“Ever since we lost Ray, we haven’t had the type of back quite like Ray was and quite like (Danny Woodhead) is in the passing game,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “They just have a very good feel for when they’re open, how to get open, how to sit in holes, how to find my eyes.”
“He was somebody that we targeted early in free agency and signed him right out of the gate,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a very versatile running back for us. He can carry the ball, but he’s a big part of the passing game.”
Woodhead is an elite pass-catcher and an underrated runner. With Kenneth Dixon suspended for the first four games, Woodhead will form a committee with Terrance West. He should continue to be a good value in PPR formats. Keep in mind that Ray Rice averaged 4.25 receptions per game in his final five seasons in Baltimore, so if Woodhead's role is similar, he has 60- to 70-catch upside.
James White has won over Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and Co., with his steadiness and continued improvement, elevating from a player who was inactive in Super Bowl XLIX to becoming unquestionably the Patriots' go-to guy in the all-important "passing back" role. White played 30 snaps as a rookie in 2014; upped it to 290 in 2015; and played 425 last season.
As for 2017, White is one of three running backs who are considered locks to make the roster based on contract status, along with Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead. Lewis is also likely to be there, while second-year man D.J. Foster has also shown promise.
White has now seized the spot with authority.
Coming off of an injury, Lewis played in 10 games last year, including the playoffs, and averaged 11.1 touches (8.9 carries, 2.2 catches) for 49 yards and 0.2 touchdowns, or 8.3 PPR fantasy points per game. He averaged 17.5 PPG in seven games in 2015, so his role was clearly reduced last year. White's role in the running game is minimal -- what's important is his role in the passing game after Lewis returned. In nine games without Lewis, White averaged 3.7 catches for 32 yards and 0.33 TD per game. After Lewis returned, White averaged 3.4 catches for 32 yards and 0.33 TD in the nine games leading up to the Super Bowl, so it appears that his passing down role remained mostly unchanged after Lewis returned. Of course, White had a huge performance in the Super Bowl, turning 20 touches (14 catches) into 139 yards and three touchdowns, and it appears that he's now entrenched as the passing down back. The Patriots don't seem inclined to give him as many carries as they would Lewis, though his 4.3 YPC in 2016 was an improvement. White is currently the 50th RB off the board in early MFL10s (PPR drafts), and he's a fantastic value in that format if this report that he has "seized" the passing down role is true. There’s always the chance that the Patriots turn back to Lewis if White gets a case of fumble-itis, but White should have enough leash to overcome a turnover or two.
Fast forward to the start of Baltimore’s Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and Woodhead took the field for the team’s first practice.
“Yes, I’m back. No restrictions,” Woodhead said. “I’m just playing football now. I haven’t been thinking about needing to do stuff to rehab it because I’m healthy now. It’s exciting to get football going.”
Woodhead’s knee injury came on Sept. 18 last year in a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Well, this puts a dent in Kenneth Dixon's budding value. Woodhead is an elite pass-catcher and an underrated runner. He's likely to form a committee with Dixon, who will serve as the team's primary back. Both players look like PPR RB2/RB3 types at this point. The signing is good news for Melvin Gordon, who will have virtually no competition for touches. It's also good for C.J. Anderson, since it was rumored that the Broncos were interested in reuniting Woodhead with OC Mike McCoy.
Related players: Melvin Gordon
McCluster makes sense for the Chargers because of his familiarity with the team's offensive scheme from his time with the Titans when San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt served as that team's head coach. And like Woodhead, McCluster is a change-of-pace back who can be used in passing situations and in the return game.
This is especially brutal since there was a report yesterday that the team was optimistic that his ACL was intact. Melvin Gordon should see a huge workload for the remainder of the year and is worth a max bid if he's still somehow on the waiver wire after a two-touchdown Week 1. With Branden Oliver out for the year, the undrafted Kenneth Farrow served as Gordon's backup in Week 2. Farrow went to Houston, and gained 2,000 yards on 371 carries (5.39 YPC) in his final two seasons. Per PlayerProfiler.com, his closest comparable is Silas Redd, and he has good burst and agility even though his 40 time isn't good. The Chargers also picked up Andre Williams after he was cut by the Giants. He may get a few touches each week, but this is shaping up to be Melvin Gordon's show.
RB Danny Woodhead will have an MRI to determine the extent of his right-knee injury and could be unavailable for a handful of games.
We'll know more after that but we do know he was struggling to put weight on it and was eventually carted off. The story was mainly about how the team will need to rely on Melvin Gordon, who is off to a good start this season after struggling as a rookie last year.
Chargers RB Danny Woodhead caught a 4-yard pass in the flat from quarterback Philip Rivers and was tackled by Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith. Woodhead's right foot got caught in the turf at Qualcomm Stadium and he immediately grabbed his knee. The Chargers later announced he had a knee injury.
The story said Woodhead was unable to put any pressure on his right leg and was helped off the field. He was then carted to the locker room to be evaluated by the Chargers medical staff. If Woodhead misses time it's another huge blow to this offense and to fantasy owners who waited to target Woodhead later in drafts. Kenneth Farrow got some offseason press this summer and the team also claimed Andre Williams after getting released by the Giants.
