This article is continuing a two-part monthly series called Dynasty Stock Market that discusses which players I am buying or selling on my Dynasty rosters. The January installments can he found here (buys) and here (sells). The February installments can be found here (buys) and here (sells).
BRACE YOURSELVES – FREE AGENCY IS COMING
Last year around this time, I became infatuated with Chris Ivory. There was this bizarre consensus in the fantasy community that Ivory wasn’t good, based on… I don’t even know, the eye test? Advanced stats? Previous, unconnected injuries? I have no idea. I didn’t really care how good Ivory was in the opinion of anyone who wasn’t Jets’ offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. All I cared about was if Ivory was the likeliest to receive the Jets’ primary running back’s workload, and if it was probable enough for me to bet on at his current price.
The question fantasy players seem to always be answering is “who’s good?” when the question the game is asking is probably a lot closer to “who will get the work?”
Based on his cheap contract, with competition from only the injured Stevan Ridley, the disgruntled cast-off Zac Stacy, and Bilal Powell, it seemed fairly obvious Ivory was likely to receive an incredibly valuable workload. And if he received that workload, his value would skyrocket:
Nitpicking over his yards per carry, or that the Jets have great red zone receivers which would limit Ivory’s goal line touches, or that Powell was a better receiver, or that Ivory previously had trouble with injuries, all seemed extremely counterproductive. Sure, the Jets could have brought in DeMarco Murray in free agency, or traded for LeSean McCoy, or drafted Todd Gurley; but, none of those things were probable or likely. That’s what I care about, and what I want to own at this time of year: running backs with low prices, and short paths to incredibly valuable workloads.
I wrote about two of these backs in January, Charles Sims and Matt Jones, the latter of which has since had Fantasy Douche also emphasize exactly the same thing about likely opportunity. There is another running back that I think also fit this value/opportunity golden cross right now:
This is Crowell’s current blurb – from Week 17 of last season – on Rotoworld:
Crowell turned it on late in the year, averaging 5.23 yards per carry over the final five games and scoring three of his four rushing touchdowns. Crowell scored five touchdowns total and racked up 888 total yards on 204 touches. Crowell has flashed several times in his two seasons in the league, but he has been frustratingly inconsistent. The new front office in Cleveland could look to bring in an early-down complement to Duke Johnson. Even if Crowell keeps the job, he will be nothing more than an RB3 in what should remain a dysfunctional offense.
I, uh, respectfully disagree, but appreciate the illustration of why people are probably willing to sell you Crowell for a warm can of PBR right now.
Yes, his production on the entire year was pretty atrocious, but the fact he “turned it on” when most running backs fade hard interests me at least as much as what he did earlier in the season. As far as what the Cleveland front office could do, I agree that a significant free agent acquisition or draft pick for the type of back that complements Johnson is a possibility.
As mentioned above, I am only betting on what I think is most probable or likely. I’m not sure why a team in such disarray would be willing to invest heavily in a running back after spending the 77th overall pick on Johnson last season, and having Crowell under contract for only one remaining year at $600,000. For years, guessing what the Browns’ front office will do has been like trying to guess what the drunkest regular at your local dive bar will say next, so it’s very hard to apply logic and reason to them. We could also just throw shit at the wall and read it like a Rorschach test, because that’s probably a fair simulation of their actual process.
I agree with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot that Johnson looks primed for a great season and boost in value, so please don’t see this endorsement of Crowell as a knock on Johnson. I believe that Johnson is at least as good a prospect as Giovani Bernard, with Johnson’s higher Dominator Rating, earlier Breakout Age, and being in a much stronger running back class, offsetting the difference in draft capital. They also might be exactly the same person, when you see they are each other’s closet comp in the Box Score Scout, and factor in being separated by only two months in age at the time of being drafted:
But this isn’t about Johnson, and his similarly to one of new Browns’ head coach Hue Jackson’s running backs in Cincinnati. No, this is about Crowell’s similarity to Jackson’s other former RB, Jeremy Hill.
Kevin Cole recently wrote about the combine metrics that matter for RBs. The archetype most likely to have NFL success runs a 4.5 forty or faster, is 5 feet 10 inches or taller, and has a broad jump of 124 inches or longer. While Crowell misses two of those thresholds, he is far, far closer to all three than Hill is. Here is how the two compared as prospects, courtesy of Mockdraftable.com‘s signature Spider Charts.1 Hill is on the left, Crowell is on the right:
When we look at their production up until this point in their career, this is how Hill and Crowell match up:
|Player||Attempts||Rush Yds||Rush TDs||Targets||Receptions||Rec Yds||Rec TDs||Scimmage Yds||PPR FPS||FPS/Touch||ruFPOEpa|
The eight rushing touchdowns are the obvious, immediate difference between the two, yet I believe that is a byproduct of the respective offenses rather than the players’ abilities.
