So far in the 2015 fantasy season, everyone has been in awe with surprise after the emergence of Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. But another equally surprising running back is New York Jets' Christopher Ivory.
As of Week 7, Ivory ranks 4th overall in fantasy points among running backs with 73 total, trailing only Freeman, Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles. Considered a backup with New Orleans who only saw significant playing time when Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush were injured, Ivory earned more time of the field thanks to some fantastic performances when given the opportunity.
Ivory recorded 716 yards on 137 attempts (5.2 yards per carry average) and 5 touchdowns in his best season with the Saints in 2010. But he couldn't sustain that production due to a multitude of injuries. He managed to play in just 12 combined games in 2011 and 2012 which eventually ended with the Saints trading him in 2013.
Though he was an injury-riddled nightmare with the Saints, Ivory has since only missed one game in three seasons with the Jets and his power running style has been a much better fit in New York. The Jets have allowed him to be their high volume back, as he recorded over 180 carries in 2013 and 2014 and rushed for averages of 4.6 and 4.1 yards per carry, respectively.
Though he's currently battling a hamstring injury which could alter his Week 8 status in a road matchup against the Oakland Raiders, 2015 has been Ivory's best season yet. With two 100-yard games and 5 touchdowns (4 rushing, 1 receiving) through 7 weeks, he's currently on pace for 1,145 yards and 9 touchdowns. It would be his first 1,000-yard rushing season if he can stay healthy. Given his injury history, it's a big if. Still, he's been highly valuable when on the field.
Christopher Ivory vs. Washington Redskins (Week 6)
Stats: 20 carries for 146 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 receptions for 50 yards
What he did
Ivory showed some exceptional vision and decisiveness in this game. On a 54-yard run in the first half, he took advantage of Redskins linebacker Perry Riley Jr. over pursuing to the left side and Ivory cut it back, utilized his downfield blocks well and ran down the sideline for a big gain.
I don't know why, but it's surprising that Ivory has been able to rip off big gains throughout his career. While his 54-yarder against Washington was his biggest of the 2015 season, Ivory has recorded at least one run of 50+ yards in every season aside from one (2011 where he only had a 35 yard run). It's important to note because many associate Ivory with being a hard-nosed runner who isn't known for gaining big chunks of yardage. He's shown on a consistent basis that he can do just that.
Judging from the limited amount of tape I've watched of Ivory so far this season, he's not much of a cut runner. He's instinctive when hitting the hole and is gifted with a robust offensive line up front. He's most successful when he gets to the edge since his straight-line speed is one of his biggest strengths. He's a thick back at 6'0, 222lbs and he utilizes the stiff arm well, getting his hand on top of the defenders helmet and pushing him to the ground. It's a tool he used frequently against the Redskins.
But he doesn't just show the ability to get what's blocked for him, Ivory can also adjust and create yards with his vision as well. This trait helped lead to one of his biggest gains of the day against the Redskins. On a designed draw play, Ivory was supposed to run inside but noticed the hole was clogged up after he took the handoff. He quickly stopped, planted his feet and shifted to the right side of the field. Ryan Fitzpatrick showed great awareness and came around to chip block the defensive end just enough for Ivory to get to the edge and the result was an 11-yard gain on what easily could've been a no gain or short loss.
Sometimes Ivory tries to cut to make a defender miss right before he's taken down on the play, and you have to wonder if he'd be better suited using the stiff arm or his power to just run through the defender. But it's also understandable that you don't want to continually mash defenders since it takes a toll on your body.
While a lot of Ivory's more successful runs were the result of good execution, there were some bad defensive examples that the veteran took advantage of as well. For example, on a 32-yard run in the third quarter, Ivory took advantage of the defensive back blowing outside contain on the right side, leaving a lot of green field for Ivory to run to on right-side handoff out of the shotgun.
Overall, Ivory's best gains come on runs to the edge where he has space to operate and doesn't need to execute any sudden lateral jump cuts. He has good footwork and can run through tight creases while not losing speed in a straight line. He's most successful when he can run to the edge and not have to make any quick cuts to head down field. Once he accelerates through the hole and has daylight, he can use a stiff arm or his balance to take contact and spin for a few extra yards. He's not an elusive back by any means and needs good blocking to be effective, and luckily he has that with the New York Jets.
Week 8 fantasy recommendation at Oakland Raiders
While you have to monitor Ivory's hamstring issues throughout the week, you might consider avoiding Ivory in Daily Fantasy league in Week 8. Oakland has been better against the run than expected this season, giving up only 14.2 fantasy points per game to running backs.