There was a time when Rashard Mendenhall's gaudy skill set would have every man, woman and child drooling over the prospect of acquiring him for their fantasy team.
That time is no more.
The pride of Skokie, Ill., deserves credit for fighting back from a torn ACL just eight months ago, and for what it's worth, it sounds as though the recovery is going very well (via SteelCityInsider.net's Jim Wexell):
Of the three, Mendenhall was the biggest surprise at Monday’s practice. His burst and long speed had the defensive players buzzing.
“He looked incredible,” said Brett Keisel.
“I thought he looked great. He was running well, finishing runs. I’m excited for him,” said Lawrence Timmons.
But don't let the obvious opinions of overly-optimistic teammates fool you. This is still a running back coming off ACL surgery.
You may say, what about Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson? Those guys are coming off similar injuries, yet are still fantasy gold.
Well, consider the very different situations.
Charles, when healthy, has averaged a ridiculous 6.1 yards per carry, is a major threat catching passes out of the backfield and although Peyton Hillis is now in town, will get all the touches he can handle.
Peterson is freaking Adrian Peterson. If you need more than that, know that up until last year's injury, he had surpassed 1,200 yards in each of his three seasons, averaged 4.8 yards per carry and found the end zone double-digit times every year.
Oh, and Toby Gerhart won't be stealing all that many carries when Peterson is at full blast.
But Rashard Mendenhall is in the Santa Maria while Charles is in the Nina and Peterson is in the Pinta (read: he's in a different boat).
First of all, his ceiling, unlike Charles and Peterson, is that of a six-foot basement. Mendenhall has never been able to really take advantage of those drool-worthy skills he displayed at Illinois. He has shown a nose for the end zone throughout his career and averaged 4.6 yards per carry in 2009, but 3.1 in 2008, 3.9 in 2010 and 4.1 in 2011 scream mediocrity.
Plus, there are plenty of guys waiting to take his spot.
Isaac Redman may be older, but the star of powerhouse Bowie State looked much more effective than Mendenhall in 2011, not to mention a legitimate red zone option, running for 479 yards on 110 carries (4.4 yards per carry).
Then you have the real intrigue, which resides in the legs of 23-year-old Jonathan Dwyer. The Georgia Tech product has very little experience, but his 11-carry, 107-yard performance last year against the Titans certainly opened turned some heads in the direction of this talented youngster.
In Rashard Mendenhall you have a dynamic player, there's no questioning that. But he's a dynamic player who is coming off ACL surgery, has a low ceiling and a short leash. That is, if he ever even regains his starting role.
Unless you find yourself in a league with 19 of your closest friends and Mendenhall drops unbelievably far, stay away. You will hate life a lot less that way.