Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington is poised for a huge 2014 NFL season, but somehow many fantasy football enthusiasts aren't taking notice. The second-year ball-carrier will be featured in Arizona's backfield this season and is in line for a bevy of touches.
Ellington showed what he's capable of accomplishing with the ball in his hands last season in a limited role. He carried 118 times for 652 yards—an average of 5.5 yards—and three touchdowns. He also accumulated 39 receptions for 371 yards and one score.
Why are last year's numbers relevant? Because the most touches he received in any single game was 17. This offseason, head coach Bruce Arians told Darren Urban of the Cardinals' official website exactly what to expect from the running back:
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 (Jonathan) Dwyer have the rest of the carries pound the rest of the ball up in there.
If Ellington averages anything remotely close to 20 carries and 10 receptions per game this season, his current average draft position of 3.05, via FantasyFootballCalculator.com, will make him an immense steal.
After all, according to another comment from Arians, via Urban's Twitter account. it's easy to see the faith he's putting into the running back:
Arians said RB Andre Ellington has added 10 pounds already. "We want to build our offense around him." #CardsCombine— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) February 21, 2014
Despite the forthcoming backfield timeshare in Arizona's backfield, one thing has become abundantly clear heading into the season: Ellington is the clear-cut No. 1 back. He's no longer a complementary rusher in this offense.
This was very apparent during the team's preseason opener. Adam Levitan of Rotoworld noted Ellington's snap count with the first-team offense:
ARZ's first-team offense ran 9 plays Saturday. Andre Ellington played on all 9 snaps. Included all third downs and red-zone work.— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 11, 2014
Ellington didn't see an abundance of work in that span—he carried twice for seven yards—however, he did showcase the weight he added over the offseason by introducing himself to this year's first-overall draft pick, via Sports Illustrated:
So, what can we expect from Ellington this season?
How many rushing yards will Ellington gain this season?
Based on Arians' comments, we could potentially expect his workload to double this season—including increased work in the red zone. If that's the case, Ellington could be poised for 1,200 yards on the ground, 600 through the air and 10 total touchdowns. That's pretty close to what Matt Forte rattled off with the Chicago Bears last season.
Will Ellington reach these numbers? Well, there are plenty of variables that come into play over the course of a football season; however, his ceiling is certainly high enough.
If he does produce at this expected high level, his lucky fantasy owners will be receiving a potential top-five running back in the draft's third round. Now, that's a steal.