Buy Eddie Lacy
Eddie Lacy’s fantasy owners are no doubt freaking out. Through three weeks, the one-time Pro Bowler has 25.5 standard points, or 8.5 per game. That’s about good enough for the 29th best back in the league, not that dude you drafted first to third overall this summer. Well, stuff happens.
Week 1 was a good one for Lacy, who produced 21 touches for 99 total yards and a score. In the Packers’ second game, Lacy left the opening drive with an ankle injury, and played in limited action Week 3 against Kansas City. With eight full days to recover, Lacy was still limited to just 31 of the team’s 76 snaps (40.8-percent). He hit the field for 46 of 60 snaps (76.7-percent) in Green Bay’s debut against the Bears.
James Starks performed well in his two games of extended action. Taking over lead duties in Week 2, the six-year vet rushed 20 times for 95 yards and added 11 yards on four catches. On Monday night’s trouncing of the Chiefs, Starks got 39 of the team’s snaps (51.3-percent), eight more than Lacy. Starks also got 17 carries and a catch, while Lacy was held to 10 rushes and three receptions. Lacy finished with 46 rushing yards to Starks’ 32, but they both looked good at times. Starks’ longest run of the night was for 11 yards, while Lacy’s went for 13.
This is not an argument that James Starks is taking over lead duties, or head of a committee. There may be some frightened Lacy owner who fear just that. Lacy should have no problem remaining a nose ahead of his counterpart, as long as both are able to stay healthy. When great players take slight dips in value, the time is ripe to strike with an offer. You may not find a lower value on Lacy this season, but no one knows for sure.
Sell Ameer Abdullah
Less than five minutes into his first NFL game, Ameer Abdullah announced his arrival with a 24-yard touchdown run. The rookie broke a 48-yard kick return at the end of the first quarter, and produced 36 yards on a reception in the second half.
Through three weeks, the 22-year old has played just 86 of Detroit’s 199 snaps (43.2-percent), rushing 21 times for 82 yards (3.9 yards per carry). On the positive side, Joique Bell has only played 61 of the team’s 199 snaps (30.7-percent). Despite Abdullah’s electricity, the Lions seem inexplicably committed to involving the 29-year old veteran, who has 20 totes for 22 yards (1.1 yards per attempt) and a touchdown.
Through four years at Nebraska, Abdullah rushed 813 times for 4,588 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 39 touchdowns. He added 73 grabs for 690 yards and another seven scores. Should Jim Caldwell wise up, Abdullah could develop into a nice back. In deep dynasty and super keeper leagues, consider Abdullah as a multi-year investment. He’s not likely to produce much in 2015 with a coach who remains interested in a committee approach.
Talent is an important factor in evaluating any fantasy player, but is probably least important for running backs among all positions. The player’s situation (team offensive ability) and opportunity (snaps, touches) create more impact than the back’s individual ability. Look no further than players like DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Giovani Bernard, CJ Spiller, and Darren Sproles. Each of these players demonstrated great ability when their rare opportunities appeared. Add a side of Fred Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Hill, or Joique Bell, and the fantasy value evaporates.
Your fantasy back needs touches to produce. Though Abdullah ranks 21st among fantasy backs, he has averaged only 7.0 rushes and 2.3 catches per game.
Don’t get caught in a less-talented version of the old Carolina or Buffalo backfields. Actions speak louder than any opinions you might read. Until proven otherwise, Abdullah is stuck sharing the workload. Sell high before owners have time to read a box score.
Hold Dion Lewis
The Patriots have demonstrated ability to create value with a receiving back, or the slot H-back as some call it. In 2014, Shane Vereen finished as the 29th-ranked fantasy running back. Danny Woodhead was the 26th-best fantasy back in 2012 for New England, and ranked 28th in 2010.
Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were rookies in 2010, and there were plenty of targets to be absorbed by Woodhead. It’s surprising to see that Woodhead made an impact in 2012, until you see that the twin tight ends combined to miss 11 games that year. Look at last season, when Julian Edelman and Gronkowski were the leading receivers with 92 and 82 catches apiece, respectively. There were plenty of passes to go around, which is how Vereen wound up with 52 catches for 447 yards.
Brandon LaFell actually made 74 grabs in 2014, which might turn more than a couple heads. The Patriots placed LaFell (foot) on short-term injured reserve, leaving him eligible to return Week 7. In the meantime, there are even more targets to be had than last year when Vereen flourished. Tom Brady is leaning heavily on Edelman (30 catches) and the Gonk (16 receptions). The next leading receiver on the team is Dion Lewis, who has caught 15 of 19 passes for 179 yards.
Through three games, Lewis has 325 yards from scrimmage and two rushing touchdowns. Here’s hoping his two fumbles from Weeks 1 and 2 won’t earn him a trip to Bill Belichick’s doghouse. Lewis is currently sixth among all fantasy backs, averaging 14.2 points per game. He was the third-highest scoring back with 17.8 standard points in Week 2. In PPR leagues, Lewis is the third best rusher to date, behind only Jamaal Charles and Devonta Freeman.
Rule number one: never bet against Angry Brady.
Rule number two: the Patriots are the second-highest scoring team this year (39.7 points per game), trailing the Cardinals by seven points over three weeks. This squad is going to score a lot of points with Angry Brady this year. There are plenty of targets and touchdowns to go around, and hanging on to Lewis could prove a shrewd move.
It doesn’t happen every year, but sometimes pivotal sleepers arrive who can overturn the course of fantasy seasons. In 2010, whoever owned Michael Vick and Peyton Hillis probably won a title. That happened in 2013 for those with Peyton Manning and Josh Gordon. Dion Lewis is an early nominee to push the same needle in 2015.
Stats and data courtesy of ByTheStats, footballguys, profootballfocus, pro-football-reference, and espn.