Ahmad Bradshaw: Why You Should Avoid Starting Oft-Injured Giants RB vs. Browns

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Running back Ahmad Bradshaw #44 of the New York Giants prior to a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 30, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

Coming into his Week 5 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, it's likely that fantasy owners have become exasperated with the limited production of New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Expected to re-emerge after a frustrating 2011 campaign, Bradshaw has been hampered throughout the first quarter of the season by a neck injury. 

Though most expected the worst when the Giants running back hurt his neck in Week 2, he was back in action after just one game of rest and played a ton of snaps last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Unfortunately for fantasy owners, that return did not go as planned. Bradshaw gained just 39 yards on 13 carries while not showing any burst through the hole.

With a matchup against an underrated Cleveland defense on tap, Bradshaw is simply too untrustworthy to start in Week 5.

Here is a look at a few of the biggest reasons why the Giants back is a must-sit on Sunday. 


Bradshaw's Ineffectiveness is Not a New Trend

Roundly considered an every-week start when healthy, the production has not been there to back it up for Bradshaw in nearly two seasons.

Bradshaw has slowly been crumbling under an increased workload after a breakout campaign where the Giants back complied over 1,500 total yards in 2010. 

Fantasy-wise, Bradshaw was no massive bust by any stretch of the imagination last season, but he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry. A quick glance at the numbers simply tells you that his lack of burst is not a new phenomenon.

Whether it's a case of the injuries piling up on his body or simply ineffective run blocking by New York's offensive line, that low-level performance is not indicative of someone worth starting on a weekly basis. 


The Giants Do Not Consistently Run the Ball

Once viewed as a hard-nosed team that won games with a ferocious pass rush and an emphasis on the run game, New York bucked that trend and become one of the league's most pass-heavy teams. 

Through Week 4, Eli Manning ranks sixth in the NFL in pass attempts with 160, and the Giants have had just one game where a running back has received 20 or more carries.

That would be easy to chalk up as an anomaly if New York was being blown out this season, but that has not been the case. The team's only blowout of 2012 was its evisceration of the Carolina Panthers in Week 3. 

Considering the Browns are among the league's worst pass defenses, you should not expect to see Bradshaw break the 20-carry barrier on Sunday. 

With rookie Andre Brown also in the mix, it seems highly likely that neither Giants runner will have much value, barring a short-yardage touchdown. 


Cleveland's Run Defense is Underrated

While the Browns' pass defense is among the NFL's worst, giving up an average of 286 yards per game thus far, its run-stopping ability is far from a deficiency.

Facing off against Ray Rice last week, who is unquestionably one of the NFL's three best backs, the Browns stuffed the Baltimore running game at the point of attack consistently. Rice wound up with just 49 yards on 18 carries and did not break off a run longer than 10 yards. 

What's more, advanced metrics spell out an even rosier picture for the Cleveland defense. According to Outsiders' DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) statistic, the Browns rank 14th in both run defense and total defense. 

Cleveland's 0-4 record may look like a tasty matchup in the standings, but they will prove to be a far tougher opponent than most expect.