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Bilal Powell: The Unheralded Fantasy Asset

In this new era of fantasy football, where finding consistent workhorse running back production is rare, piecing together the RB position is a viable strategy for building winning teams. According to Fantasy Data, 14 of the top-24 RBs in 2015 (PPR scoring) had over 40 receptions, and almost half carried the ball fewer than 200 times.

More than ever “third-down backs” like Charles Sims, Danny Woodhead and Theo Riddick are taking on prominent roles and becoming late round steals for fantasy owners. Even though those three had great seasons, they might not be regarded as essential dynasty assets. And if they’re not, chances are Bilal Powell isn’t either.

ATHLETICISM

It’s exciting to use the Box Score Scout to check out amazing athletes and lust over the opportunity these players may get. So when looking at Powell’s profile, I can understand how it would be easy to overlook him after seeing average speed and no agility numbers. But a closer examination displays that Powell had a 72nd percentile college Dominator Rating and 74th percentile college yards per carry. Being most comparable to this year’s fantasy breakout star Devonta Freeman is also intriguing.

PERFORMANCE

Powell has averaged 4.0 yards per carry over his five year career, steadily climbing every season to 4.5 YPC in 2015. Excluding the two games where he played fewer than 15 percent of the snaps – games in which he was injured – here’s how he produced for fantasy (0.5 PPR).

powellsplits

Extrapolated to a full season, he would almost be on par with Danny Woodhead.

Name RushAtts RushYards Targets Recs TotalTDs FantasyRank
Woodhead 97 335 107 81 9 RB3
Powell 117 560 108 80 6 RB4

Using the AYA app we can see that Powell earned Ryan Fitzpatrick an AYA of 6.6 on 63 targets. While it’s a small sample size, that’s the equivalent of Matt Forte‘s career AYA with Jay Cutler at QB.

In terms of efficiency, he again was almost equivalent to Forte in the receiving game while his fantasy points per rush attempt (0.17) was sandwiched between Doug Martin and Mark Ingram. That’s not to sell him as an upper echelon talent but more to demonstrate how well he is producing on a per touch basis.

OPPORTUNITY

NAME GMS SNAPS SPG SNP.PCT OPPS OPP.RATE RUYDS RECYDS RUYPS RECYPS
Chris Ivory 12 455 37.92 0.54 248 0.55 914 208 2.01 0.46
Bilal Powell 9 287 31.89 0.45 106 0.37 232 300 0.81 1.05
Zac Stacy 7 140 20.00 0.29 43 0.31 89 65 0.64 0.46
Tommy Bohanon 5 108 21.60 0.32 10 0.09 2 56 0.02 0.52
Stevan Ridley 5 40 8.00 0.11 19 0.47 27 -5 0.68 -0.12

A case can be made that he saw extra usage over the course of the season because Chris Ivory was dealing with lower body injuries to hamstrings and quadriceps almost all year, but the thing is… that’s nothing new. According to Sports Injury Predictor, prior to the 2015 season, Ivory had 16 listed injuries dating back to college and 10 of those 16 (63 percent) have been lower body injuries.

Considering that Powell already averaged double digit carries in the majority of the games he played this season, it’s not a stretch to assume that if Ivory were to go down at any point in 2016, he would assume a heavier rushing workload as well as remain the primary pass catching back.

Powell (and Stevan Ridley) will become a free agent at the end of the season so a lot could change but I believe the Jets will view re-signing him as a priority, as they did last March. If he remains in New York, Chan Gailey’s history suggests he will retain heavy usage. Over Gailey’s seasons as head coach in Buffalo and offensive coordinator for the Chiefs, his RBs accounted for 20 percent of the target market share and the top two backs divided about 75 percent of the rushing attempts.

The price to acquire him will depend on the perceived value by his owner but I would look to offload players with limited ceilings like an Albert Wilson or Jermaine Kearse. According to our Dynasty App, they were in the same neighborhood of ADP before the season started and I don’t suspect that changed very much. Powell will help you more at RB than they will at WR. I wouldn’t recommend being overly aggressive but if you’re looking for a low key move that could pay dividends in 2016, adding Bilal Powell now might just be it.

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