This is part of a series that identifies key traits of the best/worst picks of 2015, and finds three candidates to be this year’s version of those players.
What was DeAngelo Williams last season?
But what was he a year ago, before we knew that? What were the key descriptors one would have used to describe Williams last June?
- Accomplished running back
- On a great offense
- Potential for three-down work due to dearth of positional competition
- Late average draft position (15.03 or 171st overall for all 2015 MFL10s)
Which running backs with depressed, late round average draft positions closely fit that description this year?
Packers running back James Starks doesn’t have the resume that Williams does by a long shot. Williams was the 27th overall pick in the 2006 draft, and was the overall RB2 in 2008 when he had 18 rushing touchdowns.2 No, Starks is quite the contrast, as a former sixth round pick with only nine rushing touchdowns in his whole career. However, we have decent sample sizes from the last three seasons which show that when he was given a relevant amount of work, he was a very competent and productive back.
That 16 game pace of 180 fantasy points would’ve been RB17 last year (Charles Sims) and that pace of 224 points would have been RB7 (Matt Forte).
We have new app called The Team Splits App, which can be used to illustrate things like how much Jordy Nelson being on the field helps the Packers as a team:
You can see that the Packers rush the ball more often, for more yards, and more touchdowns, when Nelson plays versus last season when he didn’t. That 18.4 rushing fantasy points per game when Nelson was active is 23.5 percent higher than the 14.9 in games he didn’t play. And it’s not just rushing production that declined last year from Packers running backs, it was also their receiving:
Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect Starks to come close to that 269 fantasy points Eddie Lacy paced in his first two seasons. But as illustrated above, his pace of 224 in the eight games he has more than ten carries is damn respectable.
DEARTH OF POSITIONAL COMPETITION
Quick, can you name any other running back you are positive is currently under contract with Green Bay?
We actually like a lot about North Dakota State product, 2015 undrafted free agent John Crockett, but he only managed nine touches last year, all rushing attempts when Green Bay was desperate for running back help. If you’ve never heard of the other running backs on their current roster, 2016 UDFAs Don Jackson (Nevada) or Brandon Burks (Troy), don’t feel bad, I haven’t eith- oh, what the hell, Fantasy Douche actually profiled Burks? How? I’m almost positive no one has profiled Jackson… yet.
Matt Forte was rumored to be a target for Green Bay in free agency prior to his signing with the Jets, so the possibility they bring in an Arian Foster, Reggie Bush, or Knowshon Moreno isn’t out of the question. As it stands now, though, Starks looks primed for a full feast of touches if Lacy’s chronic toe ailment, or Chinese food addiction, should flare up at any point this year.
15.07 or 175th overall, RB57
Do I even need to remind you? No further words needed, here’s Chris Johnson‘s career:
|Year||Overall Fantasy Finish|
|2015||RB34 (11 games)|
Johnson’s 10.95 points per game in the ten games he didn’t leave early would have made him RB9 last season, if he had kept that pace throughout the year. David Johnson destroyed the rest of Arizona’s schedule, so the idea C. Johnson would have worn down is equally likely as him actually having improved over that span. Since Johnson entered the league in 2008, he has the second most rushing yards, the fifth most receptions, the seventh most receiving yards, and the third most yards from scrimmage among all running backs.
Last season the Cardinals had the second most points, the most yards, the most yards per play, the second most passing yards, and the eighth most rushing yards. With every single player that produced a yard of offense last season back on the team, there isn’t much reason to believe that performance will decline much, if at all.
Cardinals offensive leader and head coach Bruce Arians has a long history of fantasy-productive running backs prior to his 2013 arrival in Arizona:3
|Year||Team||Most Productive RB||Overall Fantasy Finish|
DEARTH OF POSITIONAL COMPETITION
Oh, Andre Ellington, how far we have come.
Probably the single most polarizing player last year, Ellington was either thought of as a league-winning steal, or the worst running back value on the board, depending who you asked. This season, he is basically free at the end of your drafts, and might actually provide some random weekly upside to help bolster the back of your stable in best ball scoring formats. However, the idea that Arians will ever use Ellington as a bellcow again seems so far fetched it’s almost unimaginable.
