Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/28/13
Earlier this week, I put out my annual fantasy football preview where I predict the ten best value players. For that article click here, (apologies for the formatting, it’s a new site so bear with us).  Spoiler alert, I feature Dwayne Bowe, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Matt Stafford among others.I wanted to take a deeper dive on some of the players who are particularly controversial.  I’ve already written about C.J. Spiller and Danny Amendola for Football Nation and am turning my attention to Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins.Morris burst onto the scene last season as a rookie out of Florida Atlantic. Traditionally, Mike Shanahan has frustrated fantasy owners with his running back by committee philosophy and his ability to plug unknown running backs into his zone-blocking system with success (Mike Anderson, Orlandis Gary, and Reuben Droughns ring any bells?).Last year, Morris became the starter after a great preseason and never relinquished his hold on the job. He finished with 1,613 yards rushing and 13 TDs. Expect Morris to build on his rookie year and expect a stellar sophomore campaign.Shanahan’s Magic TouchWhile Shanahan has had an alchemist’s touch with unknown running backs, his track record with elite backs is even more encouraging. Shanahan has had arguably two elite running backs in the NFL—Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis.Remember that Morris ran for 1,613 yards rushing and 13 TDs in his rookie season, an outstanding total for a rookie—the fourth most rushing yards by a rookie ever.Portis ran for 1,508 yards and 15 TDs his rookie year and then followed that up with 1,591 yards and 14 TDs the second year. Davis rushed for 1,117 yards and seven TDs his first year with Shanahan and then 1,538 yards and 13 TDs his sophomore season.This is why I am doubtful that Morris will take a step back and suffer a sophomore slump. Morris will have the opportunity and experience to build on his successThe RG3 VoidOver the final eight games of the season (after RG3 was injured against the Pittsburgh Steelers), the read-option was marginalized and Morris took on a greater role in the offense.  Morris averaged 112 yards per game for the last eight games of the season.After Robert Griffin III was injured by Haloti Ngata, scrambling in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens, Morris averaged 27 carries a game for 126 yards. While this is eschewed by Morris’ massive 33 carry, 200-yard effort against the Dallas Cowboys, it does not change the fact that Morris received more carries to compensate for Griffin absence/ limited mobility.Expect Morris to receive the lion’s share of touches in the Redskins offense especially in the early stages of 2013 as RG3 works his way back from ACL surgery.Development of a Three-Down BackAdding to Morris’ touches is his development as a three-down back and threat in the passing game. This development took small steps during the season as Shanahan began to trust him more.Morris only had 11 catches for 77 yards the entire season. That’s a game’s worth of work for Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles! Now while no one expects Morris to thrive in the passing game, competence would go a long way both to improving his fantasy value and improving the Redskins’ offense. Now Morris did begin to take on a larger role in the passing game towards the end of the season. Over the last three games, he caught five passes for 35 yards. Now while this doesn’t seem like a drastic shift, extrapolated over the entire season Morris would have 27 catches for 187 yards. In standard scoring that’s an additional point a game and in PPR that’s three bonus points.Consider this: with no presence in the passing game whatsoever Morris was a top five back. If he shows marginal improvement in the passing game, he could vault into the top three.Cyril is also the Director of Fantasy Analysis for bemycommish.com. Email him with questions or thoughts at fantasy_cyril@yahoo.com or on Twitter at fantasy_cyril.
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