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 Knile Davis last season?
But what was he a year ago, before we knew that? What were the key descriptors one would have used to describe Davis last June?
- Backup running back with little relevance when starter healthy
- Part of a strong running back depth chart
- Late-drafted, mediocre prospect
- Illogically high average draft position (11.05, or 125th overall, for all 2015 MFL10s)
Which running backs with aggressive, mid-round average draft positions closely fit that description this year?
This series actually came about from the narratives and early draft position surrounding the Bills Karlos Williams giving me vivid, nightmarish flashbacks to the way people talked about and drafted Davis a year ago.
BACKUP WITH LITTLE RELEVANCY
Williams appeared in eleven games last season, but had more than nine rushing attempts only thrice, and never had more than four targets. In seven of eleven games, he had zero or one target. In the six games LeSean McCoy and Williams both played in, and McCoy didn’t leave injured, Williams averaged fewer than seven touches.
In the two games Williams handled a workhorse load when McCoy was inactive, Weeks 4 and 16, he looked like shit. The fantasy points were there, but the 3.3 yards per carry and fewer than 84 scrimmage yards per game is downright Andre Williams-esque:
Banking on fluky, long touchdowns in limited touches is a fool’s errand. Hoping that McCoy gets injured or suspended, and then a guy that inefficient gets a workhorse role, is like building a tornado shelter in Los Angeles.
STRONG POSITIONAL DEPTH
Are we even sure Williams is the primary back in the event McCoy exits the stage? In Week 17, Mike Gillislee, who is still on the Bills roster, got 24 rushing attempts to Williams’ six. Gillislee, drafted nine spots after Williams was, but two years prior, wasn’t even on the Bills roster until November. And he still ended the season with half as much work, accumulating 47 carries and seven targets to Williams’ 93 carries and fourteen targets. Not only that, his efficiency bested K. Williams’, which is pretty much what anyone drafting him is using as their trump card:
In April, Buffalo then went and drafted Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams one spot later than they took K.Williams the year before. J.Williams looks a whole hell of a lot like someone they already had on the roster:3
The Bills also signed Dan Herron in free agency, and had Joique Bell in the building for about five minutes a few months ago, which may not be relevant, but doesn’t suggest they were thrilled with their stable.
Production isn’t the only weak spot for K.Williams, he’s also a measurables dud, with illustrious comparisons such as Dahrran Diedrick and Terrence Blevins:4
The odds a fifth round pick will ever amount to anything is already piss poor, and when you combine that with his Eddie Lacy-style offseason body plan, you’re left with a fat, slow, unathletic prayer. Good luck.
10.02, or 110th overall, RB41:
BACKUP WITH LITTLE RELEVANCY
I wrote in late April about why Jerick McKinnon‘s Dynasty value is insane, and it’s mostly about his usage:
McKinnon had 52 rushing attempts and 29 targets last season over a full 16 games, which is an abysmally irrelevant three rushes and 1.8 targets per game. In Peterson’s (2014) 15-game absence for
being a huge piece of shitchild abuse, McKinnon still only saw 4.1 targets and 11.2 rushes, which he couldn’t even turn into ten fantasy points per game.
Matt Asiata, who they just re-signed, not only saw far more rushing work, he had more receiving work as well. What’s worse, he’s bested McKinnon over the last two seasons in catch rate (74.1 percent to 68.6 percent), and yards per target (5.22 to 4.40).
It’s also not like Mike Zimmer’s team is going to be down and throwing with a pass-catching running back on the field frequently, any time soon. The Vikings (offense) were 20th in points, and 27th in yards in 2014, followed by 16th in points, and 29th in yards in 2015. Worse still, they were 22nd in pass attempts in 2014, and were dead last in 2015, throwing the fewest pass attempts in the league.
