Learning to Love LeGarrette Blount
The fantasy community is understandably wary of the New England rushing game. Bill Belichick and Co. will change course at the drop of a hat, as long as it suits the game plan. This instability is reinforced by the repeated benchings of Stevan Ridley (fumbles) and Jonas Gray (late for practice), along with the separation of the running back duties among the team’s between-the-tackles runners and pass-catching specialists like Shane Vereen.
Enter LeGarrette Blount. The Patriots traded Jeff Demps to the Buccaneers for the rights to Blount back in 2013. In two stints (26 games) with the Patriots since then, he has averaged 11.3 touches for 57 yards and 0.65 touchdowns, which extrapolate to solid RB2 numbers in standard formats and low-end RB2 numbers in PPR leagues. He’s currently coming off the board as the #26-#31 running back in the 5th-6th round, depending on format, so he already offers some value when looking at his entire career with the Patriots.
But a closer look at the game logs indicates that he holds even more upside. Here are his last 15 games with the Patriots, including the playoffs.
|Date||Opp||Rush||Rush Yds||YPC||TD||Rec||Rec Yds||FP (PPR)|
Blount started to overtake Ridley in late 2013, which is why his numbers started to increase. He was cut after an early-season stint with the Steelers in 2014, but the Pats picked him up off the waiver wire and he eventually took over for Gray after the third-year back found his way into Belichick’s dog house.
Since December of 2013, in 15 games as a Patriot, Blount has averaged 14.2 touches for 73.1 yards and 1.0 TD. That extrapolates to strong RB1 numbers in standard formats and low-end RB1 numbers in PPR leagues.
In that span, he has garnered 51% of the team’s carries, 61% of the rushing yards and 65% of the rushing touchdowns. Moreover, he has averaged an elite 5.02 YPC. From 2013-14, only two running backs have carried the ball at least 200 times and averaged more than 5.0 YPC: Justin Forsett and Jamaal Charles.
Running backs available in the middle rounds are not without risk; that’s why they’re still on the board at that point in the draft.
- There is an inherent amount of risk with Blount simply playing for the Patriots. He could do something stupid off the field or he could start fumbling the ball. It wouldn’t take much to get benched, as other running backs have proven in recent years. His recent 5.0 YPC probably buys him some slack, though if multiple errors start to pop up, he could easily be benched for Gray or Brandon Bolden.
- His game logs aren't all puppy dogs and ice cream, either. In his last 15 games, there were four times that he saw fewer than 10 carries and he scored fewer than 10 fantasy points (PPR) in eight of 15 games. On the flip side, he scored 19-plus in five games over the same span, so he has the ability and upside to be the difference in any given week.
- Let’s not forget that he’s suspended for Week 1 due to his marijuana joyride with then-teammate LeVeon Bell. The Patriots open the season with the Steelers, who yielded the 7th-highest YPC (4.4) last season. It’s possible that Gray gets the start and runs roughshod through the Pittsburgh defense as the Patriots utilize a run-heavy game plan with Tom Brady suspended. Would the Patriots let Blount carry the load in Week 2 if Gray finds success in Week 1?
Beat writer Ben Volin had this to say about Blount’s security as the team’s RB1:
“LeGarrette Blount certainly has the leg up for the primary first down power back. He clearly has an edge over Jonas Gray and anyone else.”
To me, this indicates that he’ll return as the starter in Week 2.
Given his draft day price and recent performance, Blount is shaping up to be a terrific value in the 5th/6th round in both standard and PPR formats. He’s ideally suited to be an RB3 or RB4 so that owners don’t have to depend on him early in the season, given his suspension and a Week 2 matchup against the defensive-minded Bills.
Assuming all goes well, by year’s end Blount should offer (at least) solid RB2 numbers in standard formats and low-end RB2 production in PPR leagues.