We probably didn't need this kind of fantasy football shot in the arm for Andre Ellington's 2014 value, but we got one Tuesday when a report came out Arizona Cardinals head coach is targeting his undersized back for 25-30 touches per game, according to a tweet by Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910 in Phoenix, Arizona.
The report is equal parts exciting, ridiculous and dangerous.
First, any back getting that kind of work would become a must-have fantasy option. Second, a back as explosive as Ellington getting that many opportunities is eye opening and fantasy drool-worthy. Third, anyone subjected to that kind of use is a severe injury risk, particularly a back that stands 5'9" and is just 199 pounds, according to his NFL.com profile.
When an explosive player has an open door for opportunity like Ellington does in Arizona, we have to take notice...and then we should promptly avoid drafting him. Spiller (5'11, 200 lbs) and Wilson (5'9", 205 lbs) are the cautionary tales. Spiller is so much like Ellington—they both came from the same college program at Clemson just a few years apart.
A fantasy nut reads the above tweet from an Arizona radio host and gets excited. Me: I just realized Ellington likely won't be on any of my teams—not to mention being really skeptical of the tweet and the context of the statement.
Regardless, you should be closer to putting Ellington on your "Do Not Draft" list than anything else now.
Ellington has been a back Arians hasn't wanted to overwork in the running game since he was drafted a year ago. Ellington's season high in carries as a rookie last season was 15, which he reached just twice. He added a pair of receptions in each of those games.
With Rashard Mendenhall retired and Ryan Williams waived, Ellington has just Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer competing for touches behind him. So, expect more work but nothing in the range of 25-30 touches. The 400-480 total for a full 16-game season is just outlandish in this modern NFL.
Mendenhall was the starter last season, and he didn't reach 25 once himself. Heck, he only passed 20 twice, per Pro-Football-Reference.com.
But Arians was excited about Ellington back in March, when he told Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official website:
We are going to have a lot of fun this spring because his skill set is so unique. He is still not a guy who you will pound up the middle 30 times a game and survive. He can run the football 30 times a game if you do it correctly, but you'd rather have him have 10 catches and 20 carries, and let Stepfan Taylor or Dwyer have the rest of the carries—pound the rest of the ball up in there.
Ellington getting 10 catches a game is a bit unreasonable, too, but it is possible, we suppose. Jurecki justified the criticism of his previous tweet, saying Ellington has added "bulk" and his touches will be more dependent on added receptions than getting more than 20 carries in a given game.
Regardless of the added weight, Ellington's stature will still force us to assume plenty of injury risk for next season. Arians knows he cannot make too much of his offense specific to Ellington's special breakaway skills, telling Urban:
"You've got to watch that you don't create too much stuff, and then he sprains an ankle and you don't have any offense because you put too much in one basket. You still have to have your cinch-it-up, grind-it-out football."
As much as you can be excited about Ellington's amped-up expectations and usage, you should be excited more in the fact it will just price him off your team. Let someone else overpay for him on hype in August. Learn the lesson undersized game-breakers Spiller and Wilson taught us, painfully, a year ago.