"Can I count on Roy Helu as the Redskins feature RB the rest of 2011?"
Roy Helu has a semi-shocking game this week. The hands-down starting RB was a bit of a shock, but even more shocking was the 17 pass-targets and 14 receptions for 105 yards. Now Helu has become the "it" player of the week. The question we are getting most often this week -- "Can he be trusted to be the feature Redskins RB?"
I think part of the question is driven by the erratic nature of Mike Shanahan. Some of the issue is, is Helu that talented? I will address those two concerns, and one additional item...and you can decide which lane to take.
Roy Helu's talent..
After the 2011 NFL Draft we wrote the following in ranking Helu as our 8th best long-term prospect among the RB class:
.......#8 = Roy Helu, Washington Redskins (Nebraska)...Helu has many great physical measureables, he is big (5'11, 219) and yet extremely fast and agile...possibly the most agile RB in the draft. He has huge hands, which should translate into being a very good receiving RB. His on-field college performance was decent, we would have hoped for better based on the measureables...but not bad. He needs to get stronger to become an every down RB in the NFL...he had a red-flag level low bench press at the NFL Combine, and he is a higher injury risk by the numbers in our system analysis. Helu walks into a great situation with the Redskins, and he could be the "speed RB" or 3rd-down RB right away in 2011. BEST COLLEGE DATA MATCH = Felix Jones (with some Jamaal Charles)
Roy Helu could very well be the X-factor of this group. There are some things we see in the numbers that get us excited, but there are a few red-flags of concern. He may have a hard time jumping right in to the fray in 2011, but with some weight room work -- he could be the best RB in this draft long-term......
Helu did play right away, but sparingly. However, the signs of being a legit NFL RB was evident. From a talent perspective, Helu is not only a legit 3rd-down RB...he is potentially a good/great NFL RB.
We do think Helu is a slight injury-risk, but that's a more long-term argument. As a starter in Week-10, I'd be excited. We are higher on Helu, then we are DeMarco Murray from a talent standpoint...but there are a lot of similarities. Given the choice, Helu has some metrics in our system that are elite characteristics...which makes us lean toward him. All that to say, we like Helu a lot.
The Mike Shanahan effect...
The real X-factor. There is seemingly no rhyme or reason to Shanahan's RB usage. I don't mean that as bad or good from an NFL standpoint...but for Fantasy Football, it's not good.
If you think that this great Helu performance meant anything for definitive for Week-10, you don't know Mike Shanahan. It wasn't a few weeks ago that the Fantasy Football world was all a buzz about Ryan Torain running for 135 yards versus St. Louis...now Torain is in Fantasy purgatory. It's just not Torain 2011. It's Torain 2010, Larry Johnson 2010, James Davis 2010, Keiland Williams 2010, Clinton Portis 2010. It doesn't take much for Shanahan to switch gears...and all we know about Helu so far is, that he can catch a lot of dump passes from a weak QB in a beat-down via San Fran.
Tashard Choice was once a highly rated RB prospect. What happens if he enters the game with a nice few runs? Shanahan will proclaim him the greats RB since Tim Hightower or Terrell Davis...and then it will be Choice starting, or splitting.
You would want to think Shanahan goes with the young/hot talent, but that would be defying his track record of the past 1.5 years. Be very, very, very (hold on I just dropped Ryan Torain in another league) cautious on over-playing your Redskins RB hand.
The Schedule Storm Clouds...
I really want to go all in on Helu. To us, this is our DeMarco Murray opportunity. We had grabbed/stashed Helu a bunch when Hightower went down, and Torain fell short with his first opportunity. Now I am thinking, "a ha...I found my mid-season waiver RB who turns into a star." Lee Corso just said his famous line...
The schedule ahead of run-defenses, simply put, is one of doom and gloom for Helu. The team names may not seem it, but our internal data screams it. Not always because the defense is that great, it may be that teams choose to pass all over them...and skip a heavy run plan. Either way, the schedule ahead for Helu/Choice/Torain/Riggins/Hillis etc...whatever Shanahan pulls out of his butt, is as follows:
Week-10 vs. Miami = In our internal metrics, Miami is allowing 4th lowest amount of FF PPG to RBs, and is in our top-10 toughest against the run
Week-11 vs. Dallas = up until the last two weeks, Dallas was a top-3 against the run. Now just mediocre, but still a threat because of what they have been capable of.
Week-12 vs. Seattle = a top-10 internal vs. the run
Week-13 vs. the Jets = have been much easier on the run this year, but they always strike fear...at a minimum they don't allow for huge upside games.
Week-14 vs. New England = the one defensive thing they excel at...just a little better than NFL/FF average
Week-15 vs. NY Giants = best opportunity of the rest of 2011, if you can make it this far
Week-16 vs. Minnesota = have been stout against the run, partly because so dreadful against the pass.
No real easy games, or nice opponent stretches for Helu/Redskins RBs in there...pair that with a disaster of a passing game/bad QBs, and this may not be the home run we all hope.
Helu is definitely worth the look no doubt, and he is an exciting talent with upside...just be very wary of counting on him "for sure" the rest of 2011.
In terms of a 10-point scale. Helu is probably worth a 7-8 on talent, but is worth a 5-6 based on schedule and Shanahan. However, he has heated up to a 8-9 value. I say, if you can exchange him for 8-9 value...for something more secure, I would do it. Prior to this week, Helu was a 3-4 at best. One bad game next week, send him sailing backwards in value. The only thing that has been consistent in weighing Helu big output games vs. Shanahan's tendency for being fickle with RBs...is Shanahan's track record...so beware.