Still Got It: Handy Handcuffs
To continue the Still Got It series, we magnify on those Running Back handcuffs. These players have got age against them – and that is a serious factor in the Running Back game! So who has still got a chance to make a difference in their respective backfields?
Cordarelle Patterson – Atlanta Falcons
Quite a contentious pick to start off the handcuffs! Many drafters still consider Patterson to be the lead back at the Falcons. An overall RB9 finish in 2021 shouts the loudest when factoring in his 2022 role. After a career-record season and positional finish, it makes sense to plant a flag on Cordarelle to continue where he left off.
The hybrid back is entering his 9th season in the NFL, turning 31 in March. So far, he has stood the test of time, and this is likely down to his unique role during his career. Although preferred as a pass catcher and notorious returner, his physicality and skill set was utilised in the run game. However, that saw reduced level of usage up until Chicago ‘unlocked’ him in 2020. Atlanta saw an opportunity, and lucky drafters reaped the rewards in 2021.
Back to back? or back to backup?
Reading Patterson’s weekly point output is a tale of two halves. The 16 games that he played show a clear points divide, with 65% of fantasy points in the first 8 games. While snap percentages roughly remained the same, the output dropped, with only 35% of total fantasy points coming in the remaining 8. Usage saw a distinct drop off in the final 4 weeks. And the combined total of those last four matches were less than his bumper Week 4 haul against Washington.
This wasn’t even due to another Running Back usurping him. The backfield situation changed often throughout the season, but Patterson’s dual-threat ability kept him at a high usage level. And Patterson still saw the most use out of anyone in that backfield for that last leg of the season. Amongst those who saw significant snaps in those last four weeks were Mike Davis (27 carries, 7 targets) and Qadree Ollison (4 carries, 1 target).
This could be one reason why the RB9 resides close to the 90s in Sleeper ADP for 2022 drafts. And Atlanta’s new signings don’t go any way to changing it. Superbowl winning Running Back Damien Williams joins from Chicago. More importantly, the Falcons have drafted Tyler Allgeier, a cannonball of a runner, to add flexibility to the backfield. Camp reports have Allgeier impressing coaching staff, so Patterson may see his role revert sooner rather than later.
All(geier) is not lost
However, much of Patterson’s relevance came from his pass-catching output. Although considered by many as the primary Running Back, his rushing produced 97.8 of 234.6 fpts (41%) – leaving 59% from receiving. This almost even split of point scoring bodes well for 2022.
In the best of scenarios, Patterson retains value on both sides of the ball. In the very worst case scenario, Allgeier comes in to take over the majority of carries, and Patterson resorts to one of the handcuffs. But even then, Patterson still has some room for pass-catching and third-down duties. And his history as a wideout also factors in. It provides that unique advantage of knowing the scheme and his flexibility across the offense.
Securing Patterson at that low ADP could give you a player with a reasonable receiving floor, and the potential of early rushing upside.
Melvin Gordon – Denver Broncos
Early reports from camp have Javonte Williams leading the backfield, with Melvin Gordon competing for the No.2 position. This may be hard for some drafters to take – especially those who hoped to find value in the latter several rounds later. So these early signs might not bode well.
Should this turn out to be true, Gordon is one of the handcuffs who stands apart from rookies in a similar position. Many years of evidence show that he can handle a large work load. Last year’s timeshare was a prime example. He went toe-to-toe with Williams all the way through 2021. Why not again in 2022?
Helping Russ Cook
The acquisition of Russell Wilson has got Broncos bucking up and down the country. One of the major Denver misses of 2021 was the ability to have a coherent passing offense. And, now Russ is hailing from Mile High, the fantasy world salivates at the thought of Bronco offensive pieces being relevant again.
This may well stretch to the backfield as well! With that experienced head under centre, game script should shift towards the positive. And there could be an opportunity for a Cleveland-type approach to the later stages of games. Rotating those Running Backs on drives add complexity for defences. And it keeps those rushing personnel fresh as the minutes dry up.
Hackett with the Packer approach
This rotation is certainly something that new head coach Nathaniel Hackett is used to. Firstly, his last five years as offensive co-ordinator has a backup Running Back getting over 100 carries. That’s a great start.
But last year saw the closest he has come to having a tandem Running Back approach. AJ Dillon (187 carries) and Aaron Jones (171 carries) both saw a large proportion of the overall carries. And there was still space for Aaron Rodgers to come away as QB6. Could this approach be taken with Gordon and Williams? After all, they did it last year!
Melvin Gordon is currently lying at an ADP of 119 – nearly 80 places below Javonte Williams.
So, you never know, there could be value in that later pick after all!
Rob – @5YardRob