Fantasy Football: What Went Wrong in 2017- RBs

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We all get projections wrong. All of us. Anyone still clinging to the notion they are infallible needs to leave their ego at the door. The point of the offseason is to learn from our mistakes and become a more well-rounded fantasy football player. We can’t hold grudges (which is all too easy to do) nor superimpose excuses on situations that clearly we could’ve foreseen.

In this What Went Wrong series, we will examine 2017’s early round selections and examine the rationale behind some of the arguments made for drafting these players. Some of them we due to extrapolating dating from small sample sizes, some via the “hype train” and others we simply wanted to turn a blind eye at red flags seen along the way. We’ll offer some lessons learned without pointing the fingers at anyone.

*All ADPs are taken from

Jay Ajayi

ADP: 1.11 RB in standard, 2.02 in PPR

What You Might’ve Been Thinking:
-Ajayi’s monster 2016 season included 3 200-yard games which must’ve tantalized anyone interested in his week-winning abilities.
-His 4.9 yards per carry was also intriguing given that he would most certainly dominate Miami’s backfield and be among the league leaders in total touches.
-Miami’s offensive line battled injuries and inconsistency in 2016. Any improvement would only aid Ajayi’s potential bell-cow status.
-His age and production were solid indicators that he could be a workhorse back. His college pedigree also suggested he could be more involved in the passing game.
-His draft price profiled as a low-end RB1 in the top of the second round.

What Went Wrong:
-Ajayi finished with 873 rushing yards or about 400 less than 2016’s season. He also dropped from 8 TDs on the ground to only ONE.
-While with Miami, Ajayi and the Dolphins run game failed to score a rushing TD and ranked 31st in the league at 76.4 yards per game. The offensive line got worse ranking 28th according to Football Outsiders during the first 8 weeks of the season. The Eagles, PFF’s #1 ranked preseason O-Line, finished 22nd in Run Blocking.
-Once he got traded, Ajayi ran into a buzzsaw of a schedule while trying to find a usable role. The Eagles essentially made him a committee back alongside Corey Clement and LeGarrette Blount. He didn’t see consistent double-digit touches until Week 12. At that point, fantasy owners were basically done with him.
-He still showcased explosive ability with long runs of 71, 46, and 30 after coming to Philadelphia. However, half of Ajayi’s rushing attempts (32) as an Eagle went for 2 or fewer yards, per our own Chris Meaney. A staggering 14 of his attempts resulted in 0 or negative yards.
-Ajayi had only SEVEN red zone rushing attempts all year and NONE inside the 7-yard line. To compare, he had 33 RZ attempts in 2o16 and 12 inside the 7.

Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

What We Learned:
-Team chemistry, attitude on the field and motivation can matter when projecting fantasy points. Although, it’s hard to know what really happens behind closed doors and in team meetings.
-Taking a high yards per carry and simply projecting year-to-year is not a wise move. Ajayi’s monster games in 2016 definitely helped skew an end of the year mark that was attractive to fantasy owners.
-Red-zone efficiency numbers can also be fluky year-to-year. Projecting a greater red zone volume can be tricky.

Demarco Murray

ADP: 2.01 in standard, 2.03 in PPR

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What You Might’ve Been Thinking:
-Ex-head coach Mike Mularkey said in offseason that Murray was his “workhorse” and wasn’t worried about him breaking down or losing too much work to sophomore power back Derrick Henry. “DeMarco Murray is the guy,” Mularkey stated. “He has shown he is the guy and he will continue to be that guy.”
-Murray had surpassed 1,400 scrimmage yards and 10+ TDs in three of his last four seasons.
-His offensive line finished 2016 ranked #1 by Pro Football Focus and #4 heading into 2017.
-After seeing the 6th most red-zone carries in the league in 2016, it was clear the Titans also valued Murray when they got in close. Despite Henry’s massive size, Murray was able to cash in 7 TDs on the ground inside the 20. What was even more remarkable was the 18 RZ targets he received… the same number as Antonio Brown. That added another 3 TDs to his resume. In other words, Murray was a known RZ commodity in an offense that could take the next step.
-The Titans were not scheduled to face a top 10 rushing defense from 2016 until Week 14.
-His ADP as a second rounder was validated given his RB1 seasons as well as the ability to prove valuable Murray in all scoring formats.

What Went Wrong:
-This season looked strangely familiar to that ill-fated year Murray spent in Philadelphia in 2015. Seriously, Murray averaged the same yards per carry, same TDs, and roughly same overall yardage total.

Season Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Rushing TDs Receptions Rec TDs
2015 (PHI) 699 3.6 6 44 1
2016 (TEN) 1287 4.4 9 53 3
2017 (TEN) 659 3.6 6 39 1

-He ran out of steam towards the end of the year missing the regular season finale and both of the team’s playoff games with a knee injury.
-In terms of snap percentages, Murray was clearly still the lead guy. He outsnapped Henry in all but 2 games played. However, Murray only saw 8 more carries and actually rushed for 85 yards less than Henry.
-The red-zone rushing attempts were basically flipped from 2016. Henry saw 46% of the carries inside the 20 while Murray dipped below 20 total attempts. He also was targeted only TWICE inside the 20-yard line… or 1 more than QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
-Recently, ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe believes there’s a “decent chance” DeMarco Murray has played his final snap as a member of the Titans, especially if his $6.5 million comes off the books.

What We Learned:
-We love when coaches affirm their players… but that’s their job. Their intentions are never gospel truth. Pay attention more to negative news than positive during the offseason.
-Anything close to resembling a timeshare with elite level talent usually lends its hand to the young buck.
-There’s a ticking time bomb with every RB and Murray is no exception. Guessing when that bomb goes off is the difference between a boom or bust early round pick.

Wesley Hitt/ Getty Images Sport

Isaiah Crowell

ADP: 2.12 in standard, 3.06 in PPR

What You Might’ve Been Thinking:
-His 4.8 yards per attempt ranked 9th in the league in 2016 among backs with at least 100 carries.
-Crowell’s carries, yards, and receptions had increased every year since entering the league, positioning him for a potential jump into RB1 status in 2017.
-Coach Hugh Jackson claimed “Crowell is poised for a big year…He deserves it.” He hinted at giving 250+ touches.
-After a 1-15 season in 2016, it was easy to see the only way to go was up for the Browns.
-Their offensive line play was going to be better after adding Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter. Pro Football Focus ranked the Browns as the #2 O-Line to start the season.
-Their QB play would be better and open up opportunities for Crowell.

What Went Wrong:
-Crowell saw 248 opportunities (carries + targets) so Hugh Jackson did keep his word. However, his yards per carry plummeted to 4.14 as he averaged only 53.3 yards per game.
-Cleveland ran only 46 plays inside their opponents 10 yard line… or 13 less than last year. In other words, the supposed “increased” opportunities actually got worse for Crowell. He ended with only 2 rushing TDs.
-The O-Line definitely improved but Joe Thomas‘ injury ending up exposing their lack of depth. According to Football Outsiders, the Browns ranked 14th in run blocking and 22nd in pass protection.
DeShone Kizer might’ve had his moments for fantasy purposes but he was a turnover machine and a drive killer.
-Teammate Duke Johnson had more yards from scrimmage despite seeing 73 less opportunities. He was an especially involved in the passing game seeing 93 targets.
-The Browns infamously got worse falling to 0-16 on the season.

What We Learned:
-Betting on an anemic offense and putrid team to even get incrementally better isn’t always a given.
-Yards per carry can be a flawed and non-sticky statistic year-to-year.
-Drafting a player like Crowell (who has never been a RB1) at a RB1 price was a best-case-scenario.

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