I’m not going to profess to being a fan of the Final Destination series. I barely remember watching the first one, and subsequent previews of sequels convinced me that the wheel hadn’t been re-invented since then. Basic premise: you can’t cheat death. Unfortunately, if you’re a rookie running back selected in the second round of the draft, you know this all too well.
Ryan Williams, a fantasy sleeper for the Arizona Cardinals, is just the latest in a disturbing recent trend to feel the wrath of the Second-Round RB Curse. Selected 38th overall by Arizona in this year’s draft, Williams’ fantasy stock rose after the trade of Tim Hightower to Washington. The Cardinals likely wish they could have that trade back, as Williams suffered a serious injury in Friday’s preseason game, likely a patellar tendon tear.
He wasn’t the first rookie running back to suffer a season-ending injury this August, though. Mikel Leshoure, who looked to be ticketed for a time-share role with starter Jahvid Best in Detroit, tore his ACL in practice. Thought by some to be a better prospect than first-rounder Mark Ingram, Leshoure now faces a long uphill battle to a relevant NFL career. He was a second-round pick (57th overall) by the Lions in this year’s draft.
Williams and Leshoure aren’t the first pair of second-round backs to endure season-ending injuries though. Last year, Ben Tate (selected 58th overall) broke his ankle in Houston’s first preseason game of the year. Then, Montario Hardesty (selected 59th overall) went down with a torn ACL in his first preseason action of 2010. Two backs picked back-to-back and both headed to the IR during the preseason. Both are now fighting veterans to earn No. 2 roles behind established stars.
The Chiefs played it smart in 2010, shifting second-round pick Dexter McCluster to the slot receiver role. Will he be able to continue to cheat death in 2011? Toby Gerhart was the only other back selected in the second round of last year, and he somehow made it through 2010 unscathed, even after picking up double-digit carries for the Vikings on three separate occasions. I suggest he not walk too close to the wheels of the team bus, though.
After the Williams and Leshoure injuries, two rookie second-round backs remain standing. Shane Vereen is dealing with a hamstring issue, and while it’s not serious enough to sideline him for a whole year, there has been speculation that the Patriots should place him on the IR anyway and treat 2011 as a red-shirt season. With the recent history of second-round backs, I’d call that a fantastic idea. The other rookie second-round back left unscathed is Daniel Thomas, a popular selection for fantasy rookie of the year. I’d hold off before handing him the trophy, and I’d definitely make sure there isn’t any sharp corners on his award before he gets it.
Even scarier? The only back selected in the second round of the 2009 draft is one you might recognize. LeSean McCoy has been a fantasy beast in his first few seasons and is a consensus first-round pick. However, the Eagles signed veteran Ronnie Brown to back him up this year, immediately making Brown one of the most talented and experienced NFL backs in a backup role this year. Maybe the Eagles know second-round backs can only cheat Death so long.
*As an Eagles fan, I clearly hope that last paragraph winds up being tongue-in-cheek.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and Razzball and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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