DeMarco Murray & 5 Lightning-Quick Backs Who Will Stun the NFL in 2012

Zack AlspaughContributor IIIJune 18, 2012

DeMarco Murray & 5 Lightning-Quick Backs Who Will Stun the NFL in 2012

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    Many thought Jerry Jones was out of his mind when he selected the Oklahoma Sooners' back in the third round of the 2011 draft. It was Al Davis-esque, ill-advised, reminiscent of the Golden State Warriors' habit of hoarding shooting guards or the Detroit Lions' constant collection of first round receivers. Already with an assemblage of ball carriers in Marion Barber (prior to being released), Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice, the last thing Dallas needed was another; or so it seemed.

    DeMarco Murray made Jones' pick seem genius in Week 7 when he filled in for the injured Felix Jones. He exploded for 253 yards on 25 carries, including a 91 yard touchdown. He shattered Cowboys records for single game rushing yards (237) set by Emmitt Smith, and Tony Dorsett's single game record as a rookie (207), stunning Dallas and the rest of the NFL.

    For those fantasy owners who were clever enough to draft Murray, and even wiser to start him, wallowed in the success of his coming out performance. Many predict he will follow up his break-out rookie campaign with an outstanding 2012 season. Here are some other speed backs who are likely to do the same.  

     

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DeMarco Murray

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    2011 Stats:

    Carries

    Yds

    Avg

    TD

    Rec Yds

     164

     897

     5.5

     2

    183 

    DeMarco Murray is sure to have a break out year, and predicted to come out of the third round in mock Fantasy Drafts, he is an absolute steal. He is expected to be the Cowboys' feature back ahead of Felix Jones and has recovered well from his fractured ankle late in 2011, taking full reps this summer at Dallas' minicamp.

    The 206 lb back dances like a licking flame but hits like a full explosion. He finds the hole and sticks it, his low pad level putting a hurting on defenders. He is never a sure tackle, especially in the open field and has break away speed. plus, with a great set of hands out of the backfield, and the Cowboys lacking a proven no. 3 receiver or a no. 2 tight end, Jason Garret could toy with some packages featuring Murray in the slot.

    Murray averaged 81.5 yards a game and only punched in two TDs last season. However, with more carries and more time in the rotation, Murray will likely flirt with his first 1,000 yard season.

Isaac Redman

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    2011 Stats:

    Carries

    Yds

    Avg

    TD

    Rec Yds

    110

    479

    4.4

    3

    150

     

    Rashard Mendenhall's ACL tear puts Redman in the driver's seat of Pittsburgh's running attack. His statline may seem a little shallow but keep in mind he didn't start getting regular playing time until Week 17, in which he ran for 92 yards on 19 carries and one TD, followed by an even better performance at Mile High Stadium in the Wild Card Game with 117 yards on 17 attempts.

    Redman's hard-nosed, north-south running style fits the traditional smash-mouth Steeler style of play. Wide out Emanuel Sanders told interviewers that new Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley "is bringing in an offense that's based off of play-action, so we're going to run the ball to open up the pass," which means Redman is the focal point and will likely get lots of touches. Expect him to mow down the AFC North.

    The best part is Redman is wildly underrated. ESPN ranked him No. 75th overall, spelling out G-E-M in the later rounds for any fantasy owner on the lookout.

Roy Helu

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     2011 Stats:

    Carries

    Yds

    Avg

    TD

    Rec Yds

    151 

    640 

     4.2

     4

    379 

    I hope visiting teams to D.C. will have oxygen tanks ready on the sidelines because the speedy combination of RG3 and Roy Helu will run defenses into the ground.

    Helu emerged as the Skins starting back midseason and finished as their leading rusher. He offers a high tempo, elusive style, can break tackles and loves to spill runs to the outside. Oh yeah, he is also known to hurdle opponents.

    The former Nebraska Cornhusker, despite limited touches. put together a successful rookie season, including three straight 100+ yd games. Mike Shanahan will likely open the season with a rotation between Helu, Evan Royster and Tim Hightower to keep defenses guessing but will eventually turn to Helu to be the primary carrier. Shanahan is known to turn young runners into premier NFL backs. With Helu's athleticism, and Shanahan's direction, he will be among the league's best in no time.

