Samaje Perine proved his worth at the University of Oklahoma. In 2014 he had a stellar year. In 2015 and 2016 the stat line would suggest a decline in his performance, but that is due in part to sharing snaps with Joe Mixon.
Perine set the single game rushing record for all of the NCAA by tallying 427 yards. He averaged 6 yards per carry over the course of his 3 years in a Sooners jersey.
Rob Kelley is Samaje’s only competition for snaps since Chris Thompson will get most of the receiving snaps from the backfield. Kelley only averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season. After losing Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson, the Redskins are going to need all the yards they can get on each play. This makes Perine the more desirable back.
One of the qualities that Perine possesses that I admire is his ability to gain ground when he is tackled. TV announcers often say, "he did a nice job of falling forward to get the first down". I would not say that Kelley is bad at this, but Perine is great at it. Another thing I like is that unlike most big running backs, Samaje is able to make people miss tackles in the open field.
Even if Rob Kelley were to get more snaps than Perine, the offense will still be in the red zone frequently. Perine should see the majority of the carries at the goal line. I would compare Perine and Kelly to Blount and Lewis from the Patriots last season.
Assuming that both backs split carries evenly with Perine getting the majority of goal line snaps, he can have a 1000 yard season with 12 touchdowns. If he gets the starting role then he could see more yards. I would not reach too far for him, but if he is available later in 6th or 7th round then he holds a great value.
I think that he can have a season much like Ezekiel Elliott had last season. The main difference that I notice is that Zeke had very little competition. Even if he is not the primary back he can still be useful in dynasty leagues or as a flex option in other leagues. Don't get me wrong, he is a long way away from being Zeke, but if he can start off the year hot he will carry that through the season.
Catching the ball has become one of the biggest assets a running back can have both in the NFL and fantasy football. It's no surprise you see RBs like Jamaal Charles, Le'Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray and other receiving competent backs rise above the rest in fantasy points by the end of the 2014 season. But, what if the running back isn't the best receiver on the planet? What if he's just a tough, physical runner who values running over defenders for those extra yards rather than joysticking past defenders? Oh, and what if he doesn't have Adrian Peterson like breakaway speed? Is it still worth drafting the downhill running back?
The answer to that is a resounding yes, however, certain criteria should be met. First, you need to know which round to take him in. Second, you need to know what scheme he plays in and if his running style is a good fit. Third, you need to look at the talent along the offensive line. Lastly, you need to evaluate his health and current physical state of his career.
Where Morris thrives
Redskins' running back Alfred Morris is a textbook example of a downhill runner. If you watched Morris as a rookie in 2012, you saw how effective he was at moving the pile and you almost cringed at the thought of some smaller defensive back having to tackle him. Here's a clip of Morris from 2012 where his drive to will his way past the first down marker is on full display.
Notice how his feet keep moving which allows him to maintain his balance through contact and scamper for more yards. He diagnosed where the hole is going to be quickly enough so that he can burst through it before the Cincinnati defender penetrates the line of scrimmage. He keeps his pad level low, which allows him to stay moving forward and gain positive yardage. His competitive toughness is also apparent on this play, as he looks to initiate contact with the defenders rather than avoid it. It's worth noting that Morris thrived in the read option alongside Robert Griffin III and there's no doubt the threat of a rushing quarterback helped Morris out immensely.
How he changed as a runner
Watching Morris in 2014, you saw a running back that seemed a little more indecisive at times. He often waited patiently to set up his blocks, but never fully committed to the hole even when it was there at times. You factor that in with his subtle decrease in burst, agility and all-around speed and it's no surprise his numbers last year were a career worst.
The Redskins instability at quarterback certainly didn't help Morris either. The team went through all three quarterbacks like kleenex last season and Morris had a different chemistry with each of them. With Robert Griffin III, he had more freedom as a runner because of the QB-run threat. With backup Kirk Cousins, he became more of a 3-4 yard per carry guy in addition to a play action guy which helped open up the passing game for the more pocket-oriented Cousins.
The current version of Morris runs to the edge and patiently waits for his blocks to set up, a trait many consider to be a positive one among running backs. The only difference — he never fully commits and cuts hard up the field like he did in his rookie year.
This isn't to say Morris was indecisive on every play in 2014. You still saw many glimpses of what he's capable of when he decides to commit to his blocks and burst through the hole. That was very evident in the game against Tampa, where Morris rushed for 96 yards on 20 carries. That performance against the Bucs was good for the second-most rushing yards Morris had in a game all season.
