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This Year’s Buck Allen…Is Buck Allen

Every year we do our best to flesh out the various backfield situations around the NFL and try to pinpoint any spots for potential value. On the latest edition of the Fantasy Forefront,1 I declared that Buck Allen is currently an incredible value option in Baltimore. Here’s why.

#TeamTrestman

Every RB argument in Baltimore needs to start with Marc Trestman. Take a look at how involved his RBs have been in the passing game, and how his top RBs have finished.

YearTeamPass AttRB TarRB Tar %RB1 Finish
Average-592.83120.6720%12.33
2015BAL67611217%28
2014CHI60913622%3
2013CHI57910117%2
2003OAK5219117%26
2002OAK61915325%4
2001OAK55313124%11

If you are keeping score at home, Trestman has had an RB1 in four of his last six seasons as a head coach or offensive coordinator. His teams have also never had less than 17 percent of its targets go to RBs, with as much as 25 percent in a single season. When you consider the potential for chaos at WR this year for Baltimore, I doubt that number dips below what we are used to seeing from Trestman, and there is obviously upside to be had in that department.

This is more of an argument for the RBs in Baltimore being valuable overall than just for Allen individually, but if you look at who has been successful for Trestman, we can gain some optimism for him.

YearTeamRB1RB2
2015BALBuck AllenJustin Forsett
2014CHIMatt ForteKa'Deem Carey
2013CHIMatt ForteMichael Bush
2003OAKCharlie GarnerTyrone Wheatley
2002OAKCharlie GarnerTyrone Wheatley
2001OAKCharlie GarnerTyrone Wheatley

As you can see, continuity has been big under Trestman,2 with the same RB being his top dog every year spent with both Oakland and Chicago. This bodes well for Allen, who was the highest scoring RB for Baltimore last season, despite starting just six games.

Why Allen Should Buck Forsett

It would be irresponsible of me to not mention that it was Justin Forsett who opened up as the starter last season, and not Allen. However, I am expecting Allen to pass the veteran in 2016. For starters, Allen struggled mightily with fumbles last pre-season, and that could have been a big reason why he did not see more time immediately in 2016. Now take a look at how they performed last year.

Forsett and Buck CG

The first thing you should notice is that though Forsett was the nominal starter when healthy, his market share of receiving targets was only one percent greater than Allen’s over the course of the season. In fact, Allen recorded more targets in the six games Forsett was out (43) than the veteran managed in the 10 he was healthy (41). He also was much more efficient, managing a yards per target of 5.53 while Forsett’s was only 3.73. Considering how important receiving is for Trestman RBs, Allen’s major advantage as a receiver should net him more snaps than Forsett.

A major objection to this is their difference in rushing efficiency, as Allen averaged about half a yard less than Forsett per carry. However, it is important to note that the loss of Forsett coincided with the loss of QB Joe Flacco, and that sunk the Baltimore passing game (which obviously would have an effect on rushing efficiency). Also the selection of RBs in back to back off-seasons in the NFL Draft probably says something about how the team views Forsett long term. Overall, the veteran does not intimidate me much with respect to Allen.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

The biggest obstacle in Allen’s way this season is rookie Kenneth Dixon. Why do I say that? Because Allen will basically be competing against himself.

Buck and Dixon BSS

The similarities between Allen and Dixon are uncanny, with the primary difference being that Allen did his work at a Power Five school, while Dixon thrashed Conference USA. However, I have two conclusions to draw from this.

  1. The selection of Dixon immediately after the selection of Allen tells me that the Ravens are looking for a particular type of RB. This is more information that points to Forsett being phased out in 2016.
  2. Since the two players are so similar, who has the best performance should come down to opportunity.

So we now have a situation where the fantasy value is probably dictated more by the coaching staff than anything else, and we have already seen Allen be successful given that opportunity. Fortunately, there is another variable for us to consider as fantasy players.

Price

The current gap in price between Allen and the other Baltimore RBs is simply egregious.

BAL RB ADP

When MFL10s started out in February, Allen was the highest drafted player of the three. However, once the NFL Draft occurred, we saw him take a massive drop with the selection of Dixon. Currently, Dixon is going the highest of the three Baltimore RBs (RB38, pick 106 overall) with Forsett right behind him (RB40, 108 overall). Then 30 picks later Allen is going off the board (RB49, 138 overall). In dynasty, the gap between Dixon and Allen is even more exacerbated, with Dixon (RB20) going over 40 picks prior to Allen (RB37). This simply makes no sense, unless you expect the Ravens to take their most effective RB from a year ago and relegate him to the left end of the bench.3

Conclusion

The Baltimore RB situation is one of the most muddled spots in the entire NFL, but we know that it can provide value. With Trestman at the helm of the offense, it could even provide RB1 value. In these spots, it is usually a strong play to select the player going later if we know he can produce. The pieces of data that we have on this situation tell us that Allen has proven effectiveness in this offense, and is currently incredibly cheap to acquire in both re-draft and dynasty formats. That makes him an easy buy at this point in the off-season. Go get him while you still can.

  1. Shameless plug here, Heith and I will be coming to the RotoViz channel starting June 6th  (back)
  2. We have also seen this with his wide receivers, as he tends to keep his starters on the field the majority of snaps.  (back)
  3. As a former bench warmer, I know that the left end is far worse than the right.  (back)
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