Fantasy Football: Corey Clement’s Value Is on the Rise
I like to say that the college I supported as a kid – University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee – has been undefeated in NCAA football since 1974. In reality, that’s the last year the Milwaukee Panthers had a varsity football team.
I look on the positive side, I guess.
People in my home state tend to unequivocally support the Wisconsin Badgers, but I never felt any loyalty to them, and therefore have never watched them closely. If I had, I might’ve noticed the meteoric rise of now-Philadelphia Eagles running back Corey Clement much sooner.
Clement – who went undrafted out of Wisconsin last year – was a key player for the Eagles in their Super Bowl-winning season, but he’s not settling for just making a little noise this year. Clement is about to become one of the big men on the fantasy campus.
Let’s start with what we – those who missed on Clement in college – actually missed.
Despite backing up James White and Melvin Gordon for his first two years at Wisconsin, Clement still earned over 20 percent of Wisconsin’s running back touches, yards from scrimmage, and touchdowns in that span of time, proving to be worthy of a solid workload in a backfield with two future NFL talents.
We can see his year-over-year production in plays, yards, and touchdowns – both rushing and receiving – versus the team’s running back totals in the table below. These percentages are what we would call a player’s Team Market Share (TMS).
|Share of RB Rushes||13.45%||27.89%||11.06%||56.07%|
|Share of RB Rush Yards||15.15%||25.38%||12.48%||52.80%|
|Share of RB Rush TD||21.88%||23.08%||20.83%||50.00%|
|Share of RB Rec||2.27%||42.42%||3.64%||26.09%|
|Share of RB Rec Yards||2.65%||43.75%||4.08%||31.06%|
|Share of RB Rec TD||0.00%||40.00%||0.00%||0.00%|
If it seems like Clement’s career fluctuated in a concerning way his junior year, you wouldn’t be wrong. Just before the 2015 season opener versus Alabama, Clement injured his groin and played in extremely limited fashion in that game. He then missed an additional nine games of the team’s 13-week season that year, playing in just four contests.
Even though he was the third-string back at points in his first two years, there was little-to-no drop-off when the Badgers relieved their starters with him. And that rate production didn’t really drop off once he got the full-time job, either.
The table below shows Clement’s per-play production versus the team running back averages when he was a backup (2013 to 2014) and the starter (2015 to 2016).
|Rush Yd/Att vs. Team||-0.18||+0.01|
|Rush TD% vs. Team||+0.55%||+0.09%|
|Rec Yd/Att vs. Team||+0.60||+1.96|
|Rec TD% vs. Team||+2.94%||-4.95%|
While Clement’s scoring rates dropped off in his last two years of college, we can attribute much of that to his being the primary running back and therefore having high scoring totals offset by high touch counts. His yardage rates, however, remained high despite newfound touches.
Maybe you dismissed Clement as a one-year wonder. Maybe you thought the renowned Wisconsin offensive line helped “make” him. Maybe you missed Clement’s NCAA career entirely. Whatever the reason, you and I both shouldn't have; his college production is highly impressive, despite inconsistent touches early on.
Clement has definitely carried that effectiveness and efficiency into the pros so far. In the 2017 regular season, Clement was a dangerous weapon for the Eagles out of the backfield, which we can see through our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric.
NEP is a metric that describes the contribution a play (or player) makes to their team’s chances of scoring. By adding down-and-distance value to the box score production, we can see just how much each play and each team as a whole influence the outcome of games. For more info on NEP, check out our glossary.
The table below shows Clement’s ranks in Rushing and Reception NEP per play, as well as his Rushing and Reception Success Rates among the 72 running backs to top 50 carries this year. Success Rate is the percentage of plays which result in positive NEP.
|Corey Clement||Rush NEP/Targ||Rush Success %||Rec NEP/Targ||Rec Success %|
The value per-play that Clement added was near the top of the league in both phases of the game, showing supreme impact, and he was incredibly consistent to boot. Clement was still in the top 25 percent of his peers in both Reception and Rushing Success Rate, showing that he didn’t just benefit from goal-line vulturing or big plays.
This is the kind of high-end output in small doses – just 89 regular-season opportunities – that fantasy players should look to when trying to predict a coming breakout.
But is it possible that the Eagles were just good at creating for their running backs this year?
In order to make sure Clement wasn’t just helped by his team situation, we need to compare the production he earned with that of his backfield-mates: LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Wendell Smallwood, and Darren Sproles, namely. The table below shows their Rushing and Reception NEP per play rates, as well as their Rushing and Reception Success Rates, from Week 1 through the Super Bowl.
|Eagles RB's||Rush Att||Rush NEP/Att||Rush Success %||Targ||Rec NEP/Targ||Rec Success %|
Clement’s production in the per-play categories once again surpasses his peers handily as his 1.29 Reception NEP per target nearly double that of the next-closest Eagles back (although 26 targets is a small sample size). Even better, his consistency rates would be tops here, as well, if not for the pesky small sample sizes of Sproles’ injury-shortened season.
Clement didn’t quite see the passing-game work in 2017 that a healthy Sproles would have, but he ably took the largest backfield receiving role on the team this year and surpassed all expectations with it, while adding a valuable change-of-pace option on the ground, as well. That versatility is a huge factor for any the chances of undrafted running back to get on the field, and Clement has proven so far that he can do a lot with minimal touches.
There’s simply no denying the fact that Clement is a valuable NFL contributor, and his talents were on display on the game’s biggest stage this past postseason. If and when Darren Sproles is cut or retires, Clement should be the next man up for the primary receiving duties in Philadelphia. Don’t wait until then to add him in your fantasy leagues.