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Alfred Morris – Fantasy Football Stealth Star

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The Stealth Star series has previously used the RotoViz QB Similarity Score App to explain why Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Matt Schaub are absolute steals at their respective ADPs. It’s also employed the RB Similarity Score App to explain why DeMarco Murray could be the key to your entire draft.

Some might consider labeling a guy with a late first round ADP a ‘stealth’ anything as something of a stretch. But Alfred Morris rushed for 1613 yards last season. In case you’re keeping score at home, that’s the third highest single-season rushing total ever for a rookie. Morris is currently going as RB10 in early fantasy drafts. In our RotoViz dynasty startup, he was the 17th player selected (RB9). Did I mention that he just rushed for the third most yards of any rookie in NFL history?

When you take a look at the RBs going ahead of him, it actually makes a little bit of sense. The RB1 tier is incredibly deep in 2013, enough so that I recently recommended abandoning the upside-down drafting strategy that’s been dominant over the past several seasons.

But let’s not compare Morris to LeSean McCoy or Matt Forte, the guys sandwiching him at the end of the first round. Let’s evaluate Morris relative to a pair of top five backs.

What does the RotoViz RB Similarity App think when we compare him to Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch?

A. Morris (ADP 11) M. Lynch (ADP 5) A. Foster (ADP 2)
Low 11.5 12.2 12.3
Median 15.3 15.1 15.1
High 17.2 16.8 18

*These are PPR numbers as ‘standard’ scoring is quickly becoming extinct.

The overall numbers prefer Foster by a nose, but Morris owns a higher median projection than either of the other two backs. I’ll look at the comparisons with the Texans’ bell cow in a moment. Let’s dispatch with Lynch first.

According to the app, Morris sports more upside than Marshawn. If you’ve read my article suggesting Skittles is a strong sell in both redraft and dynasty formats, you can probably guess that I prefer Morris here.

In fact, it’s difficult to see how drafters would be valuing Lynch anywhere near Morris, much less taking him six slots earlier. The veteran outscored the rookie by only 12 points in PPR formats last year. One player was going through the normal rookie growing pains. The other was having a career year. One player is facing a DUI trial and new competition from possibly the best back in the draft. The other has entered OTAs stronger, better conditioned, and eager to add to his miniscule 11 receptions.

The real battle here is between Alfred Morris and Arian Foster.

Weight 40 Agility Score
Arian Foster 226 4.69 11.62
Alfred Morris 219 4.67 11.20

In many ways, Alfred Morris and Arian Foster are dead ringers. Blessed with similar size and speed, the big difference is timed quickness. Morris owns a very solid Agility Score for his size. Foster, who maximizes his football quickness through vision, instinct, and intelligence, does not.

Morris’ 2013 RotoViz projection doesn’t destroy those of Foster and Lynch due to the former’s lack of receptions during 2012. Receiving prowess is a much bigger indicator than most realize. But there’s a silver lining here. Agility Score tends to correlate with usage in the passing game, and it would not be surprising if Morris improves significantly in that area this season. Even a moderate improvement would put him in the thick of the battle to finish No. 1 overall.

Moreover, I’ve written previously about the way a good Agility Score suggests an ability to gain yards before contact (Vision Yards), but that this effect is not evident in rookies. Consider the respective 2012 splits of Morris and Foster (via PFF).

Vision Yards/Att Yds After Co/Att
Morris 1.9 2.9
Foster 1.9 2.2

* Foster has never averaged more than 2.6 yards after contact.

If Morris already averaged 1.9 yards before contact in 2012, the sky’s the limit for his future efficiency numbers. The zone running schemes implemented by Houston and Washington create excellent running lanes for one-cut backs. Moreover, in 2012 we saw the value accruing to runners who play with elite rushing quarterbacks. Morris enjoys both of these advantages. As a sophomore, he figures to make a jump in his ability to read and hit the hole. He’s already one of the NFL’s most difficult runners to take down after contact.

Remind you of anyone?

Rookie Seasons
Att Yds TD Y/A Rec Yds YScm RRTD
Alfred Morris 335 1613 13 4.8 11 77 1690 13
Terrell Davis 237 1117 7 4.7 49 367 1484 8
Clinton Portis 273 1508 15 5.5 33 364 1872 17

 

Shawn Siegele is the creator of the contrarian sports website Money in the Banana Stand and Lead Redraft Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy.

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By Shawn Siegele | @ff_contrarian | Archive

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