Also against Tampa, Morris displayed the kind of competitive toughness that has made him one of the most consistent fantasy backs over the last 3 seasons. Click the vine video below.
Where he still wins in the NFL and on your fantasy team
One of Morris' best traits is his durability. Through three seasons, Morris has started every game. He has shown to be the rare example of a running back who can withstand the harsh punishment of hit after hit that often lead to so many injuries at the position. In fantasy football, a guy who shows up and punches the clock is a valuable commodity in terms of consistency.
You could argue Morris has achieved that durability because of his more recent choices when running the ball. In 2014, there were times when Morris could've plowed over a defender but instead chose to use lateral jukes instead. Now, Morris' agility has never been his strongest suit, and his burst and explosiveness have decreased very slightly but also noticeably over the last three seasons. While you rarely see him make defenders miss like say, LeSean McCoy, his ability to juke rather than try and run defenders over has helped him avoid the violent hits that take their toll on a running back over the years has served as key preserver to the running backs productive career early on.
A typical Alfred Morris run in 2012: Line up in read option, burst through the hole after making one lateral cut, run downhill three of four yards, initiate contact with defender while still running forward behind pads and keeping legs churning, fall forward for another two or three yards.
A typical Alfred Morris run in 2014: Line up behind the quarterback in a half-pistol formation (typically what he ran with Kirk Cousins at quarterback), burst through the hole just a tad bit slower, shuffle feet more to make cutback instead of planting foot in the ground and cutting decisively, wait for blockers to set up before running 2-3 yards before laterally sliding around defender and falling forward for an extra yard.
While that analysis may indicate Morris has regressed a little bit, the bigger culprit isn't so much in his athleticism since he remains pretty well-off in that category. It's more so his lack of decisiveness in the hole that has hurt his production the most
That, combined with the injury woes to the Redskins at the quarterback position in addition to a young offensive line that had to play a backup tight end at times during the season plus a new coach in Jay Gruden and loss of running back guru Mike Shanahan and you got a few more ingredients to complement the slight dropoff recipe as well.
His benign role in the receiving game
Perhaps the biggest threat against Morris as a potential solid fantasy running back is his struggles in the receiving game. Morris had one of the worst drop rates in the league last season, as he failed to reel in 6 of his 26 targets. This led to the Redskins not trust him much as a receiver, and it hurt Morris' fantasy value on third down. Per Football Outsiders, Morris was only on the field for 58 percent of the snaps in 2014, which ranked him 18th among starting RBs. It hurt him the most on long passing downs, as Washington preferred the services of Roy Helu Jr.
Helu's tendency to stay on the field when the team was running their no huddle offense in hopes of trying to comeback from a deficit in the fourth quarter. It was a fate the Redskins found themselves in very often last season after winning just four games, and Morris' value suffered as he frequently came out during third downs and Roy Helu Jr. saw plenty of work in the passing game via the screen and on choice routes.
Overall, Morris compiled just 37 catches for 310 receiving yards and zero receiving touchdowns in three seasons as a starting running back. It's not the kind of numbers you want to see in a current NFL landscape that almost requires a running back be a good receiver out of the backfield. You have the feeling at any moment, a more talented receiving back like newly-acquired Matt Jones might overtake Morris at some point in 2015.
What 2015 has in store
There is optimism for Morris' fantasy owners in 2015, however. The Redskins are retooling their offensive line and spent a first-round pick on top right tackle Brandon Scherff. Scherff will likely be inserted into the starting lineup immediately and with pro bowler Trent Williams anchoring the other side, this could be a formidable unit as the season goes along. Williams is also in the final year of his rookie contract and will be looking for a pay day. Former third-round pick Spencer Long could also play a big role this season, as he's expected to play at right guard.
New offensive line coach Bill Callahan wants to make the Redskins more of a power run team like he did with the Cowboys a season ago. This plays to Morris' strengths as a downhill runner. However, he'll have to become better at reading his blocks and more decisive in cutting up field if he wants to post another 1,000-yard season.
Morris is still an RB2, but he's an upper-tier RB2 with an offense that will try to rebuild its line and play more to Morris' strengths as a runner.
On Monday's Treatment podcast, the Helpers discuss running backs and who's currently overvalued, undervalued based on their ADP. They discuss Redskins' Matt Jones and his value behind Alfred Morris, what Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are up to in their backfield, plus T.J. Yeldon, Arian Foster and Carlos Hyde.
