LeGarrette Blount to the Eagles
Not since Greg Bell suited up for the 1990 Raiders a year after scoring 15 rushing touchdowns for the Rams has a single-season rushing touchdown leader played for a different team the next season. Sadly, Bell’s landmark is now consigned to history, after the Eagles signed former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount to a one-year deal.
Going into the offseason, RB seemed to be a position of serious need for the Eagles, with only second-year back Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles set to be on the roster. Ryan Mathews, the leading rusher from 2016, was still suffering from a neck injury, and once he passed a physical always seemed likely to be on his way. No RB was signed during the first wave of free agency, but Donnel Pumphrey was taken in the draft and former Wisconsin tailback Corey Clement caught on as an UDFA. Pumphrey was, in my eyes, taken with the goal of replacing Sproles in the long run, but the Eagles seem to have finally addressed their need for an early down thumper by signing Blount. But does he still hold fantasy value?
Blount finished the 2016 season as the RB7 in standard scoring, thanks in no small part to his league-best 18 rushing scores. He offers practically nothing in the passing game, finishing with just seven receptions on the season. Since the dawn of the 21st century, there have been just ten instances of an RB finishing with more than 1000 rushing yards and nine or fewer receptions. Blount has done it twice. So if he’s on the field, there’s a good chance the Eagles are running. This is good news for the PPR appeal of Smallwood and Co, all of whom offer much more value in the passing game. To be honest, I’ve met traffic cones who offer more, but I digress. There should be ample opportunity for Blount, however, if the team continues in its 2016 vein. Only nine teams ran the ball more times than the Eagles, and given the additions to the team’s receiving corps, Blount could see some favorable fronts on early downs. He could also continue to pay his way, from a fantasy standpoint, with his red zone work.
As you can see, only DeMarco Murray has snaffled more scores inside the twenty-yard line since 2013 than Blount. Sixteen of his scores came on 71 rushing attempts last season, as the Patriots paced the league in terms of red zone rushing attempts by RBs. The Eagles, with their catch adverse receiving corps and rookie quarterback, were actually sixth in attempts by their RBs in the red zone, scoring 13 times on 73 attempts. To save you the trouble of counting on your fingers, the scoring rate of 58 percent is exactly the same for both the Eagles and the Patriots.
Will Blount score 18 touchdowns in 2016? I don’t think so. But there is a gaping hole in the Eagles red zone offense that he could fill, given the likely departure of Mathews.
Blount managed a career high of 299 carries in 2016, a figure that only a superhero RB at age 30 would want to repeat. The Eagles would do well to try and keep him to the snap level he enjoyed last season, when he played on just 47.14 percent of all the Patriots offensive snaps., and never more than 56 percent in a single game after Week 3. The Eagles will no doubt continue to use their platoon of RBs, but there is little doubt that the player they have most resembling a true RB is Blount. He should see the bulk of the Eagles carries on first and second down, and if they even think of handing off to another RB inside the red zone you have my permission to call Doug Pederson nasty things on social media.
Blount is currently going off the board at RB50 in MFL10s according to the RotoViz Best Ball ADP app, which given his landing spot means 240 owners in the last two weeks have gotten themselves an absolute steal. Fantasy Football Calculator shows us that, for the last month, he’s been going in the sixth round. It may sound crazy, given his lack of chops in the passing game, but his TD upside actually makes him a sneaky Zero RB candidate at his current ADP, but I would expect that to climb in the coming weeks. If he starts appearing in the fourth, and maybe crazily even the third rounds, I’m backing off. No one should go that high for this Blount.