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Steve Schwarz | Archive | Email |  
Staff Writer

Should a Holdout Change aPlayers’ Fantasy Value?

Le'Veon Bell got off to a slow start last season after his holdout but still finished as overall RB2.

Itís another season and another holdout for Pittsburgh Steelersí running back LeíVeon Bell, who wants to be paid just as much as his wide receiver buddy, Antonio Brown.

Nothing new here.

Bell wants to back up the Brinks truck because he believes heís the best running back in the league and his teamís second-best receiver (JuJu Smith-Schuster might argue the second point). He also obviously doesnít like practice or training camp. Who does?

And yet past holdouts certainly havenít impacted Bellís season-long totals (though for DFS players it should be noted that he started slowly in 2017 for three games after the holdout).

What of the rest of the NFL, where ďmere mortalsĒ may try to emulate Bell and sit out training camp (either for a better contract or like the Steelers RB they just donít like hot, sweaty two-a-days where coaches constantly yell at them).

Who might be holdout candidates in 2018?

It was recently reported (by SNYís Ralph Vacchiano) that the Giantsí Odell Beckham Jr. might hold out in New York. Who knows what the mercurial OBJ will do? He and the team have been in some preliminary talks, but they donít seem to be close to the extension the player is seeking.

Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones didnít go to the Falcons offseason program. A list of wideouts who make more than Jones includes Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams and Sammy Watkins. None of those players have cracked 1,400 receiving yards in a season ó Jones has done it in four consecutive seasons. He signed a big deal in 2015 which made him the second-highest paid wideout behind only Calvin Johnson, but now seven receivers average more than Jones. Iíd be surprised if the team and Jones donít come to an agreement before the season begins.

Arizona running back David Johnson led the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns in 2016. But when a wrist injury sidelined him for 15 games, the Cardinals ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing touchdowns and 31st in yards-per-carry. Iím sure Iím not the only one who understands those results and can interpret them as a favorable time to ask for more ďBenjamins.Ē Arizona and Johnson both seem to be on the same page at this time so a deal should be worked out before Week 1.

Should we blame them for holding out? Absolutely not!

The average lifespan of an NFL player is very short. Likely shorter than your college experience. According to the NFLPA the average career length is about 3.3 years, which is less than the NBA (4.8) or MLB (5.6), although the average length for a rookie who makes his Opening Day roster is six years and a first-round draft choice is 9.3 years.

While holding out may, or may not, work out for the playerís financial future, or be the best thing for his long-term outlook, we fantasy owners only need to know how it will impact his upcoming yearís production.

Below is a chart of 15 famous running backs and wide receivers who held out in the past and the impact the delay in joining their team had on their next yearís game statistics.

 Pre- and Post-holdout RB and WR Production
Player Tm †Pos Previous Scrim Yds TDs Holdout Scrim Yds TDs
Le'Veon Bell PIT RB 2016 1884 9 2017 1946 11
M. Jones-Drew JAC RB 2011 1980 11 2012 500 2
Chris Johnson TEN RB 2010 1609 12 2011 1465 4
Vincent Jackson SD WR 2009 1178 9 2010 262 3
Steven Jackson STL RB 2007 1273 6 2008 1421 8
Larry Johnson KC RB 2006 2199 19 2007 745 4
Hines Ward PIT WR 2004 1029 5 2005 985 11
Corey Dillon CIN RB 1999 1490 6 2000 1593 7
Jamal Anderson ATL RB 1998 2165 16 1999 93 0
Joey Galloway SEA WR 1998 1073 10 1999 334 1
Carl Pickens CIN WR 1998 1027 5 1999 737 6
Emmitt Smith DAL RB 1992 2048 19 1993 1900 10
Jerry Rice SF WR 1991 1208 14 1992 1259 11
Eric Dickerson IND RB 1989 1522 8 1990 769 4
Eric Dickerson LA RB 1984 2244 14 1985 1360 12
John Riggins * WAS RB 1979 1319 12 1981 773 13
Totals 25248 175 16142 107
WR Totals 5515 43 3577 32
RB Totals 19733 132 12565 75

* - Riggins didn’t play at all in 1980.

What did we learn from this analysis besides the fact that more running backs hold out than wideouts?

1) Wide receiver scrimmage yards were down 35%.
2) Wide receiver touchdowns were down 25%.
3) Running back scrimmage yards were down 36%.
4) Running back touchdowns were down 43%.

Anybody detecting a pattern here?

In the final analysis, none of these 2018 superstars may hold out in the end, and that would be good for fantasy owners. However, the numbers seems to indicate that for most players, being in training camp matters. Therefore, if a wideout or running back ends up missing a big portion of training camp, it’s “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware). You have been warned!

Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.

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