Editor's note: Our bullet point articles are written to better explain our weekly rankings, which you can find here.
Week 13 is like...totally...one of the most important weeks of the year for fantasy owners. All the players who compelled you to draft them are finally going to make or break your season. Some of you will leave footmarks on your ceiling ten feet high as Week 13 concludes, while others will be left dismayed and swear off fantasy football forever only to return like a coke addict the following year.
The running back picture this week is an interesting one. There are several mid-level backs with tough matchups. Take Isaiah Crowell for example, a guy who Casey Bass covered in his Sleepers/Busts piece this week. Crowell is driving a lot of fantasy owners crazy since he's talented but not exactly matchup proof. Well, he's got a tough matchup against Buffalo and is one of our toughest calls this week. Here's a few more notable running backs and their situations for one of the biggest weeks in fantasy football.
Start of the week
Arian Foster at Tennessee — #5 in weekly rankings
Foster owners can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that his groin injury won't sideline him for Sunday's matchup against Tennessee.
Foster owners should also be also be giddy like a bull who just saw red. Just three weeks ago in Houston's first matchup with Tennessee, Foster torched the Titans to the tune of 151 rushing yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns while also adding a receiving touchdown and four catches for 22 yards. It was one of his most dominating performances of the year and it's not out of the question he repeats the feat. The Titans rank dead last in rushing yards allowed per game (145.2) and have surrendered 13 rushing touchdowns.
The Texans will also return former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback after losing Ryan Mallett for the season. More of a check-down QB than Mallet, Foster should benefit on short passes from Fitzmagic in the screen game and on wheel routes. There's a lot to like about this matchup, and Foster should have a monster game.
Denard Robinson at New York Giants— #17 in weekly rankings
The once-ferocious front seven of the New York Giants that doesn't get enough credit in helping Big Blue win two Super Bowls seems to be a thing of the past. The Giants rank second to last in rushing yards allowed (142 per game) and have given up 13 rushing touchdowns, which ranks second to last as well.
Robinson is coming off his worst game of the season against Indianapolis, where he rushed for 25 yards on 14 carries (1.8 YPC). The Colts did a good job bottling him up, plus Toby Gerhart was used on some screens which limited Robinson's value a bit. Still, his 14 carries is a sizeable enough workload and he managed to make up for his lack of production in the run game with four catches for 47 yards.
Robinson could be in for one of his best weeks of the season. The Jaguars defense has been playing well and if they continue to pressure the quarterback like they did Andrew Luck last week, expect this week's game to swing Jacksonville's way.
Alfred Morris at Indianapolis — # 7 in weekly rankings
We ranked Morris high with the assumption that Robert Griffin III would still be playing quarterback. Well, that's not the case anymore.
The Redskins surprised many when they announced RG3 would be benched in favor of third stringer Colt McCoy earlier this week. While McCoy has played well as a spot starter for the Redskins, Alfred Morris has always been more effective on zone read plays due to the threat of an RG3 taking off for a big run. McCoy doesn't possess that same athleticism at the QB spot, so defenses won't have to deal with that annoying 'wait and see which is guy is going to run' dilemma which should help them key in on Morris more.
Here's a quick breakdown of Morris with and without RG3:
Morris with RG3 (last 3 games): 313 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, five catches, 58 receiving yards
Morris without RG3 (last 3 games before RG3's return): 168 rushing yards, one touchdown, two catches for 12 yards.
This really is a great matchup for the Colts overall as well. Physical corners in Vontae Davis will be trouble for smaller receivers like DeSean Jackson, plus McCoy's weaker arm will be limit Jackson's ability in the deep game and allow the Colts to stack the box even more to stop Morris. Morris is still a worthy starter, but you may want to consider benching him for another option if you can.
Bishop Sankey @ Houston — #14 in weekly rankings
Sankey isn't the most explosive running back, but the matchup with Houston is now a bit more intriguing since the Texans will again be without Jadeveon Clowney. But even with Clowney out, Sankey hasn't proven to be much more than a weak flex option this season. He rushed for just 39 yards the last time these two teams played (and that was without Clowney as well) and he's rushed for more than 3.9 yard per carry in just three times this season.
Don't start him but hang on to him
Latavius Murray (out) at St. Louis — #10 in weekly rankings
We talked about Latavius Murray on our 'firm acts of conviction' podcast back in the preseason. Just fast forward to the 07:05 mark and check out our reasoning and you'll realize everything we said is coming to fruition. I know it's annoying to click on a link and fast forward it yourself! But unfortunately this web site isn't Grantland and I haven't figured out how Bill Simmoms does those links where I can send you to exactly that 07:05 spot within the link itself. But just do it anyway, it's a great flashback moment.
