Entering the 2014 fantasy draft, Montee Ball was being scooped up early by fantasy owners who thought they had found the next big thing. Those that expected RB1 numbers from Ball were sadly mistaken, as a season of injuries and the emergence of CJ Anderson caused him to finish as the 90th RB overall in standard scoring behind teammates CJ Anderson (11th overall) and Ronnie Hillman (41 overall). To put how disappointing Ball's season was into perspective, Ball finished with only 27.4 fantasy points on the season in 5 games played. These beyond disappointing numbers in 2014 killed many owners fantasy seasons, but now the hopefuls are looking to the future... and the future's name is CJ Anderson. Entering 2015, Anderson is going in current mocks between the late first to second round, eerily similar to Ball's ADP entering 2014. Could this spell disaster for Anderson next season? This analyst thinks that the clear answer is a resounding 'no.' Let's take a look at both backs in order to find proof that Anderson is not doomed to repeat the failures of Montee Ball.
Evidence vs. Speculation
In 2013, Knowshon Moreno finished as the #5 fantasy running back with Ball (next big thing) showing flashes of greatness. When Moreno left the Broncos after the 2013 season, the fantasy world was abuzz that Ball would be the workhorse back and repeat Moreno's numbers in 2014. This was pure speculation. In his entire rookie season, Ball never had more than 15 carries per game and averaged only 7.5. In other words, Ball was never the bell cow in the Broncos' 2013 offense so to expect him to just take that role in 2014 was nothing but a hopeful prediction. Additionally, Ball only had a single 100+ yard game (13 carries for 117 yards) and in that game had a single rush for 45 yards. Remove that rush and Ball had 12 carries for 72 yards, which while still impressive is not RB1 material. Finally, even though Ball showed some flashes of being a viable fantasy starter in 2015, there was one glaring statistic that should have made people realize he couldn't be the workhorse back in 2014. In his rookie season, on rushing attempts 11-20 Ball averaged only 3.4 yards per carry. In other words, when Ball was given more than 10 carries per game, his stats dropped significantly.
After taking a look at the numbers, it seems that there's a bit more evidence supporting Anderson's case. In the first nine weeks of 2014 Anderson tallied only 17 carries. In week 10, he began to take the reins and rushed for 90 yards on 13 carries (6.9 yards per carry). Fully taking over the backfield in week 12, he averaged 23 carries per game (140 carries in 6 weeks) and 4.6 yards per carry (648 yards on 140 carries) for the remainder of the season. This is the definition of a workhorse back, a role that Montee Ball never actually achieved in 2013. And remember that glaring statistic of Montee Ball only averaging 3.4 yards per carry after 10 rushes? It doesn't seem like Anderson has that problem. On carries 11-20, Anderson averages 4.3 yards per carry, and on carries 21-30, he averages 4.9 yards per carry. These are the type of numbers required from a workhorse back and should continue in 2015.
Wear and Tear
Montee Ball and CJ Anderson are both only 24 years old, and should have good long careers ahead of them right? While they could both have long careers ahead of them, the level of wear and tear of Ball is MUCH higher than that of Anderson. Now, I understand that CJ Anderson has 186 career carries in the NFL while Ball has only 175, but this goes beyond the NFL. In his 4 year college career, Ball rushed 924 times for an impressive 5140 yards (5.6 avg) while in Anderson's short career rushed only 198 times for 1135 yards (5.7 avg). A lot of people forget that rookies entering the NFL don't have equal levels of wear and tear. While you can't say that Ball's injury in 2014 was directly caused by his heavy workload in college, it certainly didn't help. Likewise Anderson, even with his heavy workload in 2014, remained injury free and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. This could be a testament to his build and the toughness he has. Measuring in at 5'8" and 224 lbs, Anderson is simply a more durable back compared to the 5'10" 216 lbs Montee Ball. And even as a shorter and heavier back, Anderson has a bit more top speed than Ball. In fact, in addition to speed Anderson slights Ball in a few categories. Let's take a look at their combine results...
|* = Top Performer||40 Yard Dash||Bench Press||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||3 Cone Drill||20 Yard Shuttle|
|17 reps||32"||119"||7.15 sec||4.12 sec*|
|Montee Ball||4.66 sec||15 reps||32"||118"||6.88 sec||4.40 sec|
Now I know these numbers are extremely close (too close to call really) but with how similar they are it makes you wonder why Ball was drafted in the second round while Anderson went undrafted.
Where to Target CJ Anderson in 2015
After crunching the numbers, it is clear that CJ Anderson has solidified himself as a workhorse-capable back. He is entering the 2015 season as the Broncos #1 back and with an expected reduced workload from Peyton Manning, Anderson looks like one of the best backs (situationally) for 2015. Additionally, with Gary Kubiak returning to the Broncos (this time as their head coach) I expect even more emphasis on the running game. In my opinion, if Kubiak (as offensive coordinator) was able to turn the journeyman, Justin Forsett into a viable fantasy starter, I can only imagine what he can do with a gem like CJ Anderson. Because Ball's ADP in 2014 was based on speculation and assumed potential, he failed to live up to the hype. In Anderson's case the hype is real! I expect Anderson to finish in the top 10 for RBs easily and could push the top 5. Look to scoop up Anderson in the back end of the first round or the very early second round.