Why You Should Target LeGarrette Blount In Your Fantasy Football Drafts
The narrative surrounding LeGarrette Blount has rarely been positive. He was once suspended for most of his college senior season in 2009 after punching a Boise State player in the face following a season-opening loss, has bounced around the NFL after being labeled an off-the-field headache, and is even suspended for Week 1 this season after getting arrested for marijuana possession back in August.
Although it's extremely difficult to argue in favor of Blount's off-the-field character, it's equally as difficult to argue against his on-field talent. The powerful 245-pound back has averaged 4.6 yards per carry in his career and has scored 25 touchdowns on just 704 career attempts. He is an efficient, downhill runner who has shown the ability to be effective at the highest level.
Last season, Blount spent the first 11 games running behind Steelers' stud Le'Veon Bell before being cut by Pittsburgh, only to return to New England where he spent the 2013 season. After playing an integral role in the Patriots' run to the Super Bowl, Blount is back for the 2015 season and, although he won't be available Week 1, should be in store for a major role in one of the best offenses in the league.
Let's take a closer look at a few of the reasons why Blount should be on your draft day radar.
High Success Rate
Blount's ability to be a workhorse running back was on display from his rookie season. After going undrafted out of college -- largely in part to his character issues -- the former Oregon Duck was signed by the Buccaneers where he eventually earned a starting role as a rookie and rushed for 1,007 yards in just 13 games. Although he posted a below average -6.96 Rush Net Expected Points (NEP) -- NEP indicates how many points a player adds to his team's expected point outcome during the course of a season -- Blount had 82 successful rushes on 201 attempts. That is good for a 42.29% Success Rate -- the percentage of positive runs in terms of NEP -- which was 14th best in the league. The then Buccaneers running back also added six rushing touchdowns over that span.
After a major regression for both Blount and the Buccaneers in 2011, where the former Tampa Bay runner saw his yards per carry dip from 5.0 to 4.2, his Rushing NEP plummeted to -16.50 and the Buccaneers' record drop to 3-13, Tampa selected Doug Martin in the 2012 draft and Blount would fall into obscurity. However, in 2013, we once again got a glimpse of Blount's potential when getting major touches in a plus offense.
Although he didn't begin the season as the Patriots' feature runner, the powerful Patriots' back really caught his stride late in the season, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on 83 touches following New England's Week 10 bye. He also scored five touchdowns in those final seven games of the season. His 9.43 Rush NEP and 0.06 Rushing NEP per rush to finish the season both ranked in the top 10 of the league among players with at least 125 carries, and his 53.59% Success Rate was tops in all of football among that group. In fact, no player in the league with at least 125 carries has had a higher Success Rate than 53.59% since 2009.
Last season, Blount spent 11 games as the Steelers' backup before finishing the season back in a Patriots uniform. Despite only starting one game throughout the 2014 season, Blount still finished in the top 15 in the league among players with at least 125 carries in Rush NEP (-3.02), Rush NEP per play (-0.02) and success rate (42.40%). Not too shabby.
Lack of Competition in New England
With Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley bolting for the Giants and Jets, respectively, this offseason, the Patriots definitely lack experience in their backfield. Outside of Blount, the New England running back depth chart features Brandon Bolden, Jonas Gray, Dion Lewis, James White, Travaris Cadet and rookie Tyler Gaffney. Not a single one of that group has eclipsed 90 touches from scrimmage in a single season and, in fact, their combined 389 career touches is nearly half of Blount's 737.
Yes, we've seen glimpses of brilliance from Bolden and Gray, but both of those guys were on the Patriots' roster when Blount came back into town last season, and neither were able to eclipse him on the depth chart down the stretch. The former Oregon Duck is the only running back on the Patriots roster who has proven he can handle the load over more than just a few game span, and Coach Belichick has been known to favor experience over an unknown commodity.
Where Should You Draft Him?
With all of that said, I would be remiss not to mention some glaring risk involved in drafting Blount. As much as Belichick may favor experience, he has also been known to give his players incredibly short leashes both on and off the field. The aforementioned Gray had the opportunity to seize the starting running back gig last season, but was forced to relinquish it after being benched for showing up late to a meeting. Additionally, fumbling isn't tolerated by the four-time Super Bowl winning coach, a problem which Blount has had in the past.
There are a few scenarios in which I could see Blount losing his job. The most likely being that he gets into more trouble off the field and is benched because of it. Fumbling his job away is also not out of the question. Lastly, if someone like Gray or White is able to put up a big performance in Week 1 while Blount is suspended, Belichick could opt to ride the hot hand and pass over Blount while one of his younger counterparts gets the bulk of the load.
However, the much more likely scenario is that Blount comes back Week 2 to a huge workload and flourishes in New England's high-powered offense.
Of course, whenever you're drafting a player, you have to consider both his floor and his ceiling. While Blount's ceiling with the Patriots is that of a top-10 or -15 running back, his floor is extremely low when you consider his history. The Patriots' projected workhorse may be too risky to take in the first few rounds, but with a current average draft position in the late-fifth round in standard scoring and late-sixth in PPR according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com, he is very much worth the risk. In fact, according to our draft kit, we have Blount ranked 45th overall in 12-team league standard scoring and 52nd overall in PPR. If he falls to you in the fifth or sixth round, he would look great as your high-upside RB2 or flex play.