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Theo Riddick vs. Ameer Abdullah

Which Lion runningback should you draft this season? Senior Writer Zack Marmer tells you how to decide.

Theo Riddick vs Ameer Abdullah

I was doing a mock draft on ESPN.com the other day and noticed that Theo Riddick was listed ahead of Ameer Abdullah in their ADP by a few spots. I checked TFA’s go to ADP source Fantasy Football Calculator and in their ADP, Ameer is going more than 2 full rounds ahead of Theo. This got me thinking about who I would prefer, so I sent out this poll to Twitter:

The poll results themselves make sense on the surface and correlate to Ameer’s higher ADP on apparently every other site not named ESPN. However, there were plenty of comments and arguments that battled for both sides, and I think it sparked enough chatter that I thought it worth breaking down both sides in greater detail.

Theo Riddick

Theo Riddick

Riddick’s profile is one of receiving back. He caught 80 balls in 2015 and was on pace for about 85 in 2016 before he got hurt. He is arguably the best receiving back in the NFL. In the open field, Theo is Riddick-ulous. He has joystick jukes that rival the best in the league and can run routes reminiscent of a slot receiver.

The issue with Riddick is that he is terrible at being an actual running back. His career 3.5 is telling of his despicable ability to gain yards when the ball is handed to him. Subsequently, even with Abdullah sidelined for all but 2 games in 2016, Riddick only averaged 9.25 carries per game in the Lions offense sans-Ameer. Detroit knows Theo isn’t great at running the ball, so when Ameer when down, they gave more of those opportunities to the combination of Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner.

Ameer Abdullah

Ameer Abdullah

That is a perfect transition to Abdullah, who as long as he’s healthy, should get the lions share of carries over Washington and Zenner (not to mention Riddick). Abdullah’s sample size of carries is very small (161 in his short career) but his 4.3 yards per carry average is much more respectable than Riddick’s. As the lead back in the pre-season dress-rehearsal game vs. the Patriots, Abdullah rushed for 60 yards on 13 carries. If that’s indicative of how the Lions will use him in the regular season, Abdullah looks like a potential workhorse.

In addition to those 13 carries, Ameer caught all 3 balls thrown to him for additional 39 yards. Despite Riddick’s passing game prowess, Abdullah offers plenty in that department as well. The 2015 2nd round pick has similar yards per reception averages to Riddick (albeit in a much smaller sample size). He’s flashed his explosiveness and playmaking abilities when given opportunities.

Zack’s Fantasy Predictions

Player Carries Ru Yards Catches Re Yards Total TDs STD FP/G PPR FP/G
Theo Riddick 45 170 75 610 4 6.38 11.06
Ameer Abdullah 190 840 35 290 5 8.94 11.13

I have heard Detroit coaches talk Ameer up to as many as 250 carries. Considering Detroit may use a goal-line back not named Abdullah or Riddick, and given Riddick will get some carries still, I think somewhere a shade under 200 is about right. Let’s not forget that the Lions finished 11th in the league in pass attempts (594) last year. They were also 30th in the league in rushing yards. (1,310) That doesn’t figure to change much with Matthew Stafford getting served up the richest contract in NFL history to date.

This isn’t even mentioning the fact that Greg Robinson will have to start at left tackle for at least most of this season instead of star Taylor Decker. Detroit’s offensive line ranked out as 24th coming into the season according to Pro Football Focus. This doesn’t exactly give me confidence in their run game as a whole.

Who should I draft?

Standard Scoring

Obviously, if you are drafting in a standard league, Abdullah is the choice. Touches and touchdowns are the names of the game. Abdullah should have way more opportunities for those in standard leagues. Riddick isn’t a huge consideration here.

PPR Scoring

For PPR, as is always my recommendation, who you should draft depends on the price tag. If you have to choose between the two in a vacuum where you can only have 1 and the other will not be available at your next pick, I would lean slightly towards Abdullah. Riddick offers a safe floor due to his receptions, but Abdullah should get enough carries to make up for this.

If you are expecting Ameer Abdullah to be your RB1, you will likely be disappointed. However, since running backs are being drafted like they get to wear gold-plated armor this season, if you can take Ameer as an RB3 without sacrificing too much in the receiver department, Abdullah isn’t a bad pick. He has the talent to blow my projections for him out of the water.

If the difference in where you can draft either of these two backs is significant, the cheaper option is usually preferable. At FFC’s ADP difference of over two rounds, I will gladly take Riddick since I expect the two to produce similar numbers anyway. In the 5th round, I likely won’t be taking Abdullah. I just like the upside of the other options going around him. With the running back obsession this year, wide receiver value is getting pushed down. Instead of Abdullah, I would take any of the following going in his range on FFC: Devante Parker, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon, and Stefon Diggs.

Theo Riddick’s current price tag is much easier to swallow. I would take him over pretty much any of the players going around him such as Derrick Henry, LeGarrette Blount, Eric Decker, Chris Hogan, and Tevin Coleman.

Thanks for reading!

Who would you pick? Reach out to me on Twitter to continue the debate. Don’t forget to visit our redraft page to make sure you are prepared for your fantasy drafts! Thanks for reading!

I currently reside in Denver, Colorado. I am from Philly so I am a diehard Eagles fan. When I am not writing about fantasy football, I am probably skiing, hiking, rock climbing, or playing hockey.

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