He only had two catches for 13 yards as a rookie, but he will now replace the departed Earl Bennett in three-receiver sets.


Brandon Marshall healthy, ready for contract year
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) Bears receiver Brandon Marshall is expecting a big year in 2014. He's healthy this offseason and looking forward to his contract year.

Last year, Marshall dealt with minor hip surgery in the offseason, but he said thus far he's in great shape and ready to go.

"The offseason is amazing," Marshall said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "It seems like every other year I get a healthy one. Last year I had surgery and really couldn't train. This one, it's a successful one so far because I'm healthy. Next year should be a big year for me. I'm looking forward to it being my best year ever."

Marshall, 30, is coming off a solid year in his first campain for new coach Marc Trestman. He had 100 catches for 1,295 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns.

This is a contract year for Marshall, who is scheduled to make $9.1 million in 2014. He told a Chicago radio station in March he's going to force the Bears "to sign me after next year," and he's not worried about getting paid.

"Everybody wants to get a new check," Marshall said. "That will happen when it happens. ... If you go out and play then everything else is slotted. You have to perform. You have to keep the product on the field good."


 
 
 
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