C.J. Anderson, Your 2015 First Round Fantasy Football Pick

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With the first pick in the 2015 NFL fantasy football draft you select … C.J. Anderson. That’s right. The guy we thought Montee Ball, and then Ronnie Hillman would turn into in a Peyton Manning run offense. Little did we know it would truly be a Peyton Manning RUN offense(or not), but that’s another article. The player who dominated the latter part of the season, scoring touchdowns in bunches, while displaying copious amounts of receiving and running ability was Anderson. Let’s get comfortable with your first round selection by first talking history.

During his college seasons at UC Berkeley he compiled three years of solid production based on his opportunity. In his first year, 2011, he had 345 yards on 72 attempts with eight touchdowns on the ground, good for 4.8 yards per carry, with seven receptions for 186 yards adding another touchdown through the air. In 2012 he put together a line of 790 yards on 126 rushes with four touchdowns for a whopping 6.3 yards per carry and an additional 15 receptions for 164 yards and another touchdown. He was not used heavily at Cal, but he was extremely effective in his mid-level usage. But before Cal? He was a monster. As a freshman at Laney College in Oakland, California he compiled 693 yards and three touchdowns. In his 2010 season he amassed 1,664 yards with 13 touchdowns as a sophomore. In high school he accumulated about 4,000 yards through his four years. Clearly he has demonstrated the capability of being leaned on and carrying the load for his team — while maintaining his health. He also performed well at the combine, highlighted by posting a 4.6 second 40 yard dash time and a 4.12 20 yard cone time, the best of all performers that year.

He is currently under contract until 2015. This is the rotoworld blurb: “4/27/2013: Signed a three-year, $1.503 million contract. The deal included a $12,500 signing bonus. 2014: $495,000, 2015: $585,000, 2016: Restricted Free Agent.” He is signed next year and it is his contract year. He will be playing for the big bucks and, oh, play he will.

Last year’s story. C.J. Anderson, in week 10, took the reigns vs. the Raiders with 163 yards and a touchdown, pushing past the chubby Montee Ball in the ranks, although not officially the starter until week 11 against the Rams. Once in control, he grasped those reigns and rode the horse all the way home, finishing the season with an impressive rushing tally of 846 yards on 179 attempts with eight touchdowns (4.7 yards per carry), adding on 324 yards on 34 receptions with twi touchdowns. He did this while only holding the starting job for eight games.

The run down

He graded as the third overall running back on Pro Football Focus with a 19.8 mark, though only being the dominant back in weeks 10-17. He also came in at third in run grade at 15.3 behind only DeMarco Murray, the rushing leader (1,845 yards), and Marshawn Lynch, the missed tackles leader at 88 on the season. The grades are cumulative, thus added together from each game. To have season long grades as good and better than most backs in the NFL playing the entire season as a starter, compared to Anderson‘s aforementioned starting weeks of 10-17, is beyond amazing. He made an incredibly large impact on the season as a whole for his team, as well as in the running department, that was surmountable to the amount many starting running backs positively put forth towards helping their team over 16 games.


On the season Anderson came in at 16th place in total rushing yards with 849, which is good in itself, however, if you extrapolate his weeks where he dominated running back usage (weeks 10-17), he would have 1,534 yards, as shown above. That would land him at number two on the season, behind only DeMarco Murray. His PPR fantasy points would have been 361, 10 points above the 2014 running back leader DeMarco Murray.


The common perception is the Broncos already seem to have shifted to a run heavy team, meaning maybe we have seen Anderson’s opportunity ceiling in his starting weeks, but I can say with confidence we are looking at his opportunity floor. The Broncos finished the year with a running play percentage of 40.79 percent on the year, close to the 40.32 percent mark the prior year. That is 1.34 percent below the league average of 41.6 percent and 11.58 percent below the leading run percentage team Houston’s mark of 51.93 percent. This means there is still a lot of room to move in terms of run play to pass play ratio to create more rushing opportunities. With Payton Manning aging, the Broncos actually aim to lean heavier on the run this year. Now here comes Anderson, entering the famous Kubiak stretch-run, zone blocking scheme, which pumped out career years from many a RB. I don’t see Montee Ball reclaiming the job either, the eye test from last season destroys that possibility. Montee Ball has never looked as good as C.J. did last year. You will find missed tackle rate also supports this.

Montee Ball’s career best MTR (missed tackle rate) in 2013 was .158 with 19 missed tackles on 120 rushes. I previously introduced missed tackle rate in this article here. C.J. had 455 of his yards came after contact and he tallied 44 missed tackles on 179 attempts. That’s good for a missed tackle rate of .246, good for third best in the league, behind number one Marshawn Lynch and runner-up Chris Ivory. Missed tackle rate is a good way to compare running backs, in an attempt to eliminate as many factors as possible out side of the RB’s skill and talent. It also projects the more talented runner that will earn the majority of the work throughout the season. Anderson has a 37.8 percent better MTR than Montee Ball. The best statistical RB of 2014, DeMarco Murray, had 63 missed tackles with 1845 yards 995 after contact on 393 attempts. For a MTR of .170. Anderson blew DeMarco out of the water on that one, leaving one to wonder what Anderson could have done with Murray’s opportunity.

One last thing. His ADP. Redraft ADPs are not available yet so I look at his MFL10 ADP which is quite sexy.


He is going at about pick 17 in myfantasyleague.com leagues (PPR scoring), which I can’t believe. You can grab him anywhere in the first and most likely halfway through the second as well. Yes, please! Late first to mid second for the guy that would have had more PPR fantasy points than DeMarco Murray if he had the same workload all season he did while a starter, with room to increase workload? Sign me up!

It’s all coming together. This season will be one for the books for C.J. Anderson, and you will be sorely sorry if you don’t have him on your roster in fantasy this season in all formats. An incredible player, coach, and situation are forming a trifecta of fantasy goodness being placed on your doormat for the taking at any pick you end up with in your draft.

Thank you to RotoViz for the use of spilts and ADP charts

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall, Creative Commons

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Matt Dulcan