It wasn't long ago that New York Jets running back Chris Ivory was considered one of the premier sleeper running backs in fantasy football. Ivory was expected to start for the Jets and provide the bulk of their offensive production, but things are working against Ivory before the season has even started.
According to Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, Ivory and Bilal Powell will split carries during the Jets' season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
A timeshare is the kiss of death for a running back in fantasy terms, and Ivory knows that all too well. In three years with the New Orleans Saint, the 25-year-old Tiffin University product averaged better than five yards per carry. Ivory could never break through as the bell-cow back for the Saints, though, due to the presence of Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and others during his tenure.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Jets head coach Rex Ryan believes Powell has earned a starting opportunity.
It certainly doesn't bode well for Ivory if Ryan truly believes that to be the case. Ivory wasn't particularly impressive during the preseason, averaging just two yards per carry. But Powell hasn't exactly set the world on fire either. Powell averaged a mere 3.6 yards per tote, and he has a career yards-per-carry average of just 3.7 over the course of his NFL career.
Powell isn't an explosive back by any means, whereas Ivory has shown flashes of explosiveness in the past. If Ivory isn't given an opportunity to prove himself, though, his skill set doesn't matter all that much. Ivory was a flex play at best when it seemed like he was going to be the starter, but now he is little more than an end-of-the-bench depth guy, in fantasy terms.
New York's offense is a joke, so Ivory is going to struggle to a certain degree regardless of how much playing time he is given. The fact that rookie quarterback Geno Smith will begin the season as the starter under center, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, is problematic as well.
It's not as if Ivory would be much better off with Mark Sanchez, but opposing defenses are going to dare Smith to beat them. Training camp and the preseason seemed to suggest Smith is a mistake-prone player, so the opposition probably won't be afraid of him. The Jets also have a suspect receiving corps, so Ivory doesn't have much support to begin with.
Greene barely broke 1,000 yards for Gang Green in each of the past two seasons, and he did so as the unquestioned No. 1 guy. If Ivory is going to reach that level, he'll need to contend with Powell. It isn't inconceivable that Ivory will do well enough with his opportunities to seize the starting job eventually, but Powell is definitely a hurdle that needs to be cleared.
According to ESPN.com, Ivory has been the 26th running back selected in standard fantasy drafts on average. He is being selected ahead of the likes of Ahmad Bradshaw, DeAngelo Williams, Giovani Bernard, Rashard Mendenhall and Daryl Richardson, all of whom are currently in much better situations than Ivory is.
In addition to splitting carries with Powell, Ivory has a less than ideal start to the 2013 season lined up, as the Jets will open against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa was tops in the NFL against the run last year, allowing a mere 82.5 yards per game on the ground. With that in mind, Ivory shouldn't be a starter in any format during Week 1.
The tone for Ivory's season will be set Sunday, and it probably won't get much better moving forward. The Jets appear to be so inept that they figure to be on the receiving end of some vicious beatdowns over the course of the season. That means there are games in which the running game will have to be abandoned completely.
Although the Oakland Raiders could potentially stake claim, there may be no worse offense in the league than what the Jets will be trotting out there on a weekly basis. That alone caps Ivory's potential in a significant way. But with Powell potentially receiving as many or more carries than Ivory, there is very little to like about Ivory's fantasy prospects in 2013.
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