Thursday, 23 June 2016 00:00

Can Josh Ferguson have fantasy value in 2016?

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Franco Harris in 1983, John Henry Johnson in 1962 and John Riggins in 1984. Those three running backs all share one thing in common — they were the only RBs to rush for more than 1,000 yards after turning 33 years old.

Frank Gore, the current starting running back for the Indianapolis Colts, is also 33 years old. If you're looking to draft Gore to your fantasy team this season at his more than reasonable ADP of RB26, keep in mind that while you're getting good value at that price, you're also wagering Gore will do something only three running backs in NFL history have done.

Gore rushed for 967 yards last season and finished with six touchdowns. So while it's safe to say he hasn't completely lost his ability to produce, there's always a chance he drops off or at the very least needs to shoulder less of the workload. This creates a chance for someone else to enter the fray, and that someone in this case is current backup Josh Ferguson.

Opportunity is definitely there for the undrafted back out of Illinois even aside from Gore's age. With Robert Turbin, Jordan Todman, Trey Williams and Tyler Varga rounding out the backfield, there's no back that really stands to see any meaningful carries in the backup role. So Ferguson should likely enter 2016 as the clear No. 2 back.

In terms of what he brings to the table, Ferguson stands 5'10, 200 lbs and doesn't play any more powerful than his weight would indicate. He's not a strong finisher at the point of contact and will likely struggle to create yards after contact at the NFL level especially when a linebacker or defensive lineman squares up and hits him directly.

However, you don't need to be an overwhelmingly powerful running back to make a fantasy impact or even be an effective runner. We've seen many running backs such as Danny Woodhead and Duke Johnson bring tremendous value as receiving backs with limited success running the ball.

Ferguson has some traits that translate well and he's worth taking a flier on for a variety of reasons. For one, his ability to stick his foot in the ground at cut up field is very good. You could argue he's one of the quickest backs among the rookie running back class in terms of sudden acceleration. You will see him elude defenders at times on inside runs and in the open field because it's very tough for a linebacker or defensive lineman to mirror that quickness. You'll see defenders struggle to get a clean hit on him at times as well which could lead to big plays in the open field.

Second, he's a proven receiver out of the backfield. While at Illinois, he had back-to-back 50 catch seasons and the Colts are one of most pass-heavy teams in the NFL when Andrew Luck is under center. The Colts also upgraded their offensive line this past offseason through the draft, which was one of their biggest weaknesses in 2015. If they can keep Luck healthy, it's likely you'll see Indy jump out to early leads against weaker teams, which could lead to more opportunities for Ferguson in the second half since the Colts will likely chew up clock and keep Gore on the sideline to avoid injury and also keep his carries down.

There's a lot of opportunity in the Colts backfield on an offense with one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league throwing the ball. Ferguson's traits will translate very well in that offense and all he'll need is an opportunity to prove himself. Gore's age increases the likelihood of that opportunity happening. Draft Ferguson in the late rounds of your draft for potential value. 

Last modified on Monday, 08 August 2016 18:54
George Banko

George Banko started talking about fantasy football shortly after graduating college. He started as an intern at FFChamps.com before working as a staff writer for Fantasy Knuckleheads. He currently contributes to the Fantasy Hot Read podcast, which is available on itunes. He also educated himself on player evaluation and is a graduate of The Scouting Academy in 2015, which is an online course run by former NFL Scout Dan Hatman. He started Fantasy Football Helpers as a blog in 2011 and converted it to a full-scale website in 2014. Read more.

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