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2022 Texans Backfield Breakdown: Marlon Macktually

by Noah Hills, April 12, 2022

The Houston Texans had a low-volume rushing attack in 2021, finishing No. 24 in the league in attempts. Their total of 420 was over 30 carries fewer than league average. It marked two consecutive seasons with carry totals near the bottom of the league (they ranked No. 31 in 2020). Houston is likely to be bad again next season, and we don’t have much to go off of to project how much they’d like to either run or throw the ball in an ideal world.

The Texans are going to be bad next season, but volume is the tail that wags the fantasy points dog. If Marlon Mack is healthy, he’s easily the best running back on this team. The other backs currently under contract are Rex Burkhead, Royce Freeman, Scottie Phillips, Dare Ogunbowale, and Darius Anderson. Still only 26, Mack could have one more RB2-level season left in the tank.

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2022 Browns Backfield Breakdown: D’Importance of Being D’Ernest

by Noah Hills, April 10, 2022

The second-best running back on the Browns is D’Ernest Johnson, not Kareem Hunt. He’s one of the few best backup running backs in the league. And he deserves the same kind of sleeper/handcuff buzz in dynasty that guys like Khalil Herbert get. Johnson is also in a unique situation among handcuffs. He’s able to step into legitimate volume with an injury to either Hunt or Nick Chubb. His likelihood of fantasy utility is doubled in relation to guys like Alexander Mattison.

The improvement in quarterback play we’re likely to see when Deshaun Watson takes over for the Browns will be the tide that lifts all boats. Nick Chubb should see the lion’s share of that boost. And D’Ernest Johnson is a sneaky beneficiary as an under-the-radar stud who is likely to be usable in fantasy lineups in 2022. He’s one of the best throw-in trade targets in dynasty.

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2022 Cowboys Backfield Breakdown: Going in Circles

by Noah Hills, April 8, 2022

Before Tony Pollard got to town, Ezekiel Elliott was a highly-drafted running back in his early 20s who had put up composite scores of 84.6, 52.3 (in that suspension-shortened 2017 season), and 89.7. When healthy and in shape, he was consistently one of the best pure runners in the league as a young player. The decline has come quickly for Zeke. He’s recently only added value in short yardage and against heavy box counts relative to Pollard’s output.

We’re left playing the same game we’ve been playing with the Ezekiel Elliott-Tony Pollard duo for the last three years. Except the value that Pollard’s youth added to that equation is nearly gone.We’re approaching the moment of truth on this backfield. The most likely outcomes for Pollard all end in disappointment for dynasty gamers. Cash out and get off the ride while you still can.

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Is Wide Receiver Consistency Predictable and Does It Matter?

by Dario Offstein, March 29, 2022

Consistency is highly sought after by many in the fantasy football community. Since it’s human nature to avoid risk, we feel more comfortable putting a player in our lineup if we know he’ll reliably score 12-15 points compared to a player ranging from 5-25 points. But is consistency a trait we can predict from year to year? Follow along as I use the power of statistics to better analyze the relationship between fantasy points and the consistency with which they’re scored. 

Mike Williams in 2021 finished as the WR14 in PPG by averaging 15.4 PPR points per game, but conversations about his outlook in 2022 are centered on his inconsistent production. His six games with more than 20 PPR points and seven games with fewer than 10 PPR points are worrying many drafters, yet his CV only checked in at 0.687, on the slightly inconsistent end of our “average” bucket. History would suggest that Williams’ CV will improve and he is likely to stay productive in fantasy.

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2022 Bengals Backfield Breakdown: Joey and the Pussycats

by Noah Hills, March 26, 2022

The Bengals have a good quarterback and good skill position players. And they just invested heavily in their offensive line via free agency after going to the Super Bowl. They should be a good team again in 2022. And while we should expect them to continue letting Joe Burrow sling it, they should be nursing enough late leads that a league-average finish in rushing attempts doesn’t seem unreasonable.

You could make a good argument for Joe Mixon being among the few best pure runners in the league. While he turns 26 this July, he doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. It’s tough to trust running backs past age-25. But his dynasty valuation hasn’t fallen off too much. The Bengals are a good team with a good offense. Mixon should be able to take advantage of that situation as one of the league’s best running backs. He’s slightly underpriced relative to other similarly-aged runners in dynasty.

