I have two passions in life outside of my own family – cars and fantasy football. We’ve had a lot of specific suggestions for RB comparisons in these draft day debate articles, and I think I’ve finally figured out an accurate way to depict the different tiers we have in the rookie running back pool this year. Today, we’ll take a unique viewpoint by comparing some rookie RBs to vehicles and look closely at two very closely ranked players in upcoming drafts - Montario Hardesty and Ben Tate.
The first tier of RBs begins and ends with Ryan Mathews of the San Diego Chargers. Think of Mathews as a Cadillac Escalade. He’s sleek, he’s smooth, he’s dependable, but he’s also powerful. He’s not going to win a lot of races, but like an Escalade, he’s going to capture your attention and be relied upon to produce. It’s a safe purchase.
The second tier of RBs consists of Jahvid Best and CJ Spiller. These two are like a line of sporty new hybrids. They’re different and edgy. They’re the “new thing” on the block. Like the hybrids, you’re curious to see how they perform, but you know that there’s something special about them. You see them and think, “how do they make things like that?” Like a new sporty hybrid, they’re not workhorses, but they’re still pretty exciting.
The third tier is where we’re going to spend the most time today. This tier includes the only two other rookie running backs you can justify taking in round one - Montario Hardesty and Ben Tate. Let’s take an in-depth look in the showroom.
Hardesty – 5′11″, 225 lbs
Tate – 5′11, 220 lbs
It’s pretty tough to give an advantage to either of these players since they’re amazingly close to each other. Their size is certainly not a concern and both have an adequate height and weight combination to be more than a 3rd round or change of pace back.
Hardesty – 4.49 40
Tate – 4.43 40
It’s crazy, isn’t it? These two are so similar in so many different ways. Each player helped themselves immensely at the combine with great times for a “bigger back.” It’s pretty difficult to give much of an advantage to either, especially since it seems Hardesty plays faster on the field.
If you were waiting for the comparisons to end, you’re read far enough. Hardesty sustained a season-ending knee injury in 2005, missed three games in 2007, another in 2008, and played through some sore knees in 2009. Essentially, he missed time in three of his five seasons. He’s 23 years old now, so that’s a major red flag.
For Ben Tate, durability isn’t nearly as big of an issue. You always worry about RBs, but he hasn’t missed a game the past three years and averaged over 20 carries per game last year.
Major Advantage: Tate
Hardesty – 282/1,345/13
Tate – 263/1,362/10
Their 2009 numbers were virtual mirror images. Hardesty averaged 4.7 ypc, while Tate averaged 5.2 ypc. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Tate averaged 4.9 ypc in his career at Auburn, while Hardesty averaged 4.3 ypc for his Volunteer career. Neither players statistics jump out at you in a big way, but Tate was a little more productive against the same level of talent, obviously.
Slight Advantage: Tate
Hardesty – 25/302/1
Tate – 20/105/0
The statistics are a little misleading here. Hardesty is significantly better in the passing game than Tate at this point in their development. Hardesty is blessed with good vision and has more “ecscapability” than Tate does in the open field.
Hardesty – Houston (#58 overall)
Tate – Cleveland (#59 overall)
It’s fitting these two were drafted back-to-back since it seems they’re so similar in most every other statistical category. I believe this is one factor that sets them apart, however.
Tate fits the Houston offense perfectly. He hits the hole hard and is best known as a downhill runner – something the Texans have longed for since Domanick Davis led the charge in the early years of the franchise. He’ll have to battle Arian Foster for the early down job, but the Texans simply wouldn’t have taken him if they felt Foster was a long-term solution. Steve Slaton will be very much in the mix, but he has no chance of taking goal-line work away from Tate. Combine this with the fact the Texans have a dynamic weapon in Andre Johnson, a developing QB in Matt Schaub and an overall team who should be in contention, and it’s a great landing spot for Tate. He’ll have many scoring opportunities for the foreseeable future.
As lucky as Tate was, Hardesty was just as unlucky. I get the Browns were looking for a RB to pair with Harrison or even possibly be a featured back eventually. The problem is the fact the Browns have been completely inept for a long, long time. With Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace at the helm next year, it’s not looking pretty for a bit. Even if Colt McCoy develops quickly and becomes a franchise QB, the Browns are light years away from the Texans offensively. By the time the Browns could become relevant (and there’s no guarantee that’s going to happen), Hardesty will be right around 27 years old. I haven’t even mentioned Jerome Harrison. Not too enticing, eh?
I’d compare Ben Tate to a nice new pickup truck. It’s not sexy, it’s not super fast, but it’s durable and tough. You can count on it for the heavy lifting and hard work you need. It’s going to start every time and give you the power you’re looking for, even if it’s not a head turner.
To me, Hardesty is like a used sports car. It looks nice on the lot, gives you the excitement you’re looking for on the test drive, too. Problem is, you have to bring it to the shop every few months for maintenance.
If you’re in need of a RB, I’d recommend looking at Ben Tate after Ryan Mathews, CJ Spiller, and Jahvid Best are off the board in the middle-to-late first round. I’d take Hardesty right at the end of round one, but cross my fingers someone else takes him first. The injury risk and poor situation is enough for me to stray away. After all, there’s no lemon law in fantasy football.