Should We Buy the Charles Sims Hype for Fantasy Football?
One of the most important variables in fantasy football is opportunity.
Everybody knows it, but sometimes a player's potential is great enough that we as a fantasy football community can overlook the current path ahead of him.
When the main obstacle ahead of that given player is an underwhelming incumbent, though, it's much easier to get excited about the future.
Such is the path awaiting Charles Sims.
Sims' Asking Price
If not for Doug Martin's presence on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' depth chart, Sims would likely be getting drafted higher than he is in current redraft leagues. He's going roughly 128th overall -- as the 38th running back -- on MyFantasyLeague.com. That's pretty consistent with his FantasyFootballCalculator.com average draft position as the 37th back off the board.
Martin is going at pretty much the same price point (the 37th back on MyFantasyLeague.com and the 39th on FantasyFootballCalculator.com) as Sims is, but given that the Tampa Bay coaches are high on Sims' potential and quite low on Martin, who the current staff didn't draft, shouldn't he be a clear cut above the former breakout fantasy back in Martin?
Given that Sims didn't play for the Buccaneers until Week 10, the soon-to-be second-year player gives us a small sample to work with while trying to identify his potential. One thing is clear, however. Sims was inefficient when he did get on the field for Tampa Bay.
His 0.19 fantasy points per snap ranked tied for 44th among the 79 backs who played at least 25 percent of their teams' snaps in 2014 after Week 10. Considering that Sims has a reputation of being a solid receiver, we could expect that his receiving ability -- he a saw 27 targets in eight games -- would have allowed him to grow his efficiency and output, but that wasn't the case. Sims' fantasy points per opportunity (combined targets and carries) ranked tied for 58th in the group at just 0.23.
So his on-field play certainly didn't generate serious fantasy potential, but what about actual football success?
In terms of our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which quantifies a player's performance and compares it to league expectation based on historical precedence in similar on-field situations, Sims was just as bad as his fantasy numbers suggest.
On 66 carries, Sims accumulated a Rushing NEP of -16.03, which means that he lost the Buccaneers 16 actual points based on his performance during the course of the season. For context, only two rushers who saw between 50 and 100 carries were worse (Donald Brown (-17.23) and Devonta Freeman (-18.80)).
On a per-carry basis, Sims' -0.24 Rushing NEP per carry was better only than Freeman's (-0.29).
And it isn't as though Sims had a rough few plays that resulted in serious NEP swings. His Success Rate (the rate at which his carries led to positive NEP gains for the Bucs) of 28.79 percent was again better only than Brown (28.57 percent) and Freeman (24.62 percent).
The one saving grace for Sims' rookie season was his reception ability -- even though it didn't show in his fantasy football numbers.
Among the 36 running backs who saw between 20 and 40 targets (Sims saw 27), his Reception NEP of 15.27 ranked sixth, and he did it in just eight games. His per-target Reception NEP of 0.57 also ranked him sixth in the subset.
Of course, even though the Buccaneers' current staff has drafted Sims and merely inherited Martin, Sims at least has to show better potential than Martin, right? Was that actually the case in Martin's dreadful 2014?
In many ways, yes -- particularly in receiving. Martin managed a Reception NEP of just 0.32 on 13 receptions. His Reception NEP per target of 0.02 was better only than Mark Ingram among the 67 backs to see at least 20 targets in 2014 (Martin saw 20).
In the rushing department, Martin's Rushing NEP (-7.53) wasn't as bad as Sims' (-16.03). Given that he toted the ball 135 times, it's obvious that his Rushing NEP per carry (-0.06) wasn't as bad as Sims' (-0.24) either, but that surely doesn't suggest Martin is a lock.
Martin's Rushing NEP ranked just 12th among the 26 backs who had between 100 and 200 carries in 2014, and his Rushing NEP per carry ranked just 15th. His Success Rate of 34.81 percent actually ranked 22nd in the group, which means that Sims' rushing woes may not have been his fault entirely but also the fault of his offensive line.
Either way, Martin didn't do anything to secure his position, of course, and that could be enough for the inefficient Sims to steal the starting gig.
Take Him or Leave Him?
Honestly, it's still tough to tell.
If the Buccaneers' coaching staff force feeds Sims, then there's no reason to think that he can't at least be a moderately useful back, given that his pass-catching ability showed promise, that his 66-carry sample may not be indicative of his fullest potential, and that he wasn't the only back who struggled in the Tampa offense in 2014.
However, expecting Sims to turn into a workhorse back who racks up rushing stats might be bit optimistic considering just how bad his metrics were (especially his Success Rate). Still, grabbing a player with a chance to have a starting role and whose average draft position is nearly 130 is always a welcome investment -- even if his ceiling is capped in his rebuilding offense while he contends for carries early in the year.