Dion Lewis: The Forgotten RB1

by Tyler Butler ·

Dion Lewis is good at football.  A fantasy RB1 when active throughout the 2015 season, Lewis will be entering his über-prime of 26-years old and returning to the third highest scoring offense in the league led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.  Yet, running backs with fewer fantasy RB1 weeks on their respective resumés, from Jeremy Langford to Carlos Hyde, carry more perceived redraft value for the upcoming fantasy season according to MyFantasyLeague.com’s current ADP.

No one should be surprised, including Dion Lewis himself.  Lewis has been overlooked and undervalued his entire career going to his college days at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dion Lewis had a historic freshman campaign, breaking out in his first season for Panthers at just 18.9-years old (89th-percentile).  He finished third nationally in rushing with 1,799-yards, taking the Big East freshman rushing record previously held by Tony Dorsett.  His 18-total touchdowns that season also bested the mark LeSean McCoy set the for most points by a Pitt Freshman.  Lewis concluded his college career by compiling 1,061 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns his sophomore season, declaring for the NFL Draft in 2011 with a 34-percent college dominator rating (71st-percentile).

Dion Lewis was selected in the 5th round by the Philadelphia Eagles.  He was presumably overlooked because he lacked the size and power of a prototypical NFL running back, and his 52 career receptions in college left doubt that he could transition into a receiving role as a change-of-pace back.

Dion Lewis sat behind LeSean McCoy his first two seasons in Philadelphia before being traded to the Cleveland Browns in 2013.  He missed the entire season due to a fractured fibula and was cut by the Browns at the end of the season.  After being picked up by the Indianapolis Colts and released just 7 days later, he eventually found a home with the New England Patriots in 2014.  Dion Lewis saw his first action as a starter this season while taking the field for suspended LeGarrette Blount.  After just three games Lewis accounted for 325 total yards and two touchdowns, earning a two year contract extension with the Patriots that runs through the 2017 season.


Dion Lewis Advanced Metrics Profile

With only a 62.4-percent snap share, Dion Lewis maintained his 15-plus fantasy points per game production even after Blount’s return via the passing game receiving 7.1 targets per game, the most among running backs last season.  More than a change of pace back, Lewis proved ultra-efficient in all phases posting a sublime +48.8 (No.2) Production Premium, 7.3 (No. 2) Yards Per Touch, and 1.22 (No.4) Fantasy Points Per Opportunity.  His efficiency was propelled by otherworldly evasiveness evidenced by an NFL-best 58.8-percent Juke Rate.


Dion Lewis 2015 Efficiency Metrics

A torn ACL against the Washington Redskins in week 9 resulted in Dion Lewis missing the remainder of the 2015 season. Overlooked once again, Lewis’ knee injury is muting his fantasy stock heading into the 2016 fantasy football season.

Dion Lewis proved to be a exceptional talent for a team known for savvy talent deployment.  Projected to remain at the top of the Patriots depth chart after completing his ACL rehabilitation, Lewis is poised to build on last season’s efficiency and fantasy point-scoring prowess.  Inexplicably, hardcore fantasy gamers are currently drafted Lewis outside the top-20 running backs, which makes him one of best early-season values in fantasy football.