Mikel Leshoure: Breaking Down RB's Fantasy Value as Lions' Top Rusher

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IOctober 22, 2012

Oct 14, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Detroit Lions running back Mikel Leshoure (25) carries the ball during the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Lions defeated the Eagles 26-23 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Now that Detroit Lions running back Mikel Leshoure is the undisputed No. 1 option in Detroit, his fantasy value should be cemented in the top 20 to 25 at his position over the rest of the 2012 season. 

Although he plays in a pass-heavy offense in Detroit, Leshoure should get enough touches and touchdown opportunities as the Lions' top running back to be a consistent fantasy option. He'll be starting-caliber most weeks, depending on the matchup. 

Leshoure's opportunity as the No. 1 option came from the bad luck of a fellow teammate. 

The Lions announced last week that Jahvid Best would not play this season because of ongoing complications from several concussions. 

Lions GM Martin Mayhew released the bad news last Monday via Tim Twentyman of the Lions' official site:

After today's consultation with medical experts, including representatives from our medical and training staffs, it has been determined that Jahvid will not be permitted to return to play at this time.

Leshoure is now expected to get the full load of carries and receptions from the Lions backfield, with Joique Bell also receiving some limited chances. 

In his first start in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans, Leshoure gave fantasy owners a reason to believe in him moving forward. 

Given 30 total touches (26 carries), Leshoure racked up 134 total yards and one touchdown. While not to be counted on each week, the performance showed that the Lions are willing to lean on one back and that Leshoure can produce with a big workload. Bell, the backup, only had five carries. 

However, his stat line a week later showed why matchups are also important in starting Leshoure this season.

Give just 13 carries against the Minnesota Vikings—a top fantasy run defense—Leshoure registered just 26 yards. The Lions have historically abandoned the run against tough run defenses under coordinator Scott Linehan. 

For that reason, Leshoure is a risky start on Monday night.

In Chicago, he'll face the fourth-best fantasy defense against opposing running backs. Only the Green Bay Packers, who ran 24 times in Week 2, were able to crack the 60-yard mark from their running backs against the Bears this season. 

The chances that Leshoure doesn't provide a strong fantasy showing on Monday night are high. 

The Lions will face more tough run defenses this season, including Seattle and second chances against both Chicago and Minnesota. But there are enough good matchups (Green Bay, Atlanta, Arizona, Indianapolis, Jacksonville) to think that Leshoure can be a major contributor during the stretch run of the fantasy football season. 

As long as Leshoure stays healthy, his value should continue to be worthy of fantasy starts during most weeks. Matchups always rule the day in fantasy football, but Leshoure should be a good bet for the lion's share of carries and receptions out of the Detroit backfield.