Draft Samaje Perine in Fantasy Because Rob Kelley Is Just a Guy
Rob Kelley (aka Fat Rob) and Chris Thompson ended 2016 with very defined roles in the Redskins backfield. Thompson received a 10-percent target share, so despite limitations between the tackles, his experience should lead to a stable complementary role if he can remain healthy in 2017. Kelley, however, struggled mightily down the stretch, so much so that the team spent a fourth-round pick on a better power back from Oklahoma: Samaje Perine.
On the surface, this seems like a muddy situation all around. The Redskins' coaching staff stated that there will be a competition, but there is no guarantee that Kelley loses his job. One thing we can be far more confident of is that the Redskins' offense will continue to be productive and provide plenty of scoring chances, so their running back situation is worth exploring from a fantasy standpoint.
Perine is still going to have to prove himself on early downs, but if Thompson goes down with an injury, Perine has more passing-down upside than Kelley. Perine could easily be the power back that head coach Jay Gruden has been looking for since Matt Jones flopped.
Will Perine pose an immediate threat to Kelley's workload? Is Thompson’s change-of pace role safe, or even valuable enough to care about in fantasy?
Rushing Expectation, which balances metrics with film evaluation (one of the toughest things to do in fantasy football) will provide some clues as to how to attack the Redskins’ backfield in fantasy drafts.
Rushing Expectation: Rob Kelley
Fat Rob has rare strength and very good power. But what stands out more to me is his below-average speed and merely adequate acceleration. Perhaps speed isn’t everything for a power back, but in regards to leaving yards on the field, it still matters.
Kelley's skill set is limited -- he was targeted in the passing game just 12 times because he has hands like feet. At least he showed some versatility in the type of plays he was asked to execute last year between the tackles:
In charting Kelley, I saw a running back who has good finishing ability and above-average balance through contact. That said, his season in 2016 was below average relative to my entire 60-player sample. Numbers-wise, he struggled with overall efficiency, as well as in key metrics like yards before/after contact.
Fat Rob's limitations don’t originate from poor offensive line play. Washington actually was a top-six unit last year in regards to overall Expected Success Rate on rushing attempts (47.7 percent).
Frequent readers of this series know that I will continue to stress that Expected Success Rate because I believe it is an insanely useful metric that does a great job separating a running back's performance from that of his blocking, which is relevant in Fat Rob's case because he doesn’t create much outside of what is given to him.
When taking the Redskins strong run blocking into account, Kelley performed very close to expectation. Reliability is fine, but if you are chasing upside, I'd prefer a running back who can create in poor situations -- or at the very least exceed expectations in good situations. Kelley finished with just a 36th-percentile Expectation Score on the ground. It could be worse, I suppose -- just ask Matt Forte.
One positive for Kelley is that he faced eight or more in the box at an above-average rate and was actually more successful against that type of front than he was when he faced seven or fewer defenders. I believe this to be an indicator of him having solid-to-above-average mental processing and vision, especially given his below-average elusiveness.
Continue reading for Fat Rob’s overall analysis, Chris Thompson's rushing expectation and a look at the rest of the Redskins' backfield...
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