Danny Woodhead Has RB1 Upside Again in 2016
This is an article that I shouldn’t need to write, but I still get quizzical looks from folks when I draft Danny Woodhead in the late-4th or early-5th round in PPR leagues.
A few facts about Woody:
- He finished as the #3 PPR running back last season (#10 in standard). It’s true, look it up. While it was a tremendously weak season for the position, his 244.1 fantasy points would have been good for a #9 finish in 2014 and a #7 finish in 2013, so those are still solid RB1 numbers.
- He missed 13 games of the 2014 season after fracturing his ankle and tibia. He's 31 years old, but Sports Injury Predictor says he's a "low-risk" pick.
- In 2013, under then-OC Ken Whisenhunt (who has returned to that role this year), he finished as the #12 RB in PPR (#19 in standard). That season, Ryan Mathews saw 285 carries as the Chargers’ primary running back, so I believe that Woodhead can co-exist with Melvin Gordon, if Gordon even turns out to be any good.
- Last year, Woodhead led all running backs in red zone targets (17). In 2013 (under Whisenhunt), not only did Woodhead lead all running backs in red zone targets (23), but he led ALL RECEIVERS in red zone catches (21).
Here are his game logs from the last three seasons:
One common complaint is that Woodhead is not consistent, so you can’t trust him. His Coefficient of Variation last year was 66%, which is not very consistent, but it was better than or similar to Lamar Miller, Eddie Lacy and Doug Martin, three players currently being drafted well before Woodhead.
Moreover, under Whisenhunt in 2013, Woodhead's CV was a far-more-solid 48%, which is about what LeVeon Bell, Frank Gore and Latavius Murray scored last year. So Woodhead has demonstrated consistency in the past.
He has averaged 13.6 fantasy points (PPR) in his last 37 games, and that includes a couple of games where he played 17% and 2% of the snaps, the latter due to injury. If those are removed, then he averaged 14.3 FP, which equates to 228.8 FP over a full season. That total would have been good enough for finishes in the #7-#12 range in each of the last three seasons.
Woody is the 21st running back off the board in MFL10s as of this writing, which are PPR best ball leagues hosted over at MyFantasyLeague. [Be sure to check out our MFL10 Draft Planner. - Ed.] MFL10 drafters tend to be sharper than the average bear, so looking at Fantasy Football Calculator, he’s the 23rd back off the board in their PPR mock drafts. He may go in the 6th or 7th round in your neighborhood friends and family draft this August, and even later if it’s a standard league where his value is somewhat diminished.
I have him ranked #16 in PPR leagues, ahead of Thomas Rawls, Carlos Hyde and Latavius Murray. I can understand drafting these players ahead of Woodhead if the idea is to get him with the next pick. Rawls has Week 1 availability concerns while Hyde is likely to face a negative game script given the probability that the 49ers struggle to stay competitive. If Hyde truly becomes a dangerous pass-catcher – remember, he has averaged 1.1 catches per game through two seasons – then his PPR value will get a bump. I have Hyde projected for 39 catches at the moment.
The Bottom Line
In my estimation, Woodhead is an ideal target for an owner with an early 1st round pick who elects to go WR-heavy early on in the draft. He can be drafted in the late 4th round (in a sharp league) or in the early 5th as an RB2 (or even as an RB1 as part of a “wait on running back” strategy). PPR drafters getting him in the 6th round or later shouldn’t hesitate.