Jeremy Langford Is a Fantasy Football Bargain
Earlier this summer, our own JJ Zachariason detailed why Latavius Murray was a worthwhile selection this season in fantasy drafts because of the volume he's projected to receive rather than his individual talent.
Jeremy Langford is in a similar situation.
Head coach John Fox spent most of the summer talking about the merit of a running back-by-committee approach, which left Chicago's backfield as one to generally avoid in fantasy.
After three preseason games, though, it’s clear that things have changed.
Langford's traditional rushing numbers lie somewhere between uninspiring and mediocre. Last season, Matt Forte's backup rushed for 537 yards on 148 carries, good for a 3.6 yards per carry average.
At face value, those statistics don't appear to belong to a player that fantasy owners would want to own on their team. However, if we dig a little deeper, there's upside waiting to be uncovered.
Here at numberFire, we use a metric called Net Expected Points (NEP) to help us quantify the real impact a player is having for his team based on down, distance, and historical data. If you'd like to learn more about NEP, you can find more information in our glossary.
|Rushes||Rushing NEP per Rush||League Average||Success Rate||League Average|
|148||0.01 (11th/44)||-0.01||43.24% (11th/44)||39.03%|
Of the 44 running backs with at least 100 carries in 2015, Langford’s Rushing NEP per rush of 0.01 was 11th, finishing in the top 25% of those runners who saw moderate volume. And while Langford mixed in some big plays, he also gained positive yardage relatively consistently, ranking 11th of 44 in Success Rate -- the percentage of positive NEP runs made -- as well.
Both of these metrics were above the league average and, more importantly, he wasn't reliant on the big play.
Langford was also involved in the passing game.
|Targets||Receptions||Catch Rate||Reception NEP per Target||League Average||Success Rate|
|42 (19th/44)||22 (28th/44)||52.38% (43rd/44)||0.54 (4th/44)||0.36||77.27% (3rd/44)|
This involvement is relevant because of the opportunity he’s slated to receive. His catch rate was extremely poor because of a concentrated number of drops, but catch rate can also come with a lot of noise -- average depth of target, quality of targets, etc. Langford was otherwise insanely efficient through the air -- although he ranked just 19th in total targets among the same group sampled above -- as he scored fourth in Reception NEP per target and third in Reception Success Rate.
Langford has played 51 of 57 (89.5%) first-team snaps in the first three weeks of the preseason (he rested on the final drive that Jay Cutler played after halftime last week), while Ka'Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers, and rookie Jordan Howard have mixed in behind him.
While playing with the starters, Langford remained on the field in a three-down capacity, and that’s exactly what we look for. In 2015, he finished as the RB4, RB1, and RB19 (PPR) during the three weeks that he had a stranglehold on the opportunity in the Chicago backfield.
Additionally, Chicago also faces the seventh-most favorable run-defense schedule this season, according to Warren Sharp, and Kevin Cole shared that the Bears were the second-most run-heavy team when adjusting for game script a year ago. Although the Bears most likely aren't going to be playoff contenders this season, they are still likely to rely on the run even when behind, and the defenses they're slated to face should allow Langford to capitalize.
Langford is currently being utilized as a workhorse, as well as a receiving and goal-line back. He has the benefit of opportunity and efficiency, which are two key indicators for fantasy prominence.
Given that Langford's preseason opportunity has been extremely favorable, his average draft position has risen almost two full rounds in the past month in best ball leagues, per Rotoviz's Best Ball ADP App.
According to Fantasy Football Calculator, he can still be had in the late-fourth to early-fifth round, and therefore makes a lot of sense for owners who start their drafts with loads of wide receivers. With more and more fantasy owners starting drafts by selecting receivers in consecutive rounds, Langford could pay off as a every-down runner who is being selected after some well-known backs with less favorable situations.
It’s possible that Langford’s efficiency could dip with an increased workload, but owners should salivate at the opportunity to draft a three-down runner outside of the first three or four rounds of drafts. Selecting Langford isn’t the safest play in the world, but he has top-10 upside at a fraction of the cost.