Year in and year out, fantasy
owners are vexed when a breakout player from a season ago cannot
come close to replicating his production from the previous year.
Why does this happen so often?
Perhaps the best place to start is realizing scoring touchdowns
is an opportunity-based statistic and not a talent per se. That's
not to say talent doesn't play a huge role because it obviously
does. There are countless examples every season in which a player's
unique talent helped him score on a play that 95 percent of the
rest of the players at his position probably could not have. Talent
gets a player on the field. It helps a running back find a crease
in the line of scrimmage or break a tackle. It helps a receiver
create separation and attract more targets. Among many other factors,
scoring touchdowns is by and large a combination of talent, coaching/scheme,
some luck and opportunity - the last of those factors likely being
the most important.
In a vacuum, it would probably be fair to say the longer the
distance a player travels to score a touchdown, the more likely
talent played a role in it. Let's take one of the more obvious
cases from last year. Alvin Kamara - a player we will get more
familiar with this week - scored five of his 13 offensive touchdowns
last season from 20 or more yards (38.5 percent). Across the league,
314 of 1,121 offensive touchdowns last season were scored from
20 or more yards (28 percent). Most would agree talent played
a huge role in that and would probably be correct. (He did average
over six yards per carry and catch 81 percent of his targets after
However, if talent was the primary and only (as some seem to
believe) factor in getting into the end zone, how do we explain
Bell scoring only 11 total touchdowns on over 400 offensive
touches? In the 43 instances a running back compiled that many
touches in a season in league history, 29 (67.4 percent) scored
more than 11 times. Most people would agree Kamara and Bell are
relatively equal when it comes to talent, so how do we explain
Kamara scoring 13 times on 201 touches and Bell scoring 11 times
on 406 touches?
There's more to fantasy than scoring touchdowns obviously, but
I felt the preceding paragraph would be helpful for settling into
the discussion I wanted to begin this week. In other words, what
is repeatable and what is not? Regression to the mean is a topic
that gets some discussion in the fantasy community but not near
This week's focus will be on the running backs. In the first
two sections, I will talk about which players are most likely
to see a decrease or increase in touchdown scoring this season,
based on any number of reasons. The final two sections will deal
with players who are likely to see either their abnormally high
or low efficiency marks (yards per carry, yards per reception
and yards per target for the purposes of this article) decrease
or increase. What I've done for each player is supplied their
efficiency marks going as far back as the 2015 season (if applicable)
as well as the league average for running backs who recorded at
least 100 touches (including 50 carries). I settled on those benchmarks
mainly because I concluded it is difficult for a back to be relevant
in fantasy for any length of time if he does not exceed those
totals in a given season.
I think most of the column headers below are self-explanatory,
so I'll explain only two: Touch/TD is how many offensive touches
(carries plus receptions) a player needed on average to score
a touchdown, while Yds/Tgt refers to how many receiving yards
a player averaged for every target - a number that will obviously
be slightly different than yards per reception.
Next week, we will cover receivers and tight ends.
Likely candidates for touchdown regression
Note: Players such as Jonathan
Gillislee or Latavius
Murray will not be included here for obvious reasons, as they
may not be on fantasy rosters - or even on a NFL roster period
in two of the cases - by midseason if the players in front of
them on the depth chart stay healthy.
Alvin Kamara seems like an obvious candidate
for regression but an expected uptick in touches could keep
at an RB1 level.
Kamara would typically be the poster child for touchdown regression,
but the odds of him exceeding 201 offensive touches this season
were already pretty good before Mark Ingram was handed a four-game
suspension. They are obviously very good now, regardless of whether
or not HC Sean Payton wants
us to believe. The second-year back is still unlikely to reach
13 offensive touchdowns in 2018, but talent and scheme could allow
him to hit double figures and score well above the league average
(using the guidelines I noted earlier) of one touchdown every 34.2
touches again. If we assume 250 touches for Kamara and a more reasonable
25:1 touch-to-TD ratio this season, he will score roughly 10 times.
Perhaps the extra touches will help make up for some of the difference
One of the more obvious regression candidate among running backs
expected to see regular work this year is probably Thompson. Not
only did he score six of his 14 career touchdowns last season,
but his TD/touch rate (17.2) was 6.2 touches lower than his rate
from 2016 and not far off of Kamara's incredible mark. Durability
has never been one of his strong suits either, and four of his
six touchdowns in 2017 were from at least 16 yards away. (Only
two of his previous eight career touchdowns covered that much
distance.) And, of course, we still haven't discussed the arrival
of second-round selection Derrius Guice, who has better hands
than he was given credit for during the draft process. I'd give
Thompson a decent chance to match last year's six touchdowns if
he plays all 16 games, however.