Anyway, if you watch him on film, you forget that this guy is actually 6'3, 225 lbs until you see him running along side a defensive back in the open field. You just don't see running backs of his size very often. Not since Brandon Jacobs (who was 6'4) have we seen a running back as tall as Murray with that kind of speed.
Unfortunately, Murray failed his final concussion test and won't be playing against the St. Louis Rams today. Instead, you'll have to deal with Darren 'fall down every time the offensive line doesn't give me a huge hole' McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. None of those running backs are startable in 12-team leagues. Murray will be a great flex option in Week 14 against the 49ers, a team that has been off and on when stopping the run this season.
On Monday's weekly First Aid podcast, the Helpers discuss the dreadful Lions offense from a fantasy perspective. They also discuss RG3's problems in the passing game and pump up the fantasy playoff value of the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14 against Oakland. And yes, Carlos Hyde is somebody should you look to pickup for that game. Plus, weekly awards and a brief preview of tonight's game between New Orleans and Baltimore.
Washington Redskins at San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick: 20-for-29, 256 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception (13 fantasy points)
Rank among fantasy QBs for Week 12: 13th
Quarterbacks that did better: P. Manning, R. Tannehill, T. Romo, E. Manning, T. Brady, A. Rodgers, R. Wilson, T. Bridgewater, Z. Mettenberger, A. Smith, M. Ryan, A. Luck, P. Rivers
Chances are, a few of the quarterbacks listed above are available on your waiver wire (Mettenberger, Bridgewater anyone?) and Kaepernick remains a tough guy to start if you're chasing a fantasy championship. I applaud you if you've managed to be a competitive team with him as your QB1, but it's time you start looking elsewhere for fantasy points.
After a quick start where he found Anquan Boldin in the end zone, Kaepernick struggled. He lacks the ability to finish drives which hurts his fantasy value.
Robert Griffin III: 11-for-19, 106 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 1 fumble (3 fantasy points)
Rank among fantasy QBs for Week 12: 25th
Quarterbacks that did better: P. Manning, R. Tannehill, T. Romo, E. Manning, T. Brady, A. Rodgers, R. Wilson, T. Bridgewater, Z. Mettenberger, A. Smith, M. Ryan, A. Luck, P. Rivers, C. Kaepernick, J. McCown, M. Sanchez, A. Dalton, D. Carr, M. Stafford, J. Cutler, B. Hoyer, D. Stanton, R. Mallett, B. Bortles
RG3 continues to struggle. He's been reduced to a game manager at this point, not taking any shots down the field and instead handing the ball off to Alfred Morris and checking down to tight ends. He's lost his confidence, the coaches seem to be out on him, and his future with the franchise is in doubt. He's dropable in all leagues.
Alfred Morris: 21 carries for 125 yards, 1 touchdown (18 fantasy points)
Rank among RBs for Week 12: 9th
Running backs that did better: E. Lacy, C.J. Anderson, L. Murray, M. Forte, I. Crowell, L. McCoy, L. Blount, J. Charles
Morris put together his best fantasy performance of the season despite playing against a good defense. He's among the most consistent running backs in fantasy as of now, with at least 7 points in his last four games. The Redskins will continue to rely on him with their struggles at quarterback, and that could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how well the defense keys in on Morris.
Frank Gore: 13 carries for 36 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 fumble (1 fantasy point)
Rank among RBs for Week 12: 50th
Gore was held largely in check by a Redskins' front seven that has answered quite a few tests this season. Carlos Hyde fared a little better with one goal line touchdown, but even he finished with just 16 yards on the ground. Gore started off hot enough with two 100 yard rushing games in his first five games, but he's tapered off substantially as the season winds down. He's averaging 3.2 yards per carry over his last six games, and it may be time to pull the plug on him as the 49ers get Seattle twice in the next three weeks. He might be a good start against Oakland in Week 14 though.
The wild running, the wild running, the ripping and the tearing, the ripping and the tearing.
Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris ran the ball with a sense of anger during his first season in the NFL. He was one of the toughest tackles in the league, often dragging several defenders on his back as he chugged along for extra yardage. He looked like a man possessed at times.
