Fantasy Football: Is Bilal Powell Being Undervalued?

The New York Jets' running back proved to be rather efficient with his opportunities in 2016. Where does his value stand going into this season?

Should we stick a fork in Matt Forte?

Maybe yes, maybe no, but Bilal Powell is expected to be the Jets' lead back in 2017, according to ESPN's Rich Cimini, so we should probably get our silverware ready.

Powell took full control of the starting job in December because in Week 14, the Louisville product racked up 29 carries for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns. Over the final 4 weeks of the 2016 season, he compiled 411 rushing yards and 141 receiving yards.

With Forte being 32 and the Jets being nowhere near a playoff-caliber team, it would make sense for the 28-year-old Powell to become New York's bell-cow and three-down-back this season, if only because he makes the most of every opportunity, which is something the Jets' wobbly offense needs badly.


Given the fact that Powell only carried the ball 131 times, we can't simply compare his total yards to other running backs in the league. A decent way to contrast runners is to go with yards-per-carry. When considering running backs who accumulated at least 100 carries last season, here are your top five.

Player Rushes Yards per Carry
Mike Gillislee 101 5.71
Bilal Powell 131 5.51
LeSean McCoy 234 5.41
Jordan Howard 252 5.21
Mark Ingram 205 5.09

Powell is sitting there right below Mike Gillislee, so we know he was good, but just how good?

We can get a better measure with Net Expected Points (NEP), a numberFire metric that helps us quantify the number of points a player is adding or losing for their team versus expectation. (To learn more about NEP, check out our glossary.) Taking it a step further, we can factor in their Rushing NEP per play and their Success Rate, which is the percentage of rushes that increase their team's expected points.

Here are the top-five running backs in terms of Rushing NEP per play with at least 100 carries last season.

Player Rushes Rushing NEP per Play Success Rate
Mike Gillislee 101 0.30 57.43%
Lesean McCoy 234 0.16 45.73%
Bilal Powell 131 0.14 49.62%
Ezekiel Elliott 321 0.11 47.04%
Devonta Freeman 227 0.10 46.26%

Whoa. Not only was Powell near the top in yards-per-carry, but he's also near the top in Rushing NEP per play and Success Rate. Additionally, he finished as the 22nd-ranked running back in standard scoring and the 16th-best running back in points-per-reception (PPR) scoring, which is impressive for only being the true starter for 4 games.

Involvement in the Passing Game

Powell has excelled in the Jets' passing game, such as it was. Even though he was second in line behind Forte for most of 2016, he was targeted 74 times -- which was good for fourth in the league among running backs.

With more of an emphasis on PPR formats in recent years, Powell's top-tier pass-catching ability makes him an even more valuable commodity.

Value in 2017

According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Powell's current average draft position is 69th overall (28th among running backs) in standard, 10-team leagues. This is simply way too low for the talent he possesses, along with his projected volume. We're talking about a guy who was one of the most efficient rushers in all of football las year and also has a ton of upside in the passing game as a receiver.

We should temper our expectations a little bit -- it is, after all, the Jets offense we're talking about, one that finished 30th in the league with an abysmal 17.2 points per game and third-worst according to our metrics. Lousy offense notwithstanding, Powell is 28 years old, he's proven he knows what to do with the rock, and New York will seemingly give him an opportunity to succeed.

Once fantasy football draft day rolls around, give some love to Bilal Powell, and say a little prayer for Matt Forte.