One of the jobs of a good fantasy analyst is not telling readers
who to select in their drafts, but rather to provide them with as
much relevant information as possible to make sound decisions. After
all, they are YOUR fantasy teams.
Change is one of the few constants in this world and the NFL
(and fantasy football, by extension) is no different in that regard.
To that end, it is often helpful to see if we can identify when
and why a particular event took place in the previous season when
looking ahead to the next one. Unfortunately, false narratives
are often created and certain myths are embraced as fact by the
fantasy community for any number of reasons, including but not
limited to wanting the easy answer to be the right answer.
Last week, I took
a look at the AFC to see if there is there some level of truth
to the narratives and maybe even debunk some myths. This week,
I'll dive into five situations in the NFC that require more examination
since they had a dramatic effect on how last season played out
and figure to impact fantasy owners again in 2020:
How much of an upgrade was Kenyan Drake over David Johnson last
season? Is Drake guaranteed the same kind of workload he had over
the second half of 2019?
What if I told you Johnson and Drake were essentially the same
back during their time with the Cardinals last season? They were,
at least from a fantasy perspective. Counting only Johnson's first
six games and sparing him the indignity of everything after that
- including the Week 7 con job Arizona pulled with his injury
status - this is how he stacked up with Drake on a per-game basis
following the latter's arrival from Miami:
Johnson vs. Drake 2019 Averages
Johnson (Weeks 1-6)
Drake (Weeks 9-17 w/ARI)
Drake (Weeks 1-7 w/ MIA)
As we know, the situations facing both men were wildly different.
Johnson had the benefit of a full offseason in the offense. Drake
had three days to prepare for his first game with Arizona. Johnson
was able to overcome his ineffective running early (1.8 yards after
contact) by getting more work in the passing game (79.5 PPR fantasy
points via the passing game alone through six games versus 45.1
for Drake in eight games after the trade).
Drake handled at least 14 touches in every game with the Cardinals
and 18 or more in five of them. Unfortunately, fantasy owners
cannot be completely certain of that kind of workload moving forward.
Chase Edmonds went down with a hamstring injury around midseason
after enjoying a brief but impressive run. After all, Edmonds
led the backfield with a 2.95 yards-after-contact average and
sported a team-best 15 percent explosive run rate (per Pro Football
Focus) on his 60 carries in 2019. It's not as if he came up short
when presented with an opportunity.
HC Kliff Kingsbury made it clear before the draft that he
was quite pleased with Drake and Edmonds, perhaps suggesting
he sees the backfield as a "hot-hand" or lead/breather
back situation as opposed to the workhorse role Drake enjoyed.
Did Drake show enough to push Edmonds into a true backup role?
It appears so.
Upon his return from injury in Week 13 and over the remainder
of the season, Drake saw 239 offensive snaps to Edmonds' eight.
For those who wonder if Edmonds became a spectator because Arizona
was trying not to rush him back, his relatively heavy involvement
on special teams over the last five weeks would suggest he was
not being protected by the coaching staff.
During Drake's time with Arizona, he saw at least 64 percent
of the snaps in the backfield in every contest and at least 79
percent five times. Barring a huge change of heart by Kingsbury
or a significant challenge in training camp from Edmonds, Drake
appears headed for a similar workload right away in 2020. Considering
the Cardinals' ability to run in favorable situations - Johnson,
Mixon and Damien
Williams were the only backs in the league who ran against
eight-plus defenders in the box less than 10 percent of the time
last season, per NFL Next Gen Stats - Drake is a prime candidate
to become an elite fantasy back in 2020.
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.