STRONG POSITIONAL DEPTH
Asiata is no thoroughbred, but the possibility he once again takes the bulk of rushing work in the event Peterson leaves the picture is very real. The other two running backs on the Vikings roster currently are undrafted rookie free agents Jhurrell Pressley and C.J. Ham. I’ve never heard of them either, don’t worry, but from what Eric Braun told us in April, it sure sounds like Pressley could be in line for an Asiata-type workload to complement McKinnon, should that situation ever materialize:
Thanks to a pro day forty time of 4.38 and a three-cone of 6.92, there’s been some buzz. Pressley had an impressive career at New Mexico while in a heavy time share with another running back and a triple option quarterback. In fact, all three had exactly 147 carries this past season.
What I like most about Pressley is his speed and athleticism exhibited by his SPARQ score of 132.2 which is in the 92nd percentile. He also led the nation in highlight yards per opportunity in 2014 according to Football Study Hall.
It’s fair to point out that he was a 22-year-old rookie in 2014 (with no college experience playing traditional running back), but there is no evidence the Vikings see him as an heir to Peterson, or as anything more than a “third down, change of pace back.” While he’s a fairly high draft pick, and an athletic marvel, he hasn’t shown that he is capable of being a traditional running back at any point, in the NFL or college.
Paying for a project-type player with the hopes that he is given a workhorse role experimentally, in the event one of his workhorse archetype teammates is injured, and the other two are passed over, is extraordinarily ambitious.
12.07, or 139rd overall, RB49
BACKUP WITH LITTLE RELEVANCY
In that same article about fading McKinnon, I wrote about why the same applies to the Lions Theo Riddick:
We really like Zach Zenner. We also really like Ameer Abdullah. No longer rookies, RotoViz’s favorite version of thunder and lightning seem primed to complement each other’s ascendancy. Currently on the last year of his rookie deal, it seems 2013 sixth round pick Riddick doesn’t have a ton of opportunity now or in the future on this Lions team.
While he danced his way to the overall RB18 last year on a dreamy 99 targets (compared to 68 combined for Abdullah, Zenner, and exiled J. Bell), it’s hard to envision a scenario where that comes close to repeating. I’d be absolutely shocked if Riddick outsnapped Abdullah, the 54th overall pick in last year’s draft, the way he did last year (470 snaps for Riddick, 355 for Abdullah).
Newly acquired Marvin Jones may not come close to sniffing Calvin Johnson‘s departing 149 targets, (but) I think it’s fair to expect Jones, Golden Tate, and Eric Ebron to have a similar number of combined targets to Johnson, Tate, and Ebron’s 347 from last season.
Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter told the media recently he expects Riddick to have more carries this year. That’s dynamite, considering he had a barely noticeable 43 last season, and has a career yards per carry rate under 3.0, on a just massive 72 total carries. This is of course on teams where rushing greats Joique Bell and Reggie Bush were keeping the ball out of his hands, neither of which can currently find employment.
STRONG POSITIONAL DEPTH
When asked who the starting running back will be for the Lions, team website beat reporter Tim Twentyman didn’t hedge:
“Abdullah. He missed the offseason after undergoing shoulder surgery but is expected to be back on the field at the start of training camp. I thought he showed a high level of maturity and dedication in an interview with Sirius NFL Radio this offseason.
‘I feel like I showed some flashes last year, but in this league you can’t show flashes,’ he said. ‘You have to be consistent. That definitely had a lot to do with growing pains. It also had a lot to do with me being immature as a player coming straight from college and not understanding what kind of preparation and mental focus it took for such a long amount of time. I know I have a lot to give to this team and a lot to give to this league. I know I can be a good back, but it starts with those little things I mentioned earlier.’
I’d be pretty surprised if we don’t see a much-improved Abdullah in year two.”
Twentyman also noted that Zenner has been taking first team reps in offseason training activities, is fully recovered from last season’s injuries, and feels more comfortable headed into this preseason.