Gurley became the 34th running back in league history to score
at least 19 touchdowns, so he's another obvious candidate to see
his scores decline a bit in 2018. They aren't likely to decrease
much, however, especially when we consider the Rams will head
into their second season under HC Sean McVay and be one of the
few teams in the league returning all five of their projected
starters on the offensive line. It speaks to the kind of prodigious
season the former No. 10 overall pick had when he led the league
in TD production and still finished third overall in efficiency,
scoring once every 18.1 touches. Still, history is working against
Gurley, who needed eight total touchdowns over his final three
games and six receiving TDs (after not recording a single one
over his first two seasons combined) to reach 19. Another argument
for regression would be the addition of John Kelly, who should
beat out Malcolm Brown for the backup job in short order and prove
himself capable of giving Gurley a rest every once in a while.
(Gurley played an average of 53 snaps in the 15 games he was active
for - a number the Rams probably wouldn't mind lowering a bit.)
The most likely reason for regression though may be the offensive
line, which remained intact and healthy virtually all season.
Asking for back-to-back full seasons from aging linemen such as
LT Andrew Whitworth (36 years old when the season starts) and
C John Sullivan (33) is a tall order. Outside of perhaps the linebacker
position, the depth of depth on the offensive line has to be this
team's biggest concern.
Of all the players in this section, the most obvious regression
candidate is Ingram. Not only was it rumored Kamara would serve
more as the 1A back in the Saints' offense shortly after 2017
was over, but Ingram got hit with his PED suspension to boot.
Life's tough for a NFL running back who sees his role decreased
the year after he averages 4.9 YPC on 230 attempts, catches 58
balls and scores 12 touchdowns. At any rate, Ingram's rushing
touchdown efficiency in 2017 was well above the league average
in the three categories he qualified for (one touchdown every
24 touches, one touchdown per 19.2 carries and one touchdown per
93.7 rushing yards).
Another fairly obvious candidate for touchdown regression is
Lewis, who probably isn't going to finish inside the top 10 in
red zone rushing attempts (35) and carries inside the 10 (20)
again this year, not with Derrick Henry on the roster. Lewis ended
up becoming the Patriots' main back (inside and outside the 20)
late in the season, scoring seven times inside the 10 overall.
How often will he get replaced in those situations this season?
None of this is to say Henry will automatically handle every touch
inside scoring territory because Lewis has already proven himself
adept at handling himself in scoring range. But Henry will probably
get the bulk of them, and owners should not forget a ton of Lewis'
production last year came late in the season in games in which
Rex Burkhead got hurt or missed due to injury (as we discussed
last week). Let's also not forget Lewis' previous career high
in touches was 85 (he had 212 in 2017) and that he had not played
in more than nine games in any of the previous seasons due mostly
This one has less to do with last year's efficiency (he was
below the league averages in every efficiency category) and more
to do with his situation. McCoy has played 15 or more games in
four of the last five seasons and been the centerpiece of the
Buffalo offense from about the time he arrived from Philadelphia
three seasons ago. I personally believe HC Sean McDermott is the
right man for the job and will have the Bills competitive on a
yearly basis sooner than later. (Yes, I realize they made the
playoffs last year, but I think most would agree they were fortunate
to do so.) At any rate, McCoy will turn 30 in July and has already
surpassed the 2,000-carry mark that seems to be about the point
where most rushers begin to decline. Chris Ivory was added in
free agency to take some of the load off of him and is probably
best-suited to handle the same role Karlos Williams filled so
well back in 2015. The biggest issue is attempting to replace
the departures of LT Cordy Glenn, LG Richie Incognito and C Eric
Wood with Dion Dawkins, Ryan Groy and Russell Bodine, respectively.
To say the Bills lack the same road-grading line they had two
years ago would be an understatement. If McCoy suffers any kind
of drop-off in physical skill in 2018, he may struggle for four
yards per carry and his TD ceiling may be around five.
