Will DeAngelo Williams Find Success Outside of Carolina?
When it's all said and done, DeAngelo Williams' career will be defined by two things: a constant backfield timeshare, and a ridiculously good 20-touchdown campaign in 2008.
He's not going to top his production from 2008 ever again. If he does, I'll do anything you post in the comments section. But he'll probably still be in a backfield timeshare moving forward, just with a non-Carolina Panthers team. Because yesterday, the Panthers released the nine-year veteran, leaving the Carolina running back duties to Jonathan Stewart.
Williams leaves Charlotte as the Panthers' all-time leading rusher, but he'll be 32 years old in April. Is there any reason to believe he'll be an asset for a team -- either real or fantasy -- moving forward?
A Steady Decline
There's no doubt that DeAngelo Williams' career peaked in 2008. And to be honest, it's kind of amazing that we're talking about a running back in 2015 being released when his peak came seven years ago. But this is true of DeAngelo Williams.
Here at numberFire, we don't always (actually, we rarely do) look at traditional box score statistics to draw conclusions. Instead, we look to our in-house metric called Net Expected Points (NEP), which looks to capture how a player performs versus expectation.
Running is less efficient than passing. This really can't be debated. As a result, Rushing NEP numbers tend to be lower -- below zero -- than Passing NEP ones. This is why we'll traditionally see the majority of runners with negative NEP totals.
DeAngelo Williams has actually been kind of special. In his nine years, he's hit a per rush NEP average above or at zero five times, including four straight to start his career. For reference, since 2000, the average Rushing NEP per rush from a running back has been -0.03. DeAngelo Williams has finished just two seasons below that mark.
|Year||Rushing NEP||Per Rush||Successes||Success Rate|
With that being said, it doesn't take a math genius to see from the table above that Williams' numbers have been steadily declining. After his monster 2008 season -- which ranks as the seventh-best one we've seen from a running back since 2000 -- Williams has reached a positive Rushing NEP per rush average just twice, far off from his pace to start his career.
His Success Rate -- the percentage of runs that contribute positively towards a player's total NEP score -- has declined as well. In 2014, 41 of the 74 running backs with 50 or more carries had a Success Rate above 40%, or over 55% of the running back sample. Williams has hit a 40% Success Rate just once since 2009.
In the past, Williams was able to sustain a high level of play with a generally low Success Rate because he was able to break bigger plays, catapulting his Rushing NEP and raw numbers. Given he's now far past the prime age for a running back, that's not happening as much. In fact, from 2008 through 2011, Williams saw over 5 percent of his runs go for 20 or more yards. Over his last three campaigns? Just 2.5 percent, including zero of these long runs in 2014.
All of this is to say what you probably expected to see when you clicked on this article to read it: DeAngelo Williams' current level of play isn't going to change the way a team runs its offense. This is true even if you think injury is the key reason for his awful play in 2014. Williams will, once again, be part of a timeshare -- we shouldn't doubt this. And right now, if you're drafting early (say, best ball leagues), I'm not sure there's reason to really believe he'll produce much for you moving forward.