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Roy Helu: Fantasy Sleeper

Roy Helu

Yesterday, I made the argument for Alex Green as the best running back prospect on the Packers’ suddenly loaded roster. It’s a somewhat unusual contention since Green Bay responded to his abysmal 2012 by adding a ton of talent through the draft. Regardless, Green is still the only back on their depth chart with star potential.

However, if you don’t like Green, he has an equally cheap doppleganger out there going by the name Roy Helu.

Those who follow my work know I recommend the upside-down draft strategy. It’s remarkably easy to execute as long as you target runners who are fast, catch passes, and have a proven track record of collegiate efficiency.

Helu fits all of those categories. The former Nebraska back has a terrible reputation among scouts, an infamy supposedly burnished by his failure in Washington. Analysts tend to see his prospects in a different light. Consider the closest recent comps for Helu.

Name Weight (lbs) 40 Yard Speed Score Agility Score Adj. POE Hlt/Carry
Roy Helu 219 4.40 116.9 10.68 11.2 3.19
Name Weight (lbs) 40 Yard Speed Score Agility Score Adj. POE Hlt/Carry
Alex Green 225 4.45 114.8 11.06 55 4.74
C.J. Spiller 196 4.27 117.9 NA 18.9 2.74
Jamaal Charles 200 4.38 108.7 11.02 Elite Elite
Jahvid Best 199 4.34 112.2 10.92 18.3 3.39
Matt Forte 217 4.44 111.7 11.07 NA NA

Roy Helu fits into a relatively small group of players who sport both elite Speed Scores and elite Agility Scores. Not surprisingly, Helu used this physical ability to put up gaudy numbers in Bill Connelly’s collegiate efficiency metrics. (I’m not sure of the exact numbers for Charles, but he’s one of a small handful of backs who excelled in all three of Connelly’s metrics.)

It’s easy to see why I have Green and Helu as two players who could explode if given the opportunity. In many ways, Helu is even more promising than Green because he authored an underrated rookie year before his sophomore season was doomed by injuries. The biggest reason I like the Agility Score is its ability to foretell receiving success. The following is the complete list of rookie running backs with at least 500 yards rushing and 45 receptions since 1990.

  Year Age GS Yds Y/A Rec YScm
Edgerrin James 1999 21 16 1553 4.21 62 2139
Doug Martin 2012 23 16 1454 4.56 49 1926
Marshall Faulk* 1994 21 16 1282 4.08 52 1804
Matt Forte 2008 23 16 1238 3.92 63 1715
Steve Slaton 2008 22 15 1282 4.78 50 1659
LaDainian Tomlinson 2001 22 16 1236 3.65 59 1603
Terrell Davis 1995 23 14 1117 4.71 49 1484
Domanick Williams 2003 23 10 1031 4.33 47 1382
Maurice Jones-Drew 2006 21 1 941 5.67 46 1377
Trent Richardson 2012 22 15 950 3.56 51 1317
Reggie Bush 2006 21 8 565 3.65 88 1307
Jahvid Best 2010 21 9 555 3.25 58 1042
Roy Helu 2011 23 5 640 4.24 49 1019

A skeptic will quickly note that Helu finished with the fewest yards from scrimmage of any of these players and only averaged 4.24 yards per attempt. The easy counterargument is that any runner with 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 49 receptions generates enough fantasy value to be a significant asset. Moreover, Helu’s yards per attempt actually outstripped the numbers for James, Faulk, Forte, Tomlinson, Richardson, Bush, and Best.

Edgerrin James is an interesting comp because he’s a virtual dead ringer for Helu athletically.

College YPC Height Weight 40 Time Speed Score Short Shuttle 3 Cone Agility Score
Roy Helu 5.9 73 219 4.4 116.9 4.01 6.67 10.68
Edgerrin James 5.9 73 216 4.38 117.4 3.88 6.87 10.75

If a player’s been cloned from a pre-injury Edgerrin James, I’m probably going to recommend targeting him in drafts. Similarity does not equal destiny, however, as Frank often warns. Stacking the deck in your favor is not the same as possessing clairvoyance. In order to successfully execute the mid-round RB strategy, you must be able to stomach the occasional miss.

Forte and Martin are intriguing inclusions because they’re two of the players the Agility Score has promoted in the past. Terrell Davis seemed like a prescient comp heading into 2012 due to the way he made history in the Shanahan offense.

Buyer Beware

Despite all of the positives, Roy Helu remains purely a deep dynasty stash because his usage potential continues to deteriorate. First, he’s unable to stay healthy. Second, Alfred Morris has emerged as heir to the Davis throne. Morris is an underrated player in his own right and currently has a stranglehold on the job in Washington. Finally, the selection of Chris Thompson probably eliminates Helu as a serious candidate for the passing-down role. Thompson easily led 2013 rookies in Adj. POE on a per carry basis. Only Kerwynn Williams and Rex Burkhead finished with more Highlight Yards per Opportunity.

Helu will probably be a training camp casualty in Washington. As is the case for Alex Green, getting released should be a boon to his fantasy value. No one in the 2013 RB class has the athleticism of Helu, and none of them have had the opportunity to demonstrate NFL ability the way he did in his rookie season. Plenty of teams could use his potentially electric playmaking ability.

The Optimistic Long Term View

Green and Helu each have at least an outside chance to follow a similar path to the ones previously trod by Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, two guys who flopped with their original franchises and yet carved out reality success and fantasy value at subsequent stops. The question will be opportunity. Jones and Benson received second chances due to their draft pedigrees (both were Top 10 picks). Green and Helu were picked in the third and fourth rounds respectively, which means all 32 teams originally passed on these players multiple times. Will Green and Helu receive opportunities that are commensurate with their athletic profiles and collegiate track records? Only time will tell.

If you want the back who’s a poor man’s version of these two players but hasn’t yet failed at the NFL level, I strongly recommend Christine Michael.

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