2017 Offensive TDs: 8 2018 Prediction: 5
Others worthy of mention (using a healthy blend of last season's
efficiency numbers and common sense):
Likely candidates for positive touchdown
Much like we did in the first section, players such as
David Johnson (season-ending injury in Week 1), Ezekiel Elliott
(probably won't miss six games again), Marlon Mack (obvious increase
in overall touches) and Jerick McKinnon (moving from a part-time
role into a likely feature-back role) will not be included because
their changes in circumstances are so significant that positive
regression should be relatively easy to achieve.
As a dynasty owner of McCaffrey and someone who rooted so hard
for him last year on my league-winning, high-stakes redraft fantasy
team, I was a bit shocked to be reminded he scored seven times
last season. He found the end zone every 28.1 touches - a number
that ranked 10th among the backs who met my aforementioned guidelines.
But let's be honest: Carolina didn't come close to using him enough.
There have been indications the Panthers are ready to bump him
up from the 117 carries he recorded last season to over 200 in
2018. New OC Norv Turner has given his lead back at least 200
carries in seven of his eight full seasons as an offensive coordinator,
so there's reason for optimism he'll get his opportunities. Even
with McCaffrey's obvious playmaking ability in the passing game,
his biggest obstacle to topping last season's seven touchdowns
will be matching or exceeding his five receiving scores - a high
number for any running back, even in today's NFL. For a player
who has drawn comparisons to McCoy and Marshall Faulk and has
a much better supporting cast around him this season, it would
not surprise me if he finds his efficiency improves from one touchdown
every 28.1 touches to one TD per every 22 or 23 touches. It may
not sound like a big deal, but if we assume 250 touches for him
this season, it's the difference between nine scores and 11-12.
The Bengals' insistence on feeding an unproductive Jeremy Hill
semi-regular touches the first half the season before he went
on IR for an ankle injury was yet another case of HC Marvin Lewis
making his rookies "earn it," even when the talent suggests
otherwise. Mixon was given a brief chance to take over as the
featured back before a Week 13 concussion brought his most productive
fantasy day to an end. But let's face it, Cincinnati's offensive
line was so … er … offensive that Mixon probably wasn't
going to score much last season no matter how much he played to
the David Johnson comps he drew prior to getting drafted. The
Bengals appear ready to take off the training wheels with Mixon
as a sophomore, so his ridiculously poor TD efficiency of one
score per every 52 touches figures to go down significantly. While
Cincinnati hasn't exactly fix his other pressing problem - the
offensive line - the additions of LT Cordy Glenn and first-round
C Billy Price should be significant upgrades.
If anyone outside of former OC Dowell Loggains can explain what
his plan for Cohen was last season, I'd like to meet that person.
A PPR superstar for the first three weeks and one of the few (and
perhaps only) game-breaking talent on the Bears' offense last
season was essentially mothballed for a five-week stretch after
his stellar start. Though his activity picked up a bit after that,
it was still inconsistent. Yet, he still somehow managed 140 touches.
While a 181-pounder like Cohen will probably never post a solid
touch per touchdown number given how infrequently he figures to
be used inside the 5- or 10-yard line, one score for every 46.7
touches is still poor for someone with his elusiveness. New HC
Matt Nagy can't seem to contain himself whenever someone asks
him about Cohen and all the ways he can use his new offensive
weapon. Expect Nagy to find a way to get Cohen at least 10 offensive
touches per game, perhaps most often as a receiver after motioning
him out of the backfield to force a matchup against a linebacker.
The second-year scatback seems like a reasonable bet for roughly
100-110 carries and 60-plus receptions, and if he can bring his
TD per touch rate down to Theo Riddick's 27.4 - admittedly good
but not impossible given his talent - then Cohen could find the
end zone six or seven times.
This one seems pretty straightforward considering how many more
ways the Panthers can threaten a defense than the 2017 Broncos
could. Anderson scored two of his four touchdowns last season
in Week 2 and was pretty much irrelevant from then on until fantasy
playoff time. Despite Anderson being a better back at this point
of his career than Jonathan Stewart was last year, Carolina would
be foolish to give Anderson the same 207 touches his predecessor
saw. Nevertheless, the former undrafted free-agent figures to
be as much of a factor near the goal line as Stewart, who scored
five of his seven touchdowns from the 1- or 2-yard line in 2017.
I suspect McCaffrey will see more opportunities in close than
he did as a rookie (two carries inside the five and five inside
the 10), but this area figures to remain a province for Cam Newton
and Stewart. When one considers there are only 27 times in league
history that a back carried the ball at least 240 times and ran
for at least 1,000 yards but scored only four total touchdowns
like Anderson did last year, it seems logical to believe Denver's
offense and/or offensive line had an awful lot to do with him
scoring once every 68.3 touches.