Riddick’s inability to rush the ball thus far in the NFL shouldn’t come as a surprise, as his profile matches his low draft capital. If you’ve heard of or remember even one other person on this list, color me impressed:
8.05, 89th overall, RB34
- Danny Woodhead is being way overdrafted for the likelihood he comes close to matching what he did last season. It’s entirely possible that if something happened to Melvin Gordon, we may even see Branden Oliver, or another back get a large amount of rushing work. From that article about selling McKinnon and Riddick:
Even if you go so far as to think Gordon will continue to lose significant work to Woodhead, you have to be mindful of the fact that this team traded two mid-round picks to move up only two draft spots for him, and he was an incredible prospect. You also have to be mindful of the fact that Woodhead just turned 31, and he would be among only a handful of running backs to be that old, weigh that little, and still produce even 150 fantasy points in a season.
Still, the fact Woodhead was the overall RB3 last season even with Gordon getting so much work makes his chances of having another monster season somewhat reasonable, even despite his age. I agree with The Contrarian that Gordon is going to take over this year, but his horrendous rookie campaign, and microfracture surgery, can’t be totally ignored.
- Duke Johnson has a real chance to lead the Browns in receptions this year, nevermind lead them in carries. I firmly believe he will not surpass the role that Hue Jackson carved out for Giovani Bernard in Cincinnati, which never saw him finish higher than the overall RB13; but, that did afford Bernard a finish in the top 18 each of the last three years. Johnson’s fifth round ADP is rich, but his floor seems fairly high, especially considering the type of game flow Cleveland should offer compared to the Bengals. I’d still rather acquire Isaiah Crowell four rounds later, as I think he is this team’s workhorse, goalline back, and the arbitrage 2015 Jeremy Hill.
- If you can project the Seahawks backfield with any confidence right now, you better hope you’re right, whether you’re spending a fifth round pick on Thomas Rawls, or a ninth round pick on C.J. Prosise. I’m not confident enough to say one way or the other if those are dangerous or brilliant picks, but there’s enough uncertainty that I want no part, unless Prosise is cheap. The odds Alex Collins or Christine Michael is a league winner seem higher than the odds the yet-to-be-medically-cleared, and not expected to even be re-evaluated until August, Rawls is.
- T.J. Yeldon is the stallion that will mount the world, and he’ll ceremonially eat Chris Ivory‘s heart, while savages drafting the latter in the eighth round will bear witness in horror. Or I’m completely wrong, and Yeldon will be the really devastating draft pick, not Ivory. It’s probably the second thing.
- Devontae Booker was one of my three candidates to be this year’s DeAngelo Williams , but should C.J. Anderson falter for any reason, it’s entirely possible Gary Kubiak would give Ronnie Hillman the work, like he did last season. As much as I want to believe in efficiency and production metrics, there’s no way to know what Kubiak will decide. While that makes Booker possibly disastrous, I
hopethink the odds of that are far lower than the outcome(s) where he shines.
- Justin Forsett or Kenneth Dixon is probably being way overdrafted. There’s a real chance they’re both being overdrafted. Give me the cheapest of the bunch in Buck Allen, as I don’t think we have any idea who is going to see the field for the Ravens.
- Jay Ajayi might get his shot in Miami, despite an offseason that saw the team formally offer Anderson a contract, bring Arian Foster in for a visit, and draft Kenyan Drake as the third running back off the board. If Ajayi doesn’t get that shot, or if he fails to secure a large workload, owners spending a fifth round pick on him are going to be destroyed by it. After Davis as the second worst running back off the board last year, the third worst was injured first-rounder Lacy. The fourth worst overall running back pick in MFL10s last year, and 15th worst overall pick of all positions — was Ajayi.
The other installments in this series can be found at the following links:
- Among all players taken it at least half of drafts last season. (back)
- Win rate is the percentage of teams rostering any one player that won an MFL10 league. (back)
- K.Williams did not play his freshman or sophomore season, 2011 and 2012. J.Williams did not play his senior season, 2015. (back)
- Spider Chart is a signature concept, and used courtesy of MockDraftable.com (back)