The biggest position battle for the Cleveland Browns is settled—for Week 1, at least—as coach Mike Pettine announced in a statement, but a crucial fantasy question remains. Which running back will be the better option in 2014: Ben Tate or Terrance West?
After two games in the preseason, it appears Tate has grabbed the reins tight.
A backup to Arian Foster over the last three seasons with the Houston Texans, Tate now looks like the lead back for the Browns. While West has seen his fantasy value spike, he has yet to take over the role from the veteran.
Tate has received the vast majority of first-team carries and made the most of his opportunities. The fourth-year back has rushed for 76 yards on 16 carries (4.75 yards per carry) and was a workhorse in the second preseason contest for an abysmal offense.
Rather than sitting back quietly, Tate showed his newfound leadership following the game:
After putting the team on his back throughout the preseason, expect Tate to do the same when real games get underway. While West was a "legitimate threat" back in July, according to the Akron Beacon Journal's Nate Ulrich, Tate has separated himself and improved his fantasy stock.
The biggest issue to consider for fantasy owners looking to take him high will be his past. With fumbling issues—10 over a three-year span—and myriad injuries, there's reason to question Tate as a top back.
That exact caveat for Tate's potential success was brought up by Brendan Leister of DraftBrowns.com:
Despite starting in just seven games last season, Tate still posted five games with 70 yards or more. Of the 14 contests he played in, the former Houston back had just six where he was awarded 15 or more carries.
Given an improved role and likely more carries, Tate has a chance to shine this season for the Browns and fantasy owners alike. Tate has also shown he can be utilized in the passing game as well, as the Cleveland account points out:
While some fantasy players have already jumped on the West bandwagon, Tate is proving he's here to stay. But for those looking at him as a No. 1 option, they might just pump the brakes after his most recent comment.
"I will welcome help because I don’t want to run myself into the ground,” said Tate, per Kevin Jones of ClevelandBrowns.com. “Of course, you want to be a guy who gets in a rhythm. But I will welcome help."
Owners don't want to see their players get hurt, but don't expect Tate to carry the load quite like Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles. Not that I really have to tell smart fantasy owners that, but it's just a precautionary statement.
Currently holding an average draft position of 5.09 in standard 12-team leagues, the 25-year-old is a steal for fantasy owners. Behind questionable options like Ray Rice and Joique Bell, Tate has huge potential as either a RB2 or flex option.
Here's the thing with even the top running backs this season: Not all of them can be trusted. Names such as Foster and Doug Martin both have injury histories but are still taken in the first and second rounds.
Some owners might want to also go out and get West as a backup option if Tate goes down with another injury. But if Tate remains on the field, this former No. 2 back could pay dividends for fantasy owners this season.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!