Ask any owner how long Crowell was in Cleveland and the likely
answer will be something along the lines of "too long."
It's debatable whether or not he made a lateral move from the
Browns to the Jets, but this is another case of bad team plus
bad line plus inconsistent usage equals poor touchdown production.
Crowell is an underappreciated and often underutilized talent,
and while he may not be a special player per se, he probably needed
to get away from a coach in Hue Jackson that repeatedly said he
needed to get him the back more often only to continually fail
in that regard. To give readers some sense of how unpredictable
this whole touch/TD rate can be, Crowell scored once every 34
touches in 2016 (versus once every 117 touches last season). By
comparison, former teammate Duke Johnson scored once every 126
touches in 2016 and was among the league leaders at 22.3 in 2017.
New York's offensive line may not be much - if any - better than
Cleveland's was last season, but sheer regression to the mean
would seem to suggest Crowell should score at least four to five
times this year if he cuts his abysmal rate from 2017 in half.
Midseason trades rarely lead to instant production for any team
acquiring an offensive player because there just isn't enough
time in a day or a week or even a month to catch the new player
up to speed with the current offense or scrap the previous offense
to build around the new asset. With that said, Ajayi was more
productive in a limited role following his trade to Philadelphia
than he was during the first half of the season as the featured
back in Miami. Despite almost breaking off at least one big run
every game as an Eagle and averaging 5.8 YPC with his new team,
finding the end zone remained a difficult chore. While LeGarrette
Blount's departure only leaves behind three combined scores from
last year, it leaves Ajayi as the heavy favorite to see the majority
of work in scoring territory if only because there are no other
"big backs" expected to make the final roster. While
he is a poor bet to repeat the 232 total touches he handled in
2017, Ajayi is almost guaranteed to score more often than once
every 116 times he touches the ball behind a very good offensive
line with a multitude of weapons in the passing game to keep defenses
from stacking the box.
Sooner or later, Blount is going to run out of teams in which
he can be the unquestioned short yardage and goal line specialist
- at least one would think so. Detroit has taken several strides
and invested significant resources - including two first-round
picks over the last three drafts - to fix a running game that
hasn't finished higher than 22nd in rushing since 2013. Much like
the team he just left in New England, new HC Matt Patricia figures
to begin his tenure in Detroit with a Patriot-like backfield with
three or four players all serving a particular role in the offense.
It would be mildly surprising if the Lions don't top last year's
363 rushing attempts fairly easily, if only because they should
have the personnel now to run a more balanced offense and play
with a few more leads. Blount is obviously not the 18-touchdown
back he was in New England back in 2016, but he's still more than
a two-score ball-carrier. Maybe rookie Kerryon Johnson gets a
chance at the money carries in 2019, but the coaches aren't going
to sign off on bringing in Blount unless they intend on using
him at the goal line and in four-minute situations. Two seasons
ago as a Patriot, Blount scored once every 17 touches. Last season
with the Eagles, it was once every 60.3 touches. It isn't unreasonable
to expect him to come close to splitting the difference in 2018.
If so, five or six TDs is entirely reasonable.
There are 19 instances in NFL history where a running back carried
the ball at least 120 times and averaged at least six yards per
attempt. Kamara became the first to do so since C.J. Spiller and
Adrian Peterson did so in 2012 and only the fourth player since
1997 to accomplish the feat. Only two players (San Francisco's
Johnny Strzykalski) and Cleveland's Marion Motley) have done so
in consecutive years, and both of those backs did so in 1947-48.
Of course, there probably aren't a lot of people who were realistically
expecting a repeat from Kamara. But it's not just his yards per
carry that blew the competition out of the water; the rookie made
a mockery of the league average in every single efficiency stat
I tracked for this article. He was the best in the league among
backs in yards per carry (6.1), touchdowns per touch (15.5) and
touchdowns per carry (15.0), third in touchdowns per rushing yard
(91.0), fifth in yards per target (8.3), 11th in touchdowns per
target (20.0), 13th in touchdowns per reception (16.2) and 17th
in touchdown per receiving yard (16.2). The point to be made here
is Kamara was almost historically efficient as a rookie, and that
kind of thing tends to regress to the mean in a big way the following
For the sake of argument, let's assume Kamara finishes with 160
rushing attempts and stays at 81 receptions in 2018 but watches
all of his efficiency stats sink closer to the league average.