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2022 Seahawks Backfield Breakdown: Free Rashaad Penny

by Noah Hills, March 24, 2022

While notoriously a run-first team, the Seattle Seahawks were actually No. 27 in the NFL in rushing attempts in 2021. Their finishes in this category have fluctuated wildly in the last half-decade. It seems that much of that up-and-down is due to Pete Carroll’s internal struggle between letting Russ cook and sticking with his personal preference to establish the run. Now, Russell Wilson is gone. And Carroll’s comments this offseason make it clear that the Seahawks intend to be a run-first football team going forward.

Rashaad Penny is a low key win-now piece that can be had in the relative scrap heap of dynasty startups. And I don’t think it’s out of the question that he’s more productive in 2022 than guys like David Montgomery or J.K. Dobbins. The Seahawks want to run the ball. Penny has a consistent history of positive team-relative efficiency. He’s at the age apex and presumably healthy at the same time that Chris Carson seems to no longer be either one. If it’s ever going to happen, 2022 is the year.

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2022 Jaguars Backfield Breakdown: Extreme Couponing

by Noah Hills, March 21, 2022

Only once in the last decade has a Doug Pederson-led offense been willing to run the ball more often than league average in neutral Game Script situations. Pairing that pass-friendly philosophy with the strong possibility that the Jaguars are once again trailing in most of their games next season probably means that we shouldn’t expect high carry totals out of Jacksonville in 2022.

James Robinson is a legitimate talent and one of the best pure runners in the league. Last season marks the second straight year that he’s led an NFL backfield while posting positive team-relative efficiency numbers. His BAE Rating and RSR marks in 2020 were in the 54th and 90th-percentiles, respectively. There are a lot of moving parts in this backfield that make it difficult to navigate in dynasty, but I view that more as an opportunity than as a problem.

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Just How Important is QB Hand Size?

by Jason Allwine, March 20, 2022

Recent news from the Combine regarding Kenny Pickett’s small hand size has rekindled the flame of the hand size argument. Pickett’s hands measured at 8.5-inches, which puts him in the 1st-percentile of hand size among NFL QBs. There has been recent success of small-hand quarterbacks. However, the concern comes in because Pickett would have the smallest hands among all 32 starting quarterbacks.

To answer the question of how much hand-size matters, it depends on the athlete. A small-hand QB does carry a 10-percent higher chance of fumbling, but what can he do to make up for that? Michael Vick’s answer was mobility. Patrick Mahomes’ answer was improvisation. Small hands are by no means a disqualifier, but there is a learning curve for sure. It remains to be seen what Kenny Pickett’s answer will be to make up for his hand size, but it will be intriguing to watch.

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2022 Cardinals Backfield Breakdown: Terminate James Conner

by Noah Hills, March 18, 2022

James Conner was not good as the lead runner. Largely due to his performance in short-yardage and other obvious running situations, he posted a quality Relative Success Rate, but he was pretty bad otherwise. His YPC+ is in the 15th-percentile. Given his basically seeing the same box counts as the team’s other backs, there’s not much excuse for his inefficiency. The Box-Adjusted Efficiency Rating he posted is a 21st-percentile mark; the lowest in the entire league among backs who led their teams in attempts.

A bet on Conner as a high-end fantasy option in 2022 is a bet on two unlikely developments coming to fruition at once: having an elite touchdown rate in back-to-back seasons, and bucking the trend of running backs over the 25-year mark suddenly losing their effectiveness and then fading into the ether. Neither of those are bets I’m willing to make on their own, and I’m certainly not going to parlay them. A better wager would be on Eno Benjamin, a guy who was both productive and efficient in college, to bounce back from a disappointing small-sample rookie year and play well in the RB2 role.

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2022 Steelers Backfield Breakdown: Najee Harris Mythbusters

by Noah Hills, March 16, 2022

The Steelers are simply a pass-happy team in general. Ben Roethlisberger is gone, Mitchell Trubisky (or maybe a rookie?) is in at quarterback. And more changes are sure to come for the Steelers offensive personnel. Maybe, maybe, we’ll see some shift in play-calling and overall philosophy as a result. However, this pass-heavy approach is something we’ve seen for years now in Pittsburgh. So it seems unlikely that they’d swing their pendulum fully toward a high-volume rushing attack.

Leave the Stone Age. Stop citing Najee Harris’ low raw efficiency numbers as a reason why he was overrated as a prospect or should be faded in dynasty. He was a great player in college and he’s a great player now, from both productivity and efficiency standpoints.

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