This is part of a RotoViz series of articles where we talk about players that are currently riding the pine but could be huge difference makers at some point this season. My “guy behind the guy”: rookie Devontae Booker.
If you followed me at all heading into the the NFL draft you know I’m a big believer in rookie running back Devontae Booker. I had him ranked as the No. 2 RB prospect and I laid out some of the reasoning in my hypothetical piece on Booker being drafted to the Chicago Bears. However, I’m aware that when it comes to the RB position talent is only as good as the opportunity the player receives. So let’s focus on that for a bit.
Owning Shares Of A Historically Great Scheme
Many people in the fantasy industry are propping up C.J. Anderson as a value this year after his disappointing 2015 season. He is currently being drafted in the early part of the fourth round and Cecil Lammey think he looks better than ever.
C.J. Anderson looks faster than I've ever seen him, very swift as a runner or receiver out of the backfield #Broncos
— Cecil Lammey (@CecilLammey) July 28, 2016
While that’s great to hear, let’s keep this in perspective. He still only ran a 4.60 forty yard dash at the combine and has a 13th percentile burst score. He’s not exactly developing into Usain Bolt.
The main reason he’s being drafted so high is the fact that Gary Kubiak is his head coach and he has a history of feeding the rock to his primary back. Right Arian?
Heading into the 2016 season, this looks like the buffet of pigskin that Anderson will be fed to begin the year. However if he suffers an injury all this “meat on the bone” will be left to get gobbled up by the next man in line.
Hell if we’re being honest, it may not even take an injury. While everyone loves to prop up CJA’s end of year totals, he has looked quite pedestrian at the beginning of his last two seasons. Here’s how last season looked..
While some have posited it may have been due to injury, the fact is Anderson has yet to produce for a full season. It’s not crazy to think that if he starts the season like that again he could outright lose the job to Booker.
Why All The Fuss Over A Fourth-Round Pick?
John Elway said the #Broncos had Devontae Booker as the 2nd RB on their board. Got him in late fourth round. Thinks he fell because of knee.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) April 30, 2016
This quote by Elway really seemed to rub some people the wrong way but I personally was in agreement with him. If not for the injury, his production would have placed him on a similar pedestal as top prospect Ezekiel Elliott.
Below is the list of players with 450 rushing attempts and 50 receptions from 2014-2015
|2||Ezekiel Elliott||2014||2015||Ohio State||460||3035||6.6||32||55||426||7.7||0|
|3||Donnel Pumphrey||2014||2015||San Diego State||501||2982||6.0||32||50||574||11.5||3|
Keep in mind, Booker racked up these numbers despite only playing 10 games in 2015 because of a torn meniscus.
The master of identifying Workhorse backs Matthew Freedman provided a few nuggets about him as well in his prospect preview:
- Booker was still productive at a relatively young age and as soon as his academic issues allowed him to be.
- He managed double-digit touchdowns each season of his career.
- When he was used as a return man in junior college, he displayed big-play ability, returning three kicks for touchdowns.
- At Utah, he proved himself to be one of the best receiving backs in the country.
- Across his career, he averaged 19.4 rushes, 2.3 receptions, 114.5 yards rushing, 18.7 yards receiving, and 1.3 all-purpose touchdowns per game. That type of production is almost unrivaled when one looks at 44-game careers.
The key thing here to me is how great he was as a receiving back. CJA hasn’t really proven himself as a dominant player in this department and that could be the slight crack in the door which eventually gets kicked in.
Whether you are on the same page as me on Booker’s talent level or you completely disagree, there’s no way to argue that he’s not in a prime position. He’s behind a starter who got paid a lot of money this offseason but who has yet to put together a full season of production, and is in a scheme that has historically put forth positive results.
The Broncos spending a fourth-round pick doesn’t seem like high draft capital but in today’s NFL it might be equal to using a second rounder in the 1990s. Now consider the fact that the team knew he was hurt and still thought he was a value.
Kubiak has made it known since he arrived in Denver that he wants to employ a bell cow RB.
“I can tell you this, I believe in the (bell cow). And I believe it’s up to the player to prove he can do that. Do you need two guys in a season? You are darn right, in this league,” Kubiak said Tuesday, per the Denver Post. “But I think if a guy goes out there and he shows he can play three downs, can protect the quarterback, and can handle it, then he should stay out there.”
So the sky could be the limit for a guy without much relevancy, currently being drafted outside the top 150 picks.