Here's a quick example of what I'm talking about:
For what it's worth, the 2018 projected efficiency stats are
relatively close in all areas to Theo Riddick in 2017. At any
rate, I believe I have painted a realistic picture as to what
a slightly less efficient season might look like for Kamara while
giving him 40 more carries and showing plenty of appreciation
for his talent as well as his role in Payton's creative offense.
Four fewer touchdowns alone only drops him from the overall RB3
finish to RB4 last year, but let's keep in mind all the efficiency
marks I projected for him are still well above league average.
What if he were to finish at the 2017 league average in every
I admit this scenario is far-fetched and highly unlikely to happen,
but it should provide some perspective just how otherworldly Kamara's
efficiency was last season. This projected 2018 line would leave
him with 254.2 PPR fantasy points, which would have made him the
overall RB8 last season. Still not bad. Here's the problem: New
Orleans added trusty Benjamin Watson and Cameron Meredith in free
agency, perhaps lowering Kamara's catch floor in the passing game.
If he drops to 70 receptions and everything else stays the same
above, he's dropping into RB10 (Christian McCaffrey) territory,
and we've already discussed how inefficient McCaffrey was as a
rookie, albeit due to circumstances mostly beyond his control.
Bell wasn't exactly efficient last season, but any back is typically
going to be able to overcome inefficiency if he compiles 406 touches.
Regardless of what kind of shape Bell can keep himself in while
staying away from the team during training camp in the preseason,
history does not usually treat backs who miss camp well and backs
coming off such prodigious workloads typically struggle to stay
healthy the following season. Both things are working against
Bell. Need proof about the odds being stacked against him? There
have been 16 instances since 2000 in which a back saw such a heavy
workload one year and played the next. The average drop-off
the following season has been about 110 touches, 800 total yards
and 7.5 touchdowns. Also working against him? First-time
NFL play-caller Randy Fichtner replaced former long-time OC Todd
Haley after the season. Even if Fichtner keeps most of the offense
intact, he will still want certain things done a certain way.
Good luck to Bell learning those little nuances in a week of pad-less
practices leading up to Week 1.
Jay Ajayi averaged 4.9 YPC on 260 rushing attempts during his
breakout 2016 season with Miami before averaging 3.4 prior to
his midseason trade to Philadelphia last year, which goes to show
just how fickle this efficiency thing can be from year to year.
Drake averaged 4.8 YPC last season. Miami wants to believe it
has improved its offensive line and it probably has, but the fact
of the matter is only Seattle (3.18) and Detroit (3.16) provided
line yards than the Dolphins (3.26) did in 2017, per Football
Outsiders. Despite trading away Jarvis Landry, Miami may be as
deep at receiver as it has been in recent memory, which could
be one way (running a bit of a spread look) to combat all the
attention Drake is almost certain to see from the get-go this
season. Still, 4.8 YPC is a tough number to hit for most NFL backs
with everything working in their favor, and Drake doesn't have
that going for him. Of course, all of this assumes he performs
well enough in camp to keep Frank Gore on the bench (doubtful
if only because Gore refuses to go quietly into that good night)
and makes Kalen Ballage an afterthought - at least for one year.
Like I just said in the preceding paragraph, 4.8 YPC (or 4.9,
in this case) is not a level many backs can reach in back-to-back
years. Hunt also averaged 8.6 yards per reception and 7.2 yards
per target, each of which was well above league average. A strong
case can be made that Hunt will actually be more efficient in
2018 simply because defenses are going to struggle trying to keep
Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce in front of them with
rocket-armed Patrick Mahomes distributing the ball. However, what
was already a slightly above-average front five lacking quality
depth got arguably worse in the offseason. HC Andy Reid appears
interested in getting Hunt more involved in the passing game this
time around, so a slight dip in efficiency figures to go unnoticed
by most PPR owners if his catch total travels north of 60. In
short, history says a regression is likely given his high efficiency
marks, but this is probably the one player in this group with
which I would have the least concern.