After his injury Week 1, Ellington never saw more than seven rushing attempts, or five targets, in a game again all season. After C. Johnson got injured, D. Johnson rarely ceded the field to Ellington, out-snapping him from Weeks 12 through 17 by a staggering margin of 264 to 48. Stefan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams are still there, but combined for a completely irrelevant 128 total snaps, 44 carries, and five targets last season.
18.03 or 207th overall, RB63.
Yeah, this one is a little bit of a stretch, but other than DeAngelo himself, there isn’t a really clear cut third candidate behind Starks and C. Johnson that fits this entire archetype. Some clear handcuffs in great offenses are lacking the resume, like Cameron Artis-Payne. Others may be in great offenses and have a stout resume, but have an unclear spot on their team’s depth chart, such as Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris. Others are rookies that could be thrust into relevancy, or perish with the likes of 2015 David Cobb and Artis-Payne, such as DeAndre Washington, Kenyan Drake, or Jordan Howard.
One rookie I think actually fits the Williams archetype (if you use a little imagination, at least) is Denver’s Devontae Booker.
While he obviously isn’t an accomplished pro, Booker has the highest Workhorse Score of any running back in this class. Here’s what Jon Moore said about him after calculating those numbers:
Booker owns two of the best eight NQBDR seasons in this class and accounted for nearly every single non-quarterback rushing yard when he was healthy. Even though he didn’t work out at the combine or his pro day, his 22 bench reps and 219-pound frame support his status as a workhorse. Furthering this idea, Booker is arguably the best pass-catching back in this class by both market share and raw stats. Even if he’s an older prospect, I think of him as a premium player more so than a playground bully.
Booker was also drafted to the team whose offense is run by Gary “Running Back Jesus” Kubiak.
The Broncos appeared to have a middling offense last year; however, if you look a little closer, Kubiak made lemonade out of some moldy-ass lemons. As a team, Denver had the third worst Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, besting only the injury riddled Colts and Cowboys.4 Yes, they were worse as a team passing the ball than the shit-shows in St. Louis, San Francisco, Tennessee, and Baltimore. Despite that, the Broncos were still a pretty competent offense, and as you may remember, they also won the Super Bowl.
Kubiak’s career is also littered with RB1 seasons from a a group of players with wildly varying talent and abilities:
|Year||Team||Player||Overall PPR Finish|
DEARTH OF POSITIONAL COMPETITION
While Ronnie Hillman has been re-signed after receiving a shocking workload last year, he didn’t do anything to suggest he should be seeing the field over Booker, nor does the one year, $2 million contract they gave him. C.J. Anderson bested Hillman in damn near everything last season:5
|Statistic||C.J. Anderson||Ronnie Hillman|
|Yards per Carry||4.74||4.17|
|Rush Touchdown Rate||3.29%||3.38%|
|RuTD Rate Inside Opp's 10 yd line||20.00%||16.67%|
|Yards per Target||5.08||3.17|
There were seven players other than Hillman last season to have at least 150 rushing attempts and at least seven rushing touchdowns — none of them finished with fewer fantasy points than Hillman did.6 Other than Jeremy Hill, the other six players all finished the season as top twelve fantasy running backs, with four of them in the top six.
11.09 or 129th overall, RB48
If redraft ADP on the major sites ends up being lower than it is for MFL10s, K. Williams, Tevin Coleman, and Charles Sims are also in fantastic situations to quickly ascend to workhorse status with an injury to LeSean McCoy, Devonta Freeman, or Doug Martin.
The other installments in this series can be found at the following links:
- The percentage of teams rostering any one player that won an MFL10 league (back)
- He also tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns last season with 11. (back)
- Willie Parker ended as the overall RB39 in 2008, despite suffering a season-ending injury in his eleventh game of the year. (back)
- adjusted net yards per passing attempt: (pass yards + 20*(pass TD) – 45*(interceptions thrown) – sack yards)/(passing attempts + sacks) (back)
- Rushing Fantasy Points Over Expectation per Attempt (ruFPOEpa) and Receiving Fantasy Points Over Expectation per Target (reFPOEpt), can be found in our Fantasy Efficiency App (back)
- The only players with seven rushing touchdowns on fewer than 150 attempts were David Johnson, Karlos Williams and Cam Newton (back)