Should Fantasy Football Owners Be Worried About Jeremy Hill?

Hill looked like a sturdy fantasy pick heading into the year, but it hasn't been a home run pick just yet.

Jeremy Hill looked like a promising second-round pick in fantasy football this year. 

And through Week 2, prior to Monday Night Football, Hill ranks as the 13th-best fantasy football running back in standard scoring settings. 

Of course, that's not the whole story.

It's early, but given his pretty-much-worst-case-scenario Week 2 outing -- a pretty abysmal 10-carry, 32-yard, 2-fumble performance while second-stringer Giovani Bernard racked up 123 yards on 20 carries -- should fantasy football owners be concerned about Hill going forward?

Let's dig into this one and see what we can find.

Recapping Two Games

Here are some things that we know for sure.

In Week 1, Hill saw 19 carries, which tied for seventh-most in the league. He saw a league-high eight red zone carries. His 5 carries from inside the 10 topped the league, and his 3 carries from inside the 5 were tied for second most.

Entering Week 2, the Bengals owned a nERD of 4.00, which ranked them fifth in our power rankings. That suggests that they should be in a good position to be leading in games this year. And if they have leads and red zone opportunities, then Hill seems like a sure bet to continue to find success on the ground, particularly near the end zone.

After what went down in Week 2, it's hard to keep all of this in mind.

But before we get to Hill's disaster against San Diego, let's rewind to the entire 2014 season.

Backup Giovani Bernard couldn't hold off Hill last year when he was healthy, and his inefficiencies were magnified given Hill's stellar play. In terms of our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, Hill added 20.63 points with his rushing last year, which ranked fourth at the position. Bernard's Rushing NEP of -6.62 ranked 21st among 43 backs with at least 100 carries.

On a per-carry basis, Hill (0.09) ranked 5th, and Bernard (-0.04) ranked 23rd. In terms of Rushing Success Rate, the percentage of carries that added to Cincinnati's NEP, Hill's 48.65% topped the subset. In fact, among 345 backs with at least 200 carries in a season since 2000, Hill's Rushing Success Rate ranked 20th. 

Bernard's 36.31% ranked 33rd among 43 backs with at least 100 carries last year.

Okay, so are we good?

Hill was not only prolific but also efficient. Bernard -- whatever the reason -- couldn't keep up in terms of rushing.

Now we can get to Week 2.

Bernard mixed in with Hill plenty early in the game, and on Cincinnati's second drive, Hill fumbled the ball away. After he fumbled in the third quarter just after the eight-minute mark, Hill didn't see the field again.

According to our initial tally on numberFire Live, Hill managed a Rushing NEP of -8.06 in Week 2, thanks to those two costly fumbles.

But if we factor out the fumbles -- I know, that's not exactly fair, but just go with it for now -- Hill secured a Rushing NEP better than 1.00. That doesn't sound great, yeah, but only 30 running backs among 129 who saw at least 7 carries last year maintained a Rushing NEP better than 1.00.

It's hard to have a positive Rushing NEP -- running the ball just isn't an efficient way to move the sticks -- but Hill did it. If not for the two fumbles, he still was on par for a positive day, something that should calm the nerves of fantasy owners.

Moving Forward

But is that really enough for him not to get phased out of the run game?

One thing for certain is that Hill wasn't without fumbles last year, when he had five but lost only two. With two lost fumbles, he still put forth one of the most impressive rushing seasons from anyone in the league.

Still, Hill's rushing efficiency doesn't seem to be dwindling. Rather, he was the victim of lost fumbles. After Week 1, Hill owned a Rushing NEP of 1.70, which ranked 10th among backs with at least 8 carries. Bernard, who had 8 carries, ranked 9th (2.50). But if we deal with sample sizes larger than two games, then there's probably reason not to buy into Bernard's early successes.

In 2013, Bernard's Rushing NEP of -6.75 on 171 carries ranked him 25th among 47 backs with at least 100 carries. Again, last year he ranked 21st among 43 backs with that many carries. He can prove to be a nuisance to Hill's upside, but expecting the Bengals to push Bernard for 220-plus carries likely isn't the end to this story, as