Quick, name someone on the Chargers' offensive line last year
besides LT Russell Okung. Not very easy, is it? Name recognition
admittedly doesn't mean a whole lot when it comes to offensive
linemen because it seems like half of the football-watching public
doesn't know whether or not one of the big uglies is having a
good year, much less a good game. The point to be made here is
that Gordon hasn't played behind an offensive line that has ranked
above 20th in adjusted line yards since he arrived in 2015. Following
the additions blocking TE Virgil Green and the anticipated return
of 2017 second-round pick RG Forrest Lamp, it would seem the 25-year-old
back will finally get his chance to prove he is more than "just
another guy" that many in the fantasy community seem to think
Yet another example of the fickle nature of efficiency, Howard
averaged 5.2 yards per carry and 10.3 yards per reception as a
rookie in 2016 before plummeting to 4.1 and 5.4, respectively,
as a sophomore. As is usually the case, he will likely spend the
majority of his career somewhere in between. The upcoming season
figures to be on the high end of that range, as the offensive
line keeps getting better - likely LG James Daniels may have been
the most pro-ready lineman in the draft - and the upgrade in play-calling
from former OC Dowell Loggains to Nagy is substantial. But Howard's
inclusion in this section is merely a reflection on how pathetic
his situation was last season.
It's easy for potential owners to get paranoid when it comes
to McKinnon, who is expected to be a full-time starter for the
first time in his fifth season in the league. He's averaged 3.4
and 3.8 yards per carry, respectively, over the last two seasons.
He's often been on the wrong end of a platoon with the likes of
Matt Asiata and Latavius Murray. But in Kyle (Shanahan) we trust.
Devonta Freeman, whose role in the offense McKinnon is supposed
to play, was a part-time player behind an aging Steven Jackson
in 2014 and averaged 3.8 yards per carry as a rookie back. Enter
Shanahan as the new play-caller in Atlanta in 2015 and Freeman
has emerged as a pretty good bet annually for 1,200 total yards
and eight touchdowns even in a bad year. People no longer question
Freeman's ability to handle a heavy workload and he's 5-8 and
206 pounds. McKinnon is 5-9 and 205. McKinnon is a superior athlete
and will be playing for the first time with a coach who is committed
to him. The 49ers did not commit $7.5 million per season to McKinnon
because they think he's a committee back who can't handle a heavy
workload. His work ethic and love
for the weight room has been fairly well-chronicled. Get on
Elliott will almost certainly take a hit in the receiving efficiency
department (which tends to vary wildly for running backs from
year to year anyway) as 10-plus yards per reception is a high
number for a running back, but he makes this list because he is
just as certain not to average 4.1 yards per carry again this
season. It almost goes without saying Elliott had to feel the
effects of the legal drama he endured in 2017. But the biggest
reason he was no better than league average as a runner had to
do with the cracks that started to form on the offensive line,
including but not limited to the loss of OG Ronald Leary to Denver
the previous offseason. First-round draft pick Connor Williams
is no guarantee to be the next Leary as a rookie, but he should
be better than Jonathan Cooper was at left guard in 2017. Better
luck alone may allow LT Tyron Smith to stay healthy longer than
he did a year ago. Getting respectable play from Williams and
more healthy games from Smith may be the only positive developments
Elliott needs to return somewhere close to the 5.1 YPC he posted
as a rookie.
There's no telling whether or not the Colts will allow Mack
a chance to carry the load (new HC Frank Reich's history would
suggest he will not), but Indianapolis is slowly but surely fixing
the offensive line issues that have plagued the team for years.
First-round OG Quenton Nelson is arguably the best guard prospect
to come out in the draft since at least 2000 and figures to work
in tandem with C Ryan Kelly for the next decade. Mack gets dinged
by some football analysts because so many of his runs (32.2 percent)
went for no yards or less last year. While Mack deserves a bit
of the blame for trying some of those "nothing runs"
into big plays, most runners don't purposely concede yardage unless
a defender forces him to do so. By comparison, a league-best 5.4
percent of his runs went for 20 or more yards. If Mack does nothing
more than bring his zero or negative runs down to a more palatable
20 percent because the line is blocking better and Andrew Luck
is causing defenses to respect the passing game, Mack could go
from 3.9 YPC to 4.5 relatively easily.
While the departure of TE Marcedes Lewis will hurt the running
game, the addition of LG Andrew Norwell more than makes up for
it and addresses what was probably the weakest link on the line
last season. However, the major reason Fournette should be more
effective is it seems unlikely he will continue to battle ankle
injuries to the degree he's had to over the last two years, including
his final season at LSU. With a full offseason to heal - something
he certainly didn't have the luxury of as a rookie - and better
line play, it's conceivable he could match or improve on the 4.6
YPC he enjoyed in Weeks 1-6.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.