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Running Back Bloodbath

Deep breaths. In and out. If you’re here reading this, you’ve either potentially lost one of the many running backs that went down with an injury this past Sunday, or you’re looking to scoop and score off the waiver wire. The lengthy list of backs to leave early included Thomas Rawls, Arian Foster, Ameer Abdullah, Danny Woodhead, Doug Martin, Jonathan Stewart, and Spencer Ware. Though the extent of many of these injuries are unknown, the most discussed and disected come week three will likely be the Adrian Peterson injury on Sunday Night Football. Why is that?

Over the last half decade, we’ve seen the majority of NFL teams begin the transition to a committee-style approach at the running back position. The devaluation of the position has the workhorse three-down back as an endangered species. One of the few postponing extinction is Adrian Peterson. His viscious running style along with elite measurables and traditional traits have made Peterson a staple of the ever-disappearing legend of the prototypical bellcow. This rare breed was formerly a main component in constructing and building around on fantasy football squads everywhere.

Adrian Peterson Injury – Brace Yourselves For The Unknown

The reports early on were all over the place. One of the more trusted opinions based on actual professional experience came from Dr. David Chao, a former head team doctor. He provided his take on the video evidence of the Adrian Peterson injury.

This was only one of many tweets from the doc. I would highly suggest checking his timeline to get an even clearer picture of the wide range of outcomes for the best back of this era. In the instance Peterson misses significant time, who can be relied on to fill in and produce positive fantasy results? Undoubtedly, the superior answer is Jerick McKinnon. What does he bring to the table?

The SPARQ Freak

First, what is SPARQ? It is a formula developed by NIKE that measures a players athleticism by providing a singular overall score. I won’t go too much into what it entails, but I would recommend checking out Zach Whitman’s analysis of SPARQ and how the Seattle Seahawks utilize the formula in evaluating and selecting players, here. The overall point to be made here regarding SPARQ, is that Jerick McKinnon is considered elite in the formula Zach created to emulate NIKE’s SPARQ score. That score? pSPARQ: 147.5 – What significance does this number have? His combination of athletic measurables are almost unheard of at the position.

Obviously athleticism can’t paint the full picture of NFL success. Plenty of athletic freaks fizzle out in the NFL due to a number of extraneous mental and situational factors. In McKinnon’s case, he has had the pleasure of spelling one of the best running backs of all time. He has simply just not been unleashed.

The Sample and Range of Outcomes

First off, it’s absolutely insane that as of this writing McKinnon is only owned in 24.1% of ESPN and 23% in YAHOO leagues. He was a perfect flier candidate to begin with for those going Zero RB or looking to roster high upside running back talent an injury away from instant relevancy.

Albeit a small sample size, McKinnon is sporting a 4.9 yard per carry average on now 168 carries. McKinnon has shown flashes of the ability necessary to function as a three down back, both as an early down, elusive runner (26 broken tackles – .15 per attempt), and out of the backfield as a pass catcher. The physical tools are there. A decent size of positive production has been seen. Those that have come here to ask whether to roster McKinnon or plodder Matt Asiata, please find the door. Let’s go for upside here people. Weekly RB2 potential and RB1 upside, please. Yes, in 2014 Asiata suplanted Peterson and produced RB17 standard scoring results with double-digit touchdowns on 208 touches. That was McKinnon’s rookie season, though. McKinnon has gained enough experience to this point, and has shown enough to see a solid share of the work. I’ll be betting on McKinnon as the clear benefactor of the Adrian Peterson injury.

If Peterson’s injury is a season-ender, I’d be throwing down my entire FAAB budget. The opportunities to add a player of McKinnon’s caliber, on a team that hovers around the top five in rush attempts on a yearly basis, doesn’t come along very often. If it’s a multi-week injury, I would still recommend setting aside a significant portion of your free agent acquisition budget depending on the severity of the injuries sustained by the group of backs this past weekend. A workload of 12-15 touches per game, would be extremely attractive, especially in PPR leagues. Regardless, I’m shooting for the moon and following the upside in this instance.

***UPDATE***

Adrian Peterson has a torn meniscus. The severity of the injurity is unknown, but requires surgery. Here are the possible timetables for Peterson’s return.

 


I have been playing fantasy football since 2000 along with many other fantasy sports. I have a warm place in my heart for 2QB/SuperFlex formats.

I’m always available to chat football or answer any questions fantasy related. Follow @JeffDonovan_WA to send any questions, comments, or concerns my way.

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