Pressing Questions: Is Ameer Abdullah a workhorse?

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Pressing Questions: Is Ameer Abdullah a workhorse?
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The NFL regular season kicks off in less than 14 weeks. Between now and then, fans of the virtual game will closely watch quarterback competitions, mull muddy backfields, and ruminate over rehab related timetables. To honor this summer-long quest for clarity, each week I’ll be highlighting one of fantasy’s most pressing questions. Today’s edition is… the curious case of Ameer Abdullah and the Lions seeming lack of RB depth.

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Up, down, and side-to-side, Abdullah’s playing style is of the video game variety. Like a turbo-charged pinball, the rookie juked his way up draft boards last summer. Hopeful he’d exceed his RB2 expectations, fantasy owners were quickly dealt a stiff arm to the gut as the former Cornhusker struggled to produce. His totes and YPC admittedly increased as the season wore on, but he still averaged just 5.8 fantasy points per game and coughed up the ball on four separate occasions.

With Joique Bell no longer on the team, many are expecting a breakout season from Abdullah in his sophomore outing. Enthusiasts loudly pounding the table in favor of the “volume” argument are anticipating gaudy numbers from the 23-year-old. But I’m not buying it. And am encouraging potential owners to once again temper their expectations.

One of the biggest knocks against Abdullah coming out of college was his size. At 5-foot-8 and a seemingly maxed-out 203 pounds, many scouts didn’t believe his frame could stand up to the rigors of the NFL. In fact, he drew comps to Andre Ellington, another diminutive back whose slight build has kept him from attaining workhorse status. While Abdullah’s burst and lateral agility is far superior to that of Ellington’s, those attributes weren’t enough to keep him off a surgeon’s table.

Last week, it was reported that Abdullah went under the knife in January to correct a labrum tear that he had suffered the previous month. News out of Allen Park is of course overwhelmingly positive, but I’m more skeptical.

The dude was in a timeshare and got banged up badly enough that he needed surgery! Why in the world would the team give him the rock 20 times per game, especially after investing a second round pick in him? Furthermore, backs coming off of shoulder injuries tend run much more tentatively than they do aggressively. Ryan Mathews and Mark Ingram are two recent examples of RBs who endured similar injuries and struggled to return to form. Yes, Abdullah has a good amount of time to rehab, but this is a guy who can’t afford to miss any reps.

As it stands, Detroit seems content to fill the power element of their backfield with Steven Ridley. Coming off a torn ACL, Ridley displayed the quickness of a tortoise last season. But this is not a coaching staff that appears to mind plodders, as evidenced by their unwavering use of the aforementioned Bell… as well as his 3.5 YPC average.

Sure, Abdullah could see an increased role in the passing game… except the team already has Theo Riddick locked and loaded. The second most targeted RB in football last year, Riddick caught an astonishing 80 balls for nearly 700 yards and scored 3 TDs via the air. Even in standards scoring leagues, he out-produced Abdullah, finishing the season as the thirty-eighth best overall player at the position (Abdullah came in as the RB41 overall).

According to FF Calculator, Abdullah is currently being selected in the sixth round of drafts and flirting with low-end RB2/high-end RB3 placement. On the surface that may seem fair, but I wouldn’t touch him inside of the top thirty. In fact, I’d prefer to wait a round and snatch up Giovani Bernard or attack the QB position and roster Drew Brees.

My analysis may not be in line with the fantasy cognoscenti, but it’s the more honest approach. Call me crazy, but I prefer winning championships to popularity contests.

Which FF dilemma is making you go Hmmm? Follow Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF and suggest future editions of Pressing Questions.