The Browns gave an abnormally low 307 total rushes to their three leading running backs last season, compared with 425 in 2014, and 405 and 387 for Jackson’s Bengals in those two seasons, respectively. Crowell had 60.3 percent of the team rushes in 2015, for a total of 185 rushing attempts, and four of his twelve career touchdowns, a TD rate of 2.16 percent. In 2014, he had eight of his career touchdowns on 148 attempts, for a TD rate of 5.4 percent, which was on only 34.8 percent of team rushes. If he had gotten the same 60.3 percent share as 2015, he would have had 108 more carries, and at the same TD rate, he would have had six more touchdowns.
No, the Browns offense will not be as dynamic scoring touchdowns as the Bengals were last season, even with Jackson, and even assuming that Josh McCown can stay healthy and productive. However, when you can consider tight end Tyler Eifert and Hill combined for a staggering 24 touchdowns, and between the two of them, only four of those were from further than 14 yards away, there appears to be a cushion for team touchdown regression, and Crowell still having abundant scoring opportunity. Only three of Hill’s eleven 2015 touchdowns were from further than three yards away, and only one of them was from further than eight yards away. Hill also only had one run on the season longer than 17 yards, while Crowell had six such runs on 38 fewer carries. While Gary Barnidge had a similar seven of his nine touchdowns from 14 yards or closer, prior to Eifert, a tight end in Jackson’s offense never had a more relevant season than (OG version) Zach Miller‘s TE11 finish in 2010.
Crowell is now in a very similar position to Hill a year ago, yet the former’s Dynasty average draft position is about one hundred picks cheaper than the latter’s was at the same time:
Per DynastyLeagueFootball.com’s February ADP, the closest rookie pick to Crowell in startup drafts in Paul Perkins, currently 2.10. Both Jacob Rickrode and Ty Miller have written about the likelihood of draft picks that late hitting, and I think anywhere in the very late second to early third range is a fair price to pay for what could be an impending, dramatic appreciation in value. He also has an almost identical ADP to Barnidge, and that seems like a no-brainer one for one swap if you can make it.
*Editor’s note: This was in the process of being written when the news broke that Murray had been traded to the Tennessee Titans. While the price will no doubt skyrocket, the information below should still be seen as an endorsement of Ryan Mathews in the Eagles offense.*
Former Chiefs’ offensive coordinator and Andy Reid disciple Doug Pederson has been hired as the new Eagles’ head coach. Here is a chart of what the primary starting running back in each game has done in offenses that Pederson was on the staff, throughout his career:
|Year||Rushes||Rush Yds||Rush TD||Targets||Catches||Rec Yds||Rec TDs||Scrimmage Yds||PPR FPS||FPS/Touch|
Mathews thrived last year in an unfamiliar offense and scheme, as he will be asked to do again this year. According to our Fantasy Points Over Expectation App, he was the most efficient rusher with at least one hundred attempts in all of football:
Murray was probably better than people give him credit for, posting a respectable 0.07 ruFPOEpa, and Tim Talmadge gave other positives highlighting why Murray is his favorite buy low right now. Mathews, however, was exceptional. Darren Sproles has one of the easiest contracts to cut in football, so depending on who else is brought in, Sproles’ expected receiving work could become available.
Don’t break the bank in the wake of Murray being traded — Mathews is still going to be 29 years old in October, has had an extensive injury history, and could also be the next exiled Kelly signing at any minute. If the price is right, though, you could be buying that valuable primary running back role in a Reid scheme that provided Brian Westbrook, McCoy, and Jamaal Charles other worldly seasons.
As the offseason rolls on, be sure to check the Dynasty ADP App, including the Trade Calculator tab, in order to help gauge the current market value of players. If you are in a Dynasty league on MyFantasyLeague.com, please make sure the word DYNASTY in in your league name so that it is counted in our data. Be sure to keep up with our super scout Jon Moore (@TheCFX), The Oracle (@MattFTheOracle), and the rest of the RotoViz prospect and scouting team to learn about all the rookies before your leaguemates. If you are participating in a Startup draft for a new Dynasty League, this primer by high stakes Dynasty player Jacob Rickrode (@ClutchFantasy) is fantastic. If you have specific Dynasty trades, or questions about strategy/player values, always feel free to reach out to your favorite Rotoviz writer at any time, either through the site, or on Twitter. If you are looking for contract information, we use and recommend Rotoworld.com and overthecap.com.
- Crowell is also three months younger than Hill (back)