Rookie running back Andre Ellington must be owned in all fantasy football leagues, as he will soon be the starter for the Arizona Cardinals. Rashard Mendenhall will be riding the pine soon due to his dismal early-season performances, and Ellington is the only Arizona running back talented enough to be the permanent starter. Ellington’s big-play rushing abilities and presumed increased workload will make him a mid-season fantasy sleeper.
Andre Ellington was the Arizona Cardinals’ sixth-round draft pick in this year’s draft, and he has quickly moved up to second-string for the talent-shallow backfield.
Thus far in the 2013 season, Ellington has only had a limited amounted of game snaps (76), but has proved to be the most dynamic and productive Arizona Cardinals running back. He leads that backfield in rushing yards per attempt (6.2) and receiving yards per reception (12.6).
In contrast, the current starter, Rashard Mendenhall, has 8.1 yards per reception and a dismal 3.4 yards per carry.
Following the Cardinals’ Week 4 razor-thin 13-10 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coach Bruce Arians criticized Mendenhall for his poor production: "I think we've been too easy on him in practice because of his injuries, and we need to hone him up more because he's not gaining anything," commented Arians, according to Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic.
The poor production was not the only reason Arians was disappointed in Mendenhall: "Rashard had a very tough day, and he can't play that way… He can't run out of bounds. He's a veteran. And to run out of bounds at the end of the game, that was probably the worst mistake he made all day."
In sharp contrast, Ellington had an impressive performance in Week 4. He carried the ball four times for 29 yards and had three receptions for 22 yards. His highlight of the game was juking Darrelle Revis out of his shoes for a 25-yard rushing gain in the second quarter.
The writing on the wall shows Mendenhall only has a short amount of time to turn things around before he loses his starting role.
Andre Ellington is clearly the next back in line, and his explosive and elusive running style gives him great upside as a fantasy football sleeper for the remainder of the season.
Ellington is ninth in the league for rushing yards per carry heading into Week 5, according to Pro Football Focus statistics (subscription required). If he continues this production per carry and reception as the starting Arizona running back, Ellington has the potential to end the season as a top-30 fantasy running back.
He is currently available in most fantasy football leagues. He is currently owned in only 3.8 percent of ESPN fantasy football leagues. There is no better low-risk and high-reward player in fantasy football at this time.