Fantasy Equity Scores: Roy Helu, Danny Woodhead And Running Back Fliers August 21, 2015  |  Chet


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Handcuffing your precious first or second round running back investment with the stud’s backup seems like a sensible strategy that running back handcuffing has become fantasy football orthodoxy.

You get an elite runner, you get his replacement, and you’re set. That’s the thinking, anyway.

Handcuffing is in fact eating into your potential bench depth and necessarily using two of your 14 or 15 draft picks on one backfield. This is especially harmful — suboptimal, you might say — if your beloved backup running back requires a mid-round pick. A rule of thumb: if a back must be drafted in the middle rounds (rounds 7-10, or thereabouts) but has no fantasy value barring a catastrophic injury to the team’s starter, step away from said guy and sure up that bench.

And in case you missed it, many NFL backfields would be a timeshare mess if the team’s starting back went down. There’s the depth chart, sure, but then there’s inconvenient reality in which a backup is not given the keys to a team’s running game, but only gets a piece of the ground action.

I think Le’Veon Bell owners tripping over themselves to snag DeAngelo Williams in the 10th round is a prototypical mistake in handcuffing.

So what if you have Williams, the Steelers’ starter for two games in Bell’s absence? Is he good? No. Will he get some opportunity in the season’s opening weeks? Sure. You could instead have Anquan Boldin or Eddie Royal — two wily vets who could quickly become target hogs in their respective offenses.

Below are equity scores for running back fliers. Most of them will need one (or two) injuries to be fantasy relevant. Others won’t need that sort of variance to be useful for fake football purposes. Those are the backs I’ve highlighted below.


Player ADP Median equity score High equity score
David Cobb RB41 -4 (RB45) 9 (RB32)
Danny Woodhead RB42 11 (RB31) 18 (RB24)
Darren McFadden RB43 -7 (RB50) 13 (RB30)
Knile Davis RB44 0 (RB44) 6 (RB38)
Duke Johnson RB45 5 (RB40) 9 (RB36)
DeAngelo Williams RB46 -14 (RB60) -5 (RB51)
Reggie Bush RB47 7 (RB40) 18 (RB29)
Montee Ball RB48 1 (RB47) 9 (RB39)
Jonas Gray RB49 -1 (RB50) 5 (RB44)
Darren Sproles RB50 8 (RB42) 14 (RB36)
David Johnson RB51 -6 (RB57) 11 (RB40)
Charles Sims RB52 7 (RB45) 12 (RB40)
Cameron Artis-Payne RB53 -22 (RB75) -15 (RB68)
Andre Williams RB54 -2 (RB56) 6 (RB48)
Branden Oliver RB55 -14 (RB69) -3 (RB58)
Chris Johnson RB56 4 (RB52) 12 (RB44)
Roy Helu RB57 15 (RB42) 30 (RB27)


*  Roy Helu is dirt cheap (13.05 ADP) and won’t need a Latavius Murray injury to produce in 2015. Helu, who flashed when healthy and given opportunity in Washington, is widely expected to take on passing down duties in Oakland behind the lumbering beast, Murray. Helu’s fantasy utility lies in the Raiders’ likely ineptitude. Oakland, projected by Vegas to be bad once again in 2015, will face plenty of deficits this season. You know what they did when facing deficits in 2014? They passed, and passed a lot. Oakland’s offense threw the ball 72 percent of the time when they fell behind. Only seven teams passes more when trailing. The Raiders didn’t stop throwing when they were tied, according to Pro Football Focus. David Carr and company took to the air on 59 percent of their 2014 snaps when tied, good for the 10th highest passing percentage in that scenario. Helu, who sports excellent hands and impressive athleticism and measurables, will see the field quite a bit if the Raiders are as bad as they’re expected to be. Helu forces misses tackles almost as often as Marshawn Lynch and has posted a stellar 3.2 yards after contact. He’s not a replacement level back who might get by on opportunity. Helu is a legit runner who could have an important role because his team is terrible. He’s not a league winning pick, but he’s the best of this sorry lot.


*  The Chargers once again showed how they will use Danny Woodhead — who missed 13 games in 2014 — in their first preseason tilt against Dallas. He was in the backfield at the goal line, and the tiny runner scored, just as he did nine times in 2013 when the miniature back was (inexplicably) used as the team’s central red zone threat. It’s easy to forget that it was just two years ago that Woodhead, despite seeing a measly 106 carries, finished as fantasy’s No. 12 running back. He was RB24 in 2012, as a Patriot. Woodhead caught an astounding 92 percent of his 2013 targets — more than any back not named Pierre Thomas. Melvin Gordon has tentative dibs on lead back duties in San Diego this year, but Woodhead is expected to remain a viable part of the Chargers’ attack. The pervasive Gordon mania might make it hard to recall that criticism of the uber-talented rookie runner included somewhat questionable pass-catching ability and concerns about pass protection. With an eye-popping career 9.5 yards per reception, Woodhead — who saw 83 targets in 2013 — could be a worthwhile draft pick, though his ninth round ADP makes me a touch squeamish. I’m not often in the position to pass on guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Eric Decker. You’d have to do just that if you want Woodhead at his ADP, which has climbed two and a half rounds over the past month. But if you’re solid at receiver and feel comfortable with a late-round tight end and quarterback, Woodhead is a sensible play. He had just one fewer 20+ PPR performance in 2013 than LeSean McCoy.


*  Bishop Sankey appears to be the eighth or ninth best running back on his own team, leaving rookie David Cobb to pick up some ADP steam over the past 10 days. Cobb now requires an early ninth round pick, which, to my estimation, is ridiculous. There’s no indication that Cobb will be the bellcow for a sure-to-be horrid Titans team that passed a ton in 2014 even when they had the lead. Only six NFL teams threw more passes when they had an advantage. Cobb would end up on quite a few of my fantasy squads if he were available in the 12th or 13th round, but he’s not. I think he’s the definition of un-draftable right now. Cobb will almost certainly be a committee back on a bad team with a bad offensive line. No thanks.


One Response

  1. Brion says:

    CD will you be putting out your rankings? I really like your stuff and was hoping to see how you prioritize players.

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