    High expectations follow the second year Skin into the 2012 season. ESPN ranks him 39th overall (17 among running backs). Helu will make a quality second back for any fantasy team, but will perform like a number one pick. Be aware, he has had some hamstring problems in the offseason and is missing reps.

Jacquizz Rodgers

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    2011 Stats:

    Carries

    Yds

    Avg

    TD

    Rec Yds

    57

    205

    3.6

    2

    188

     

    Michael Turner will begin the year as the Falcon's every down back. Entering his ninth season, Turner is like the high mileage F-150 pickup sitting in the driveway - powerful, reliable, the everyday point-A to point-B, carry-the-workload type back. Quizz on the other hand is the quick, flashy convertible sitting in the garage and the Falcons this year are itching for a joy ride.

    Since moving to Atlanta, Turner has averaged more than 300 carries a season, a true offensive workhorse. But in order to keep up with New Orleans and the progressively pass-oriented NFL, Mike Smith will be gradually phasing Turner out of the offense to accommodate a passing game that features Rodgers in the backfield.

    ESPN's Pat Yasinkas writes, "Rodgers is about speed and elusiveness, and new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will try to utilize those skills as he attempts to add more explosiveness to Atlanta’s attack."

    He offers a quick change of pace and is dangerous in the open field. Atlanta, with Julio Jones as a constant deep threat, will look to Rodgers to be a safety valve for Ryan and an effective underneath target. Also expect a lot of screen plays which will allow Quizz to hide behind blockers and explode into the open space for dangerous gains. He will easily out run any linebacker that matches up with him, and has the surprising power to knock over any DB. In addition, his ability to sniff out holes and burst to the second level on inside runs, and the speed to turn the corner on outside plays will help the Falcons shift gears offensively.

Doug Martin

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     2011 Stats: (w/ Boise State)

    Carries

    Yds

    Avg

    TD

    Rec Yds

    151

    640

    4.2

    4

    379

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    They call him the "Muscle Hamster" because of his chubby cheeks and ferocious power. He is an all-out bruiser with the ball in his hands and tied for fist at the combine with most bench reps at the running back position (28). Drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round, Martin will be competing with LeGarrette Blount for the starting role right out of the gate.

    Martin's physical style of running demands defenders hit hard and wrap - arm tackles and ankles grabs will be ineffective. His instant acceleration and shifty open field cuts remind me of LaMichael James but his strength and north-south running screams Frank Gore. He is a rare example of a back who brings both the thunder and the lightning.

    Although Blount has been working on his pass blocking and hands, Martin already excels at both. It will be a matter of time before he claims the starting spot, and by matter of time I mean as soon as preseason. Plus it doesn't hurt that Tampa Bay's O-line features three Pro Bowlers - Carl Nicks, Jeremy Trueblood, and Donald Penn. Expect good things from the rookie.

Taiwan Jones

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    Taiwan Jones is by far my boldest prediction and certainly a reach, but the potential is there.

    Michael Bush is old news in Oakland. He signed with Chicago and will be sharing snaps with Matt Forte whenever he resigns, which means Darren McFadden's back up position is wide open. The stellar but injury prone McFadden has yet to play a full season in his young career, mostly because the Raiders' lack of offense demands he carries the ball too often. Jones has a serious opportunity to become the next big thing in Oakland if he seizes the backup position.

    Jones caught the eye of Oakland fans in the preseason, particularly against New Orleans where he dashed for 81 yards in 13 carries with a 22 yard touchdown sprint. He is as lightning-quick as backs come, sporting a 4.33 forty. If the hole is there he can reach the second level in a blink of an eye, much like Chris Johnson or Dexter McCluster. He is always a threat to break off a huge run.

    In his rookie year, Jones struggled with dancing around in the backfield too much instead of making one cut and go. If he becomes more disciplined of a runner in the offseason, he will be a serious threat on inside zones, pitch plays, and of course screens. Jones is not worth drafting, but keep an eye out for him on the waiver wire if/when McFadden goes down.