Continuing our look back at the 2018 rookie class, the white-hot light of our attention falls on Eagles running back Josh Adams. A long shot to even make the roster back in September, Adams ended up leading the Eagles in rushing yards. But he was far from a superstar in 2018. We’ll take a look back at the positives, and negatives, of Adams first year in the NFL. We’ll also look at a few players who enjoyed a similar rookie season to Adams and see how they followed it up in Year 2 and beyond.
In order to find some comparisons for the first year from Adams, I set the RotoViz Screener
to find rookies from 2008 to 2018, and selected some basic production and usage numbers as variables. I also included the draft pick. The influence of draft pick on a player’s opportunity declines over time, but it’s still relevant heading into a player’s second season. Then I asked the Screener to find seasons comparable to my target player.
That task complete, let’s take a look at the top comparable players for Adams first year in the NFL.
If Adams can enjoy a career like Chris Ivory, he should be quite pleased with himself. Ivory is one of only three UDFA RBs with at least 5,000 rushing yards since the 2010 season. Only four backs have scored more touchdowns than Ivory’s 29.
Let’s take a quick look at how these four comparable players did in their second seasons.
Ivory was restricted to 12 games combined in his second and third seasons. But he was productive whenever he saw the field. He amassed 591 yards on 119 carries in these years at a respectable 4.96 yards per attempt. Ivory then spent three seasons with the Jets, for whom he rushed 627 times for 2,724 yards, scoring 16 touchdowns. His last three years have not been so good, as Ivory bounced from Jacksonville to Buffalo.
Bryce Brown would never come close to replicating the success of his rookie season with the Eagles in 2012. He had 45.8 percent of his career carries in that first season. He also scored four of his seven career rushing touchdowns. Brown was traded to the Bills prior to the 2014 season. He lasted one season, a season that saw him amass 126 yards on 35 attempts. Brown played three games for the Seahawks in 2015, rushing 25 times for a mere 72 yards. That was his last NFL action.
Aaron Jones has enjoyed something akin to cult status after his first two seasons with the Packers, given his efficiency and the fact that it seemed former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was blind to his true talent. Jones has a 5.5 yards per attempt average after two seasons, as well as 12 touchdowns on 214 attempts. He was held back to the tune of just 11.8 attempts per game in 2018. One huge way in which he sets himself apart from Adams is as a pass catcher. While not a target magnet, Jones still had 26 receptions for 206 yards in 2018.
Juwan Thompson was converted to fullback in his second season, and into his third. He played just eight games in 2016. The Broncos won the Super Bowl that season largely without his help. He hasn’t played in the NFL since.
Reasons to be Cheerful
Adams led the Eagles in rushing attempts (120) and rushing yards (511), despite playing in only 14 games and starting six. His 120 rush attempts are the second most for the team in a single season since Doug Pederson became Eagles coach.
He saw double-digit carries in five games, with at least 15 in three and more than twenty twice. The Eagles entrusted him with multiple red-zone touches in three games, with ten combined in back-to-back games in Weeks 12 and 13. Despite the game being completely out of hand from practically the get-go, Adams was heavily involved in the passing game against the Saints in Week 11. He saw a career-high six targets.
Adams had consecutive RB2 weekly finishes in Weeks 11 and 12, finishing as the RB16 and RB19. He followed these up with an RB23 finish, albeit in the fantasy irrelevant Week 17 against Washington. Adams had 11 carries and three receptions on his way to 83 yards from scrimmage. On the year, he had nine runs of 15 or more yards, with a long of 29 yards against the Cowboys in Week 10. However, he did see a 52-yard touchdown run called back for holding in the Eagles victory over the Giants. Only seven RBs had more carries than Adams between Weeks 11 and 13.
Reasons to be Disappointed
If there’s one thing that’s been clear right throughout the Pederson era with the Eagles, it’s that there is no such thing as a bell cow back. Adams may have led the Eagles in most rushing categories. But he still only played on 32.7 percent of the offensive snaps available to him. He played on 61.5 percent of the snaps against the Giants when he had his career high 22 carries. But his snaps fell in each of the following five games, with a 25.4 percent share in Week 17.
Adams’ six-target game against the Saints was something of a mirage. He saw one or fewer targets in 12 of his 14 games. Adams was also an astonishingly inefficient runner in short yardage situations. On 14 carries with the Eagles requiring 2 yards or fewer, Adams lost yards on seven of them. He didn’t gain a yard on four. Adams began to lose playing time as soon as Darren Sproles returned to the lineup, seeing four fewer rush attempts per game. Although his average PPR output remained the same.
Josh Adams put in a decent shift for the Eagles as a rookie, the second season in a row that a UDFA RB made something of an impact after Corey Clement’s emergence in 2017. But the Eagles have a plethora of decisions to make at RB. Both Sproles and Jay Ajayi are set to become free agents. The team has also been tentatively linked with Kareem Hunt, although his future availability is yet to be established. Their salary cap situation all but rules them out of the Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes.
For all that, it seems apparent that the Eagles will want to upgrade their RB room during the offseason. Adams’ deeds in 2018 should ensure that he will be back to compete for a roster spot. But it doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be the one to carry the load next year. Adams is barely registering on the mock draft radar at present. He’s going undrafted in the majority of drafts over at Fantasy Football Calculator. He is a deep dynasty hold at best, as I write this in February.