I mean look at this run from 2012, where Morris explodes through a hole on an off tackle play, loses his helmet and doesn't miss a beat as he rumbles for a few more yards. Always has to be a drag to be a defender closing in on a tackle when you know the guy you're tackling doesn't have his helmet on. It's good that now a helmet loss is an automatic dead ball.
Morris burst onto the scene immediately as a rookie in part due to Mike Shanahan's run-heavy version of the west coast offense, a scheme Morris flourished in. He totaled 1,613 rushing yards which was good for third in the league, and proved one of the best bangs-for-draft buck after getting selected in the sixth round by the Washington Redskins.
Morris suffered a minor sophomore slump in 2013 but still managed 1,275 yards despite playing on a bad Redskins team that won just three games. Morris crossed the 100-yard plateau only three times last season but more importantly, he had four more other games of at least 90 yards. So while his numbers dipped slightly, he was still an effective running back and his 4.6 yards per carry average was more than respectable. Overall, he gave fantasy owners consistent production.
While Morris established a reputation for an aggressive running style which involved mowing down defenders as opposed to avoiding them with his agility, it wouldn't be fair to suggest Morris maintain that crazy, explosive running ability throughout an entire career. It's obviously dangerous to your long-term health and we've seen how many tough runners have faded out early in their careers (Marion Barber from the Cowboys being a prime example). Still, 2014 Morris just hasn't lived up to the bill of one of the most consistent running backs in the league.
What has gone wrong
Morris kicked off 2014 with a series of decent performances, rushing for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns in the Redskins' first two games, but he's tapered off since. Over the last three games, Morris hasn't rushed for 100 yards in a game and his yards per carry average is down to a mediocre 3.8 yards per carry, nearly 1 yard less than a season ago.
His workload started off strong enough, as he averaged slightly over 20 carries for the first three games of the season, but has seen his attempts drop to around 15 per game over the last three weeks. He also hasn't recorded a touchdown in three games.
The offensive line has struggled as well, with pro bowl tackle Trent Williams battling a knee injury that forced him out of the team's Week 4 matchup against the New York Giants.
Competition creeping in
Fellow running back Roy Helu Jr. has started to make a case for more touches as of late. Previously viewed as a goal line back who can catch the occasional pass out of the backfield, Helu saw five carries last week against Tennessee and turned them into 29 yards, nearly half of what Morris had with nearly 1/3 of his carries. Helu's five carries were the most he's seen since the Redskins 41-10 blowout win against Jacksonville.
It's not so much saying that Helu getting slightly more carries ups his value as much as it lowers Alfred Morris's. It's a deathblow to fantasy value when another running who isn't exactly going to replace the RB1 but instead siphons a few more carries which eventually washes out both of their value. It's just one more thing to worry about when it comes to owning Morris.
Jay Gruden's offense
After RG3 went down in Week 2, the Redskins shifted to a more pass-based offense. After filling in for Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins threw 204 times in roughly 5.5 games played. That's about 38 pass attempts per game. Morris has never been a reliable receiver and his one dimensional game has proved limiting so far in a pass-heavy offense.
Is RG3 the answer?
People tend to think Morris is only valuable if quarterback Robert Griffin III is on the field due to another added run threat. While Morris' numbers were better in the first two games when RG3 was healthy. it's tough to think he'll all of a sudden flip a switch and morph into 2012 Morris when RG3 returns in 2-3 weeks.
When you watch Morris run in 2014, the problem isn't all scheme-based or RG3-based, Morris simply isn't breaking tackles or running with the desire we've seen in the past, which is probably the biggest concern for this value going forward.
A favorable schedule and a new QB
One thing Morris has working in his favor is the Redskins' upcoming schedule. Four of the next five defenses Washington plays (Dallas, Minnesota, Indianapolis) are all giving up at least 4.4 yards per carry to running backs. Also, third-string quarterback Colt McCoy is expected to start against Dallas on Monday night. Largely known as a game manager, it wouldn't be surprising if Morris is given more carries as Gruden relegates the weak-armed McCoy to more of a game manager role.
Overall, even with a slate of easier defenses upcoming, Morris probably won't improve all that much until he regains his desire to run the ball with the same kind of purpose he's displayed in his first two seasons. Until then, consider benching him for another RB2.
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George and Scott break down two games and give fantasy value out on both sides of the ball for each one. First, Eagles vs. Redskins. Second, Packers vs. Lions. They also hand out their weekly awards and preview tonight's game between the Chicago Bears and New York Jets.