One man arms himself with a calculator, the other with his intuition. They enter the cage for a no holds barred bloodbath to answer the age-old question, “Is this guy any good?”
LeGarrette Blount – Philadelphia Eagles
2016: 16 GP | 299 Carries | 1,161 yds | 18 TDs
Alex Schillinger: There’s no denying it. LeGarrette Blount had a killer year last year. 18 touchdowns?1 Are you kidding me? There isn’t an adjective powerful enough to describe a fantasy year like that. But it wasn’t just that. He topped one thousand yards rushing and he played in all 16 games.2 Look at those numbers! Blount’s a stud, right?
Mike Bergsman: David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliot, LeSean McCoy, Le’Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray. Devonta Freeman…LeGarrette Blount? Yes, these were the top seven RBs in standard scoring in 2016. Blount was an absolute beast, punching3 through the line and into the endzone 1.12 times per game. That’s pretty damn good. That’s actually 2 more touchdowns than Carson Wentz threw for in 2016. But now that Blount’s lining up behind Wentz on the Eagles, there’s no way he can keep up that level of fantasy output, is there?
Alex: No, there’s not. When was the last time a running back led the league in TDs in back to back years?
Mike: Mr. Beastmode himself, Marshawn Lynch, co-led the league in 2013 and 2014. If you’re looking for the last running back to do it outright, you mentioned him above. Tomlinson did it in 2006 and 2007, amassing a nauseating 43 touchdowns in that time frame. Do you think Blount can do it in 2018?
Alex: Absolutely not. Not only is he on a new team that hasn’t had a reliable, bulldozing running back since Ricky “For who? For what?” Watters, but the Eagles haven’t finished in the top ten in red zone touchdowns since 2004. Not to mention, he just turned 30 in December.4 His only redeeming quality is that, for the second year in a row, he’ll be running for a contract.5
Mike: You’re wrong on this one because….you know, I got nothin’. You’re 100% right here. Even if he proves to be a useful back in Philly, there’s no way Blount matches his numbers from last year.
Alex: I usually am right. Thank you for noticing. But enough about me. Watching Blount last year was like watching a composer conducting his magnum opus if the composer was a wrecking ball. Blount nickle and dimed his way to over 1,000 yards, averaging just about 3.9 yards per carry. He scored more touchdowns, rushed for more yards, and ran the ball more often than at any point in his career to date. Now he’s on the Eagles, a team that rushes the ball with relative frequency, but can never seem to get anything going.6 In Philly, Blount will find himself in the very familiar situation of being a two-down back in a pass-first offense. He won’t be a factor in the passing game since the Eagles have too many other pass catchers and he’s not much of one anyway.7 Blount is free to be the head-down, hard-nosed, bruising running back he’s always been.
Mike: I’ll admit, my initial thought on this was that there is no way Blount can come even remotely close to what he did last year with New England. However, after digging a bit, I actually think this might work out alright.8 Believe it or not, Ryan Mathews – Philly’s lead back last year – and Blount were actually used very similarly last year. Case in point:
- Blount was used on 75% of rushes within the five yard line, whereas Mathews was used on 64% of these opportunities.
- 8% of all Blount carries were within the 5 yard line, whereas 10% of Mathews’ carries were within the 5 yard line.
- Next, Blount was used for 62% of all rushing attempts on the Patriots and actually accounted for 62% of all rush yards. He accounted for a staggering 94.7% of rush touchdowns last year, as New England only had 19 total rushing touchdowns. Philadelphia ended up with 16 rushing touchdowns, with Ryan Mathews leading the way with 8.
- Philadelphia averaged 4.1 yards per carry which was slightly better than the 3.9 that New England averaged.
If we assume that the Eagles will use Blount similarly to how he was used on the Patriots, he’d be projected to amass 1,113 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. Which would be awesome! These projections are probably a stretch, though, even if he’s more effective than Ryan Mathews last year, which I believe he will be.
Alex: But that’s assuming A) that the Eagles will use Blount the same way the Pats did and/or the way they used Mathews last year, and B) that Blount is going to produce as much as he did in 2016. Let’s not forget that the Eagles put a lot of stock in their quarterback Carson Wentz, trading a gazillion picks to draft him second overall. Plus, they retooled their receiving core, giving Wentz more weapons in the passing game than last year. I’m having deja vu…didn’t we just do this last week?
Mike: I’d argue that bolstering the passing game will only help Blount. The Patriots were a pass first team9 that utilized the run in red zone situations (see Blount’s useage above). Of the top 10 passing teams by yards in 2016, all 10 had double digit rushing touchdown totals. In fact, they averaged 15 rushing touchdowns in 2016 which shows that just because the passing game improves doesn’t mean that running backs will get fewer rushing touchdowns.
Alex: Fair point. But let’s be real, Wentz is no Brady. After what I saw last year, and what we’ve talked about, it’s hard to argue that Blount isn’t a solid RB this year. My gut’s telling me, go out and get him. He’ll be used similarly to how he was last year, he’s playing for a contract, he’s got skill and, frankly, he’s probably got a chip on his shoulder after how his free agency played out. I’ll bet he finishes the year as a top 10 fantasy RB.
Mike: Top 10? Let me raise the stakes with a bold prediction: Carson Wentz breaks the single season passing record this year which somehow leads to Blount exceeding last year’s numbers at the age of 30. Yeah, there’s no way that happens. But I do think Blount is primed for a solid year. I wouldn’t put him in my top 10, but I’ve got him pegged solidly in the RB2 category for 2017. Unless he smokes a lot of his namesake or punches someone, which we’re obliged to remind everyone of below.
- Tied for the most in a season since LaDainian Tomlinson put up an unreal 28 in 2006.
- For only the second time in his career.
- Yeah, I said it.
- Dun dun dun.
- He signed a one-year deal with Philly.
- Last year they finished 18th in yards per attempt. Meh.
- He was only targeted eight times last year.
- Thanks to Pro Football Reference for the following stats.
- Remember that Tom Brady guy?