LaRod Stephens-Howling: Updated Fantasy Outlook and Analysis for Cardinals' RB

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystOctober 21, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 21: Jamarca Sanford #33 of the Minnesota Vikings looks to tackle LaRod Stephens-Howling #36 of the Arizona Cardinals during the third quarter of the game on October 21, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Cardinals 21-14. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Well, the bloom has officially come off the rose in the desert, as after opening the season with four consecutive victories, the Arizona Cardinals have now lost their last three contests, with the latest setback being a 21-14 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings Sunday.

It's often difficult to find a bright spot in the midst of a three-game losing streak, but for the first time in 2012 the Redbirds had a running back top the 100-yards rushing mark, even if that back was a rather unlikely candidate.

To say that fourth-year pro LaRod Stephens-Howling "rumbled" his way to 104 yards on 20 carries Sunday would be something of a misnomer, since at 5'7" and 185 pounds Stephens-Howling isn't exactly the rumbling type.

However, there's no denying that Stephens-Howling was effective on the ground against a stout Vikings run defense, averaging better than five yards a carry and finding the end zone from three yards out in the second quarter.

The 25-year-old also chipped in 45 yards on four receptions, and while Stephens-Howling's diminutive stature leads many to label him a "scat back" center, Lyle Sendlein recently told The Associated Press via The Wall Street Journal that that isn't necessarily the case:

"People might call him a scat-back," Sendlein said, "but if you ask him he'll tell you he's an every-down back, and we believe he is. I guess you compare him to like a Warrick Dunn. Even though he is smaller, he doesn't take hits like a bigger running back. He knows to avoid them."

Sendlein's endorsement and Stephens-Howling's big day aside, there are a few reasons why fantasy owners should temper their expectations where "Hyphen" is concerned.

First, the simple fact of the matter is that like it or not Stephens-Howling is a small running back, and it's highly unlikely that he can hold up receiving 24 touches a week in the NFL.

Second, though it was Stephens-Howling who enjoyed success this week while rookie William Powell struggled last week, the opposite held true. The Cardinals are going to ride whoever has the hot hand in their injury-ravaged backfield, and that's going to make it difficult for either back to be productive fantasy-wise on any sort of consistent basis.

With that said, the thing that may make it even harder for Stephens-Howling to be productive for fantasy owners is the offensive line in front of him. Yes, injuries are partly to blame for the Cardinals ranking 26th in the National Football League in rushing, but so is an offensive line that's somewhere between terrible and laughable.

So, given all those reservations, you should still go put in a waiver claim for Stephens-Howling.

Huhwhowhat you might ask?

It's simple really.

We're right in the middle of the bye weeks, and injuries continue to ravage the running back position, with Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars the latest big-name back to go down.

At this point in the season, beggars can't be choosers, and if there's one fantasy football mantra I follow religiously it's this: "You can never have too many running backs."