At my fantasy drafts back in August and September, whenever someone was hemming and hawing over who to pick, I often rather arrogantly shouted out “Alfred Morris is still available.” I generally was rewarded for my trash talk with some confusion, a couple of guffaws (unless it was the seventh or eighth time I brought up his name) or perhaps some ridicule. The drafter would usually roll his eyes and pick someone else.
Well, 1600 yards and 13 touchdowns later, Morris has made me look like a dumbass.
I had a fairly successful season this year. I won two leagues, took fifth place in a game-picking pool that included 167 participants and, most importantly, beat my brother in both our picks and bets segments (although admittedly the latter isn’t saying much).
But it is guys like Morris who make fantasy football challenging and who keep me from talking too much trash. They make deep research rewarding — and this year I failed. There was no greater “no name” getting selected in drafts as the 2012 season got underway. He’s a rookie sixth-round pick on a team coached by Mike Shanahan, who usually rotates running backs like Lindsay Lohan rotates court appearances.
But Shanahan has shown over the years that if he can find the guy he likes, he’ll ride him as a bell cow for a season ala Mike Anderson or Olandis Gary, or Reuben Droughns, or, in the case of Terrell Davis, a half-dozen seasons until the runner is broken down.
And on Sunday night, Shanahan rode Morris to the tune of 33 carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns, as the Redskins knocked rival Dallas out of the playoffs. He was rewarded, as the rookie helped earn Washington its first home playoff game since 1999.
It’s also guys like Morris who reward the best of fantasy players for doing their homework. I regret immensely not having looked more deeply into his profile before heading to my drafts. Yes, I won two leagues, but that means there were three leagues I didn’t win. And part of the problem I had this season in all my leagues across the board was that I went all-in on wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks and then missed badly on the mid-round sleeper running backs I selected.
Morris was there to be had in most leagues as nothing more than a late-round flyer. It’s those late-round flyers that often make the difference in cashing a check or having to figure out where you’ll scrape together your entry fee for next year.
As for real-life football, it looks like in Morris Shanahan has found another Davis. Rightfully, most of the attention in Washington this season was focused on the play of Robert Griffin III, who likely will win NFL Rookie of the Year and whose game I also love.
But make no mistake about it. Morris played a big role in helping RGIII achieve what he has this season by giving him a run threat that fellow rookie phenom Andrew Luck did not have.
I love the way Morris runs. He’s not fast, but he never stops churning his legs. And he plays like someone with something to prove. I haven’t started mocking fantasy drafts for next year yet, but without a doubt this Redskins rookie will be gone within the first couple rounds in most formats. I would like to see Washington add a legit second option, as Morris’ running style doesn’t lend itself to long careers if used as the only option. But I’ve fallen for this guy – he’ll certainly be high on my draft lists.
And if ever again someone like Morris starts showing up on the bottom of cheat sheets as fantasy drafts and auctions start, I’ll be less apt to mock their presence and more likely to hop onto Google to see if I can learn some more.