Paul Perkins Is Shaping Up to Be a Stellar Fantasy Football Value
By the seventh round of fantasy football drafts, you start throwing darts.
It's just the way it works. Even if there are a lot of reasons to like a certain player who has lasted until the seventh round, there are still reasons why he's lingering. And even if you think you have a seventh-round pick's upcoming season mapped out to the yard, you're likely going to be wrong.
For running backs, the uncertainty generally stems from a lack of guaranteed work. The bellcows are long gone by this point in drafts, and the only players left are stuck in some kind of committee.
The Fantasy Landscape
Perkins' average draft position (ADP) on Fantasy Football Calculator is 6.12 in 12-team, PPR leagues. He has crept up slowly from the seventh round and was the 7.06 pick on average in mid June. That puts him as the RB30 in terms of ADP.
Other running backs who are leaving the board in the sixth round are Danny Woodhead (6.01), whose value stems fairly significantly from Kenneth Dixon's four-game suspension. Then there is Tevin Coleman (6.02), the backup to Devonta Freeman. Coleman rode 11 touchdowns to finish as the RB12 in PPR points per game.
Then there's Mike Gillislee (6.05), who is part of the head-scratching New England Patriots backfield, and Dalvin Cook (6.05), who has to contend with Latavius Murray for some carries. Of course, Cook sounds like the primary back, but there's no real guarantee things will shake out that way.
Then we get to Perkins at 6.12.
Now, I have no reason to ignore the truth with Perkins here. I'm not here to ignore the fact that he does have Shane Vereen to steal targets from him. I'm not here to overlook the news that the Giants drafted Wayne Gallman, though Gallman's athleticism and collegiate stats aren't anything to be overly worried about.
Plus, Giants running backs coach Craig Johnson spoke optimistically about Perkins during this offseason, implying that Perkins has what it takes to be a three-down back. When you look at the situations of the players he's being drafted after, that sure ain't bad.
But the fair question to ask is whether or not Perkins has any upside compared to those backs (and the backs being drafted right after him: Eddie Lacy (7.02), Mark Ingram (7.02), and Derrick Henry (7.08).
Perkins' athleticism (4.54-second 40-yard dash) at 5'10" and 208 pounds isn't anything glowing. His scant production last year also doesn't inspire much excitement.
On 112 carries, Perkins produced 456 yards (4.07 yards per carry), and on 24 targets (15 catches), he added 162 yards. Perkins didn't score a touchdown in 2016. So I understand if you're hesitant.
And by our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Perkins wasn't anything fantastic in 2016. He produced a Rushing NEP of -1.71, meaning he lost a point or two of expected scoring for his team. On a per-carry basis, that comes out to -0.02.
That doesn't sound great (and it's not), but the NFL average Rushing NEP per carry for running backs last season was -0.02. And 40.28% of running back carries boosted expected points in 2016, known as the Success Rate. Perkins' personal Success Rate was 40.18%.
So, by and large, he was an average rusher. Why does it seem like he can break out in 2017? Well, the only other running back to carry the ball at least 35 times for the Giants in 2016 was Rashad Jennings, who is no longer with the team. Jennings produced a -22.21 Rushing NEP on 181 carries (-0.12 per carry) with a Success Rate of just 32.60%.
Perkins played at or above the level of his teammates by a good margin in 2016.
|2016 Giants Running Backs||Rushes||Rushing NEP||Rushing NEP/P||Success Rate|
Vereen was pretty much on par with Perkins in 2016, but the other Giants backs struggled mightily in this offense. Simply put, Perkins was able to produce like at least a league-average rusher behind the 24th-ranked offensive line, by Football Outsiders' metrics.
Perkins also performed well in the passing game, though the sample is pretty tiny still. He secured 0.58 Reception NEP per catch in 2016 (albeit on just 15 catches). That ranked 14th among 63 backs with at least 15 catches, and the league-average rate was 0.45 in 2016 for running backs.
It's important to note that his Reception Success Rate of 60.00% was below the position average of 63.39%, but Perkins might have something to offer through the air, giving some extra reason to believe in his three-down potential.
Perkins is being drafted in the same range as plenty of backs with question marks, yet he does at least appear to offer three-down potential based on his limited NFL usage. That type of player holds a lot of value in fantasy leagues, even if he doesn't break through and reach his ceiling.
In 2016, he ranked 11th in yards per carry against stacked fronts, per PlayerProfiler, as well as 15th in yards after contact per touch. That combined with his not-so-bad-compared-to-his-teammates NEP production behind a poor offensive line suggests that Perkins has more to offer than what he was able to show as a rookie.
The offensive line still has holes (it ranks 28th by Pro Football Focus' preseason rankings), and Vereen is very much a threat to cap Perkins' upside. That's a big part of why our initial projections expect Perkins to finish as the RB33 in PPR leagues.
But at his cost, Perkins is well worth a stab in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts, even if he only grinds his way to a top-24 running back season because of his lead back role.