The RB Countdown series examines the fantasy outlook for the top 50 running backs in PPR formats using tiers created by our Fantasy Stat Explorer and other tools like the Draft Dashboard and Projection Machine.
Did you know that Matt Breida finished as an RB2 five times last season? He finished with positive rushing and receiving fantasy points over expectation on 141 touches. As we look at the RB40-50 range, today we discuss second-year RB Breida who is a Tier 6 RB with a current ADP of 168. Here are three reasons he could dramatically outperform his ADP this season.
Breida signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He found himself as the lesser half of an RB by committee with Carlos Hyde after an injury kept highly touted Joe Williams on the sidelines all of last season.
Breida averaged 4.4 yards per carry played limited snaps, but only gained 15 or more yards on 1.9 percent of his carries. He was very effective in five games with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo last season. Breida accumulated 234 rushing yards on 52 attempts averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Can Breida co-exist with recently signed RB Jerick McKinnon? The team signed McKinnon in NFL Free Agency to a four-year, $30 million contract. He was given $12 million in guaranteed money at signing and has a total of $15.7 million guaranteed over the course of the contract. He is now the NFL’s fourth-highest paid RB, trailing only the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell, the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman, and the Bills’ LeSean McCoy. Many expect he will see a significant amount of touches given the substantial amount of money the 49ers committed to him, but McKinnon has never produced 600 rushing yards or 500 receiving yards. We can use the FFDraftPrep tools to further examine his statistical body of work through last season.
McKinnon has never had more than 159 rushing attempts in a season or averaged more than 3.8 yards per attempt since 2015. Still, Kyle Shanahan envisions McKinnon operating in a role similar to that of Devonta Freeman (his lead back as Falcons offensive coordinator from 2015 to 2016). Does that mean Breida will operate in the role of Tevin Coleman?
THE SHANAHAN EFFECT
The 49ers did not draft an RB in the 2018 NFL Draft, which suggests Breida’s role as the No. 2 is secure.1 He actually had more touches (22 more carries and 25 more passing targets) than Coleman as a rookie. Coleman was very productive his first two seasons in the league in Shanahan’s offensive scheme.2 In fact, the Falcons almost registered two RB1s in 2016, with Coleman finishing as RB13 in PPG. It is reasonable to think Breida’s production in his second season might be comparable, as Shanahan could very well split up the touches similarly to what he did with the Falcons.
McKinnon has been primarily used as a backup and third-down option for the bulk of his career. He is not your typical workhorse back, so Breida could have a large role in the 49ers offense. The duo should be able to thrive behind an offensive line that ranked 10th in Adjusted Line Yards according to Football Outsiders. The OL also helped their backs average of 1.86 yards before contact according to Pro Football Focus, the seventh best average in the NFL.
BREIDA IS ESSENTIALLY FREE AT HIS CURRENT ADP
Breida’s average draft position makes him a particularly attractive target late in best ball and other fantasy drafts. He has standalone fantasy value in Shanahan’s offense and will be in a prime position to be a league winner behind the 49ers OL if McKinnon were to miss extended time. Breida’s historical projection also helps to visualize his ranges of outcomes and the potential upside.3
Breida has little competition for touches behind McKinnon in a 49ers offense you want exposure to in 2018. The team production improved dramatically with Garoppolo under center the last five games of the season. The 49ers improved in offensive yards per game from 321.7 yards per game to 410. This trend also continued in points per game from 17 to 28.8. Breida could pay huge dividends to fantasy players who take a flier on him late in fantasy drafts.
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- The team took a chance on Joe Williams in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he never saw the field last season. He finished the season on injured reserve and faces an “uphill battle” to make the roster in 2018 according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. (back)
- Breida is smaller than Coleman, but both backs ran sub-4.4 40s at their respective pro days. (back)
- The historical projections use comparable players to project Breida’s 2018 outlook based on his 2017 performance. (back)