Welcome to another edition of the Monday Morning Sleeper. Last week I profiled Jared Goff, a quarterback with something to prove, who is primed to lead his team with the help of some new weapons.
I previously profiled a running back for the Philadelphia Eagles named Wendell Smallwood. Unfortunately for Smallwood, LaGarrette Blount has officially signed with the Eagles, and that directly affects Smallwood’s sleeper status. Blount led the New England Patriots’ backfield last season as they marched through the competition on the way to their fifth Superbowl championship, and he will enter training camp as the Eagles’ clear-cut RB1. Although Smallwood may still have an opportunity in Philly, he may have to wait a season before he becomes a significant part of the offense.
A Fantasy Football Sleeper is a player that is in a position to play beyond his rankings or expectations, and who may provide you with some value at his draft position.
This week, I will be profiling a running back for the Detroit Lions, Ameer Abdullah, who is primed and ready to assume the lead back duties and get his career back on track.
Early Exit to 2016
[the_ad id=”384″]Abdullah is entering his third season with the Lions, and he is looking to get his career back on track after an injury-shortened sophomore season. Abdullah’s season ended prematurely in week 2 of 2016, after he tore a ligament in his foot. With almost nine months of recovery time, Abdullah is now healthy and ready to assume his position as the lead back. With a clean bill of health, he is expected to participate in the OTAs that are set to begin in a few days.
2017 NFL Entry Draft
The Lions had nine picks in the 2017 entry draft and decided not to use any of them to draft another running back. This indicates that they have faith in their running back situation, including Theo Riddick, and had more important holes to fill. With the amount of talent in this year’s crop of freshman running backs, Abdullah and Riddick appear to have the confidence of the coaching staff, management, and the ownership.
The Devil You Know
Lions GM, Bob Quinn, when asked if Abdullah would be the starting running back, simply said, “He is.” He also indicated that they considered adding another back in the draft, but felt that they wouldn’t be able to draft a better back than what they already have on their roster. The Lions have improved their offensive line, which should help to create more opportunities for everyone on the offense.
League Worst Rush Attempts per Game
In 2016 Abdullah averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 18 carries in 1.5 games, which is a respectable average, but a very small sample size. Those numbers would definitely be RB1 numbers if he could maintain a decent workload throughout the season. The downside to Abdullah is that the Lions averaged the lowest number of carries per game in 2016, with an average of 21.5 carries per contest. Those numbers need to improve if the Lions want to improve as a team. It starts with the running game, and getting Abdullah going strong early and often could help them to take over and control the flow of some games.
Career as a Cornhusker
Abdullah had an impressive college career with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, where he averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 813 attempts over 53 games for a total of 4,588 yards and 39 touchdowns. He added another 690 yards and 7 touchdowns on 73 receptions. While we are still waiting for these numbers to translate to an NFL field, I believe this is the season we will see Abdullah break out and perform at a higher level than what we have seen to this point in his NFL career.
Competition for the Lead Back?
The Lions have a crowded backfield with Abdullah being joined by Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington, Mike James, and Theo Riddick. The only real competition for Abdullah is Riddick, who will likely handle passing-down duties. As a result, Riddick has increased value in PPR leagues. However, due to the estimated work load, Abdullah is the back to own in Detroit.
Predictions and Rankings:
Abdullah is the 37th-ranked running back on Matthew Berry’s Non-PPR rankings, but I would put him closer to 20th. I would take Abdullah over players like Tevin Coleman, Robert Kelley, C.J. Anderson, Mike Gillislee, and even the great Adrian Peterson.
Thank you for reading The Monday Morning Sleeper, and follow me on Twitter, @HaehnelJames
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