“This cat, he is thick,” Terrell Davis said on Adam Schefter’s podcast. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen him; he is built like no other. I mean, he is a throwback. He’s kind of a fullback in the way he’s built, but he is thick, and he runs with an attitude.”
Still, Kelley remained atop the depth chart during offseason workouts and training camp practices. Then Perine had a forgettable preseason debut against the Ravens — fumbling the ball, dropping a pass, not running effectively — and those predictions began to change.
Which affected fantasy football projections, too. “The hype slowed and then nearly cratered,” wrote my pal Ben Standig, who monitors fantasy football rankings far more than I do. Just look at these graphs of the two backs’ average draft positions since July 1, via Fantasy Football Calculator. (The scales used are slightly different, but the trend is what’s interesting.)
And let’s be honest: fantasy football players care about the identity of the Washington starting running back a lot more than anyone else does, or should. I’m going to quote Roto World here, not because Roto World is the world’s most accurate source of Redskins personnel news, but because it sort of shows how the fantasy-obsessed have attempted to find a fixed truth in this uncertain universe.
“Kelley is miles ahead in this battle,” that site wrote on Aug. 11.
“Rob Kelley is locked in as the starter,” that site wrote on Aug. 12.
“Perine could eventually unseat Kelley, but it sounds like sophomore Kelley is going to have more rope than expected as starter,” that site wrote on Aug. 15.
Then Kelley struggled in the second preseason game, while Perine starred — albeit playing with backups and against backups — and the conversation changed again. At least, it did if you listen to Chris Cooley.
“This running back job has got to be open,” the Redskins analyst said during the team’s radio broadcast on Saturday night, just after one of Perine’s longer runs. “And I know that there wasn’t a lot blocked for Rob Kelley tonight, but there’s no way that Perine isn’t in the running here to take this job. I know [Coach Jay Gruden] loves Rob Kelley, but that cut Perine makes right there to cross over, that’s a special cut.”