Historical Comps for Rob Kelley’s Rookie Season
After casting a weathered eye over Ezekiel Elliott last time out, we stay in the NFC East to look historical comparisons to the rookie season of Washington Redskins running back Rob Kelley.
I set the RotoViz Screener:
to find rookies from 2010 – 2016, and selected some basic production and usage numbers as variables. I also included draft pick. The influence of draft pick on a player’s opportunity declines over time, but it’s still relevant heading into a player’s second season. Then I asked the Screener to find seasons comparable to my target player.
Time to dive in to Kelley’s comps.
LeGarrette Blount, despite averaging just 51.2 yards per game since the 2010, has scored the fifth-most rushing touchdowns. He’s found the endzone 49 times, with his touchdowns accounting for 35.5 percent of his career fantasy points. This past season was the first time he has finished higher than RB27 as a Patriot, with just six RBs scoring more fantasy points. He has seen just 15 targets in the passing game in his last two seasons.
After finishing as RB29 in his rookie season, Branden Oliver hasn’t enjoyed any real success, or luck for that matter. He played just eight times in 2015 before landing on I.R. with a turf toe injury and didn’t play at all in 2016 after horrifically tearing his Achilles’ heel in the preseason. He may still have a future in fantasy, especially if Danny Woodhead leaves the Chargers, but it’s not exactly been a stellar start to his NFL career.
The 2014 Cleveland Browns seemed, at the time, to have an embarrassment of riches in their backfield, with Ben Tate, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell all vying for work. The “of riches” part of that sentence can of course now be removed, as West and Tate quickly wore out their welcome and left just Crowell. Crowell has amassed the 15th-most rushing yards among RBs since entering the league and is tied for 10th in terms of touchdowns. His RB14 finish in 2016 was the highest of his career and was helped by his becoming something of a factor in the passing game. After 28 receptions in his first two seasons, Crowell exploded with 40 grabs from 53 targets.
One of the great pundit darlings of recent years, Thomas Rawls helped lessen the impact a suddenly ineffective Marshawn Lynch had on the Seattle offense in 2015. Between Weeks 3 and 14, he was the RB19, with four games of over 100 yards rushing. Even more impressively, he had a combined 13 carries in four of those games. Then came a broken ankle, ending his rookie season prematurely. He played nine games in 2016, but rushed for 100 yards just once. He also seems to offer very little as a pass catcher, with just 28 targets and 22 catches in 22 career games.
The 12 games that Chris Ivory played in his rookie season would be the most he would manage in a single campaign for the Saints. He played in six games in each of his next two seasons. On limited work, he was quite efficient for the Saints, averaging 5.1 yards per carry in his time with the team. This mark is good for fourth-highest in team history among players with at least 100 carries. He was the combined RB19 in terms of PPR points during his three year run with the Jets but absolutely stunk last season with the Jaguars. Like many on this list, he offers all the pass catching appeal of a one armed bandit, with just 73 receptions in his 81 career games.
So how big a leap did these boys take in their second seasons?
Despite seeing an increase in team market share, Blount saw his rushing attempts, rushing yards, yards per carry, touchdowns and touchdown rate all go south. He wouldn’t hit 1,000 yards again until 2016, six seasons after his first such foray.
Like Blount, Crowell saw his market share increase in his second year. Like Blount, Crowell’s yards per carry, touchdowns and touchdown rates all decreased in his second year. He did rush for more yards, but from more attempts.
Rawls’ second season was disrupted by injury, with the effects of his 2015 ankle injury lingering into 2016. His yards per carry fell from 5.6 to 3.2, his market share fell from 30 percent to 27, although his touchdown rate increased.
Ivory, as we’ve said previously, played in half of the games in his second season as he managed first time around. As a result, his market share fell off considerably, as did his rushing attempts, yards, touchdowns and touchdown rate. His yards per carry fell from 5.1 to a still impressive 4.7.
Oliver “enjoyed” a terrible second year, with his market share dropping from 40 percent to 8, and his rushing attempts going from 160 to 31. His yards per carry only dropped to 3.5 from 3.6.
In their first year in the pros, the six players in question (included Rob Kelley) averaged 130.20 PPR points. All except Ivory scored more than 126. In their second years, the average drops to 85.92, and that is bulked up by 137 point seasons from Blount and Crowell.
First time round, Rob Kelley had moments where he looked like a true workhorse RB for the Redskins. He had at least 12 carries in seven games, with more than 20 in three. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry in eight games, including 5.7 yards per clip off 24 carries against the Green Bay Packers. He also scored three touchdowns in that game. He was the Redskins’ primary red zone back, with 34 rushing attempts inside the opposition’s 20 yard line. By comparison, Le’veon Bell had 33.
Rob Kelley offered practically no value as a pass catcher, seeing one target or less in eight games. This lack of any obvious talent as a receiver negatively impacted the amount of time he spent on the field, never playing on more than 66.7 percent of snaps in a single game. He wasn’t a consistent touchdown threat either, with just six rushing scores on the season. Three of which came in the same game. His comps suggest that Kelley is likely to see at least one, and probably more than one, of his key indicators decrease in 2017. Not helping Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy or whoever is under center for the Redskins as a passing option will hurt him going forward.
Trying to predict anything other than chaos when it comes to the Washington Redskins is a process fraught with danger. Head coach Jay Gruden has alternated between praising Kelley, seeing him as his feature back in 2017, but suggesting that if a great one is available, “it takes your team from a pretender to a contender.” If they are not able to land a great one — and let’s be honest only a sadist of an agent would want to deal with the splintered Redskins front office at present — Rob Kelley should face competition from Matt Jones (who averaged 4.6 yards per carry in his seven games last season). Pass catching work should go to Chris Thompson, capping any real value for Kelley and Jones. Kelley is currently the 39th RB being taken by mock drafters according to Fantasy Football Calculator, with an ADP at the beginning of Round 9. Some may see him as a potential Zero RB candidate, but I think I’ll wait and see if Kelley can beat off the challenge of Jones before thinking about taking him. Assuming that “great” RB doesn’t arrive in Washington too, of course.