Darren Sproles figures to earn the two-year, $8 million contract extension the Eagles gave him. How can he expand his role, which saw him record 55 catches out of the backfield in 2015? Check out the red-zone creativity, not unlike what first-year Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich did with Danny Woodhead in San Diego. Woodhead had eight catches in 2015 under Reich and was a primary outlet in the red zone for Philip Rivers. Sproles could get similar treatment in Philadelphia with rookie Carson Wentz.
We've been discussing the Sproles/Woodhead comparison since the Eagles said a few weeks ago that they were scheming ways to get Sproles the ball. Last year, under Reich, Woodhead led all running backs in red zone targets (17). Sproles is shaping up as an excellent value in the late rounds, especially in PPR formats.
Expect Darren Sproles to be featured in the passing game this season. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said that every week during game planning meetings, they will ask, "How can we get this guy the football?"
"Sproles is the original, right?" Reich said. "He's the original guy. He's the prototype. Right from the start, I remember coming in some of the immediate talk was the excitement of how we get to use a guy like Darren Sproles. . . . In Doug's offense, they've done that in the past. We'll continue to mix in some other things that we've all done, that our staff has done to kind of isolate backs and get good matchups."
As the article mentioned, Reich's history with Danny Woodhead shows that he knows how to get a pass-catching back the football. After Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz, the Eagles are looking for playmakers in the passing game, and Sproles can certainly help in that area. He has finished in the top 30 in seven straight seasons in PPR formats.
The Chargers gave Melvin Gordon reps as a kick returner during a couple special-teams periods, alongside fellow running backs Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead, and receivers Isaiah Burse and DeAndre Reaves.
"He's a talented player," Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said of Gordon, via ESPN. "He can do that."
Consider this: In 2014, Oliver rushed for 582 yards on 160 attempts (3.6 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. The following offseason, the Chargers draft Gordon in the first round, and get nearly identical numbers. Now, the backfield that Gordon was supposed to take over as the bell cow is suddenly considered crowded, with Gordon, Oliver and the small-but-mighty Woodhead. My, how things have changed.
The story really made this out to be alarming and it can be taken very seriously as a team trying to get the most value out of a player who they might suddenly deem as highly overpriced. It may also indicate Gordon will not be the team's RB1 when the season starts. But keep in mind, nothing is set in stone as far as the Chargers backfield is concerned and the battle is still going on according to McCoy.
The Chargers will report to training camp Friday and hold their first practice Saturday morning. Their spring ended with a scare, Danny Woodhead suffering an ankle sprain that could’ve been far more severe. He walked off the field under his own power. This week, he will sprint back onto it.
More than six weeks separated the end of minicamp and start of training camp. That gave ample time to recover for Woodhead, who will participate in the ninth training camp of his NFL career and fourth in San Diego. He is ready for it.
“It took a couple weeks, but now I’m as healthy as I’ve been in a long time,” Woodhead said. “I feel great going into the season.”
Woodhead is ranked 16th in PPR and is one of those backs to target in our Zero-RB draft strategy this year. Woodhead finished #12 in standard formats and #3 in PPR in 2015. He’ll have a new offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, who returns to the Chargers after coordinating the offense back in 2013. In that season, Woodhead averaged 9.3 FP (standard) and 13.8 FP (PPR) in 18 games, including the postseason. Those are solid RB2 (standard) and RB1 (PPR) numbers, respectively. Worries about the potential emergence of Melvin Gordon will depress Woodhead’s ADP, which is currently residing in the 7th round of early standard drafts (5th in PPR).
"I still feel like it will take more work,” Oliver said about his expanded role Sunday. “We’ve just got to keep sticking together and keep going.”
Oliver played a season-high 33 snaps against the Raiders, finishing with 35 rushing yards while averaging 3.9 yards per carry. It was the first game Oliver got into any kind of rhythm since leading the Chargers with 582 rushing yards last season. Oliver looked good at times last year and is also capable of being involved in the passing game. With Melvin Gordon struggling and Danny Woodhead more of a change of pace back, the Bolts are looking for someone to step up and run the ball on early downs.
The Chargers finished 4-of-7 (57 percent) for the game inside the red zone. The Chargers were solid in the red zone as well last year, finishing tied for 13th at (54.2 percent). Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal were frequent targets of Rivers last season.
But with both of those players gone and Woodhead back, Rivers has a trusted blocker in pass protection who can make someone miss in space out of the backfield in compact spaces.
"As Coach has always said -- I'm not saying anything out of the blue -- it's a running back by committee crew," Rivers explained, via The San Diego Union-Tribune. "It's going to be a team effort in that bunch. We're going to need all of them to carry the load in the run game and to catch the ball out of the backfield."
The Bolts might have been planning all along to use Danny Woodhead as their primary passing-down back, but NFL teams don't spend first-round draft picks on running backs with the idea of installing a committee attack.
Gordon has disappointed this summer, acknowledging after his preseason debut that he must be a more decisive runner.
The Chargers traded up to get Gordon, so we’d expect they’ll use him often in 2015, though his preseason hasn't gone well. He doesn’t have a lot of experience as a receiver, so we'd expect that Woodhead still gets a lot of work on third down and in the two minute offense.
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