I’m taking a break from my RotoViz Staff Projections (created using a version of the Projection Machine that’s basically the regular Projection Machine with a NOS button) to highlight a Running Back that catches my eye for 2015. Based on my analysis, Ameer Adullah is not only being priced at his floor, he has a high enough PPR ceiling to be a league winner and Zero RB breakout star in 2015.
ADP: 62.5 (RB 28)
PPR Projection: 198.5 (RB 14)
Undervalued Landing Spot
The 2015 Running Back class was touted as one of the deepest in recent memory. While the NFL draft didn’t back up that premise, Ameer Abdullah is proof that this class is at least deeper than last year’s. Despite being the fourth Running Back drafted, Abdullah was taken at exactly the same spot as the first RB selected last year, Bishop Sankey at pick 54. Unlike Sankey, Abdullah hasn’t been seen as the favorite to win the starting job in training camp–he is however, joining a much better offense.
Despite being a productive NFL and fantasy offense last year, something was missing for the Lions offense in 2014. That something was pace. From 2012-2013 the Lions ran their offense at a ridiculously high pace of 6.7 plays per game over average. In 2014 that pace fell to a relative sluggish mark of 1.2. As a result, in 2014 Matthew Stafford threw for the fewest attempts in any full season of his career and Lions ran the fewest offensive plays since their 2009 season. This wasn’t just unusual for the Lions; it was an unusual for their coaching staff as well. Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi was brought in from the ultra-fast paced Saints offense, while Head Coach Jim Caldwell has overseen the fastest paced offense that both the Colts (2010) and Ravens (2013) have had in the last 15 years. Given the history of the Lions personnel and coaches, I think there’s reason to suspect that the team’s pace will rebound in 2015–once again expanding the pie for Detroit’s offensive players.1
Entering this fast paced, past first offense will be an electric rookie with rather weak competition ahead of him, and some extremely enticing comparables. Below is a list of comparables from the Box Score Scout generated using Abdullah’s Weight, Agility, Reception Yards per Game, Market Share of Reception Yards, and Draft position.
With these comparables in hand I headed over to the NFL Career Graphs App and checked out the rookie seasons for each of these runners. Interestingly enough, despite doubling as a who’s who of undersized space backs, Abullah’s comps were, to a man, inefficient rushers as rookies. LeSean McCoy is the only RB in the cohort who had over 4 YPC as a rookie, at 4.062 and the average for the entire group was just 3.8 YPC. As receivers they were better, but not superstars, posting a slightly above league average Yards per Target of 6.18. They were also below average TD makers with an average TD rate of 2.5%.
I used these averages to create a Frankenstein Abdullah and plugged him into the Lions offense as the second RB in a committee with 35% MS of attempts and 13% MS of targets. Compared to Reggie Bush’s role in the 2014 offense, this represents a 6% uptick in rushing and an identical receiving percentage. It’s also right in line with what Gio Bernard, LeSean McCoy and Jahvid Best saw as rookies. The final projection equals 198 PPR Fantasy points, good for RB14 in 2014.3
League Winning Upside
I’ll be the first to admit that 200 PPR fantasy points from a RB, even one currently being drafted as RB28 isn’t going to win your league, but keep in mind that this projection assumes that Joique Bell retains control of the starting role in the offense. Even as a 1B committee back, Abdullah has a high potential for fantasy RB2 numbers in this offense; if he manages to pass the aging and injured Joique Bell, Abdullah could realistically turn in a top 10 RB season at an RB3 price–making Abdullah an early RB zero target and a potentially league winning pick in the 6th round.
- For my projection I set the Lions offense to be 2.5 plays per game over average. This is still well below their 2012-2013 pace and about a play per game less than the Saints’ pace during Lombardi’s final 3 years there. (back)
- excluding Darren Sproles and Isaiah Pead who had less than 2 Att/G. (back)
- Coincidentally just behind Joique Bell. (back)