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Jeremy Hill, Zero RB and Motivation Projection

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Iowa vs Louisiana State

If you’re a regular RotoViz reader, you’re probably getting comfortable with the idea of Zero RB drafting. Shawn Siegele wrote some excellent pieces about the concept, as did Fantasy Gumshoe. The concept is an intelligent one; a strategy that I have been primarily using in early season MFL10’s and mocks. However, the entire strategy revolves around being able to identify late round RB targets who will able to be relied upon as weekly starting options.

This brings us to Jeremy Hill. He has seen a massive jump in ADP, per FF Calculator, from the end of the 12th to the middle of the 9th round in 12 team leagues. I’d like to think RV has enough clout that Max Mulitz’s article on Hill had something to do with that. Hill’s price tag has dramatically changed, so I think he is worth analyzing at a deeper level to determine if he’s still a viable Zero RB target.

Name  Height Weight 40 Yard Speed Score Bench Press Vert Leap Broad Jump Shuttle 3Cone Agility Score nQBDR
Jeremy Hill 73 233 4.56 107 20 29 112 4.59 7.64 12.23 0.53

That is not exactly what you would call a premier running back prospect. Obviously, physical talent actually means less at the RB position than anywhere else. It’s primarily an opportunity based position.. which is exactly why BJGE has been given over 180 carries 4 times and why he received more touches than Gio Bernard last season. The point here is that Hill isn’t such a physical specimen that he is a guarantee to overcome Green Ellis. Realistically, a lot of the Jeremy Hill hype started with the report that BJGE was running with the 3rd team at OTA’s. Even with that knowledge, I’m not wholeheartedly buying into Hill. Keep in mind that at this point last year, we were hearing how much Peyton Manning wanted to have Montee Ball involved in the offense, before Bloatshon Moreno lead the team in carries and RB receptions.

Fantasy footballers have developed a hatred for Green Ellis that NFL coaches never will. BJGE doesn’t fumble, he knows what he needs to do as a blocker and I would imagine that he is perceived as a positive locker room guy. In fact, that exact idea is corroborated in this Cincy Jungle article. Basically, all of things that coaches think rookies are bad at (ball security, pass blocking) are things that Green Ellis is good at. We don’t like him, yet year after year, he wiggles his way into 200 carries. Just as was the case in Denver last year, the veteran proved to be more reliable to the coaching staff, much to the chagrin of Rookie Derangement Syndrome drafts.

It is impossible to suffer without making someone pay for it; every complaint already contains revenge.- Friedrich Nietzsche

In order for Hill to live up to a 9th round ADP, he has to displace Green Ellis. That much is not debatable. If he is only able to take half of Green’s carries from 2013, there is very little chance he is able to generate enough fantasy points to be a weekly option, which is what is important. 7 carries a week, especially from a player who doesn’t profile as an “offensive weapon”, is not enough to sustain fantasy value. Last year BJGE received 19 carries inside the 10 yard line and converted those into 7 touchdowns; Gio Bernard turned 11 goalline carries into 4 touchdowns. Both of them were relatively effective around the goalline, so we could merely be wishfully projecting by putting Hill in that role. All indications, at this point, from Cincy are that Green Ellis will remain on the roster, so it doesn’t seem extremely likely that Hill was drafted to be the thunder to Gio’s lightning immediately.

More than anything, it’s concerning that Hill’s pass catching upside is extremely limited. Bernard had the 2nd most catches of any Bengal and Green Ellis caught only 4 passes all season. Granted, there is a new offensive coordinator replacing Jay Gruden; but I see little to suggest that new coach Hue Jackson would remove Bernard from the one role that he was truly exceptional at. Gio averaged 4.1 YPC, which actually surprised me when I looked it up. BJGE was obviously worse at 3.4 YPC but that margin just isn’t as wide as you’d think. Through the air however, Gio averaged 7.24 yards per target. Out of the backfield is when Gio is at his best and the coaches aren’t taking that away from him. In general, it’s incredibly difficult for a running back to be a solid fantasy asset without catching passes. If they aren’t getting those chunk gains and PPR boosts, then they become touchdown reliant for fantasy value.

In order for Hill to become a fantasy asset that you want to start on a weekly basis, one of Gio or BJGE would have to get injured. Gio will retain his status as a weapon in the passing game, Green Ellis is going to remain his 3 yards and a cloud of dust self. If BJGE gets injured, then the door is open for Hill to become an ultra valuable asset. He is most assuredly better than Green Ellis and if he takes over his role, it will be hard for the coaches to justify returning it to him. However, temper your expectations. I would much rather have a Zero RB target like Latavius Murray, who has the physical gifts and less talented/older players in front of him and, when inserted into the lineup, will command both carries and receptions. While Hill might not be an athletic marvel, the Bengals DID spend some real draft capital on him. Green Ellis won’t be around forever (in fact, he will likely be gone when his contract expires at the end of this season) and the drafting of Hill is likely a signal that the team is going to move on from him eventually. The smartest way to invest in Hill is probably to wait a year, watch BJGE fart around the Bengals backfield, and snag him at a reduced cost before he develops into Gio’s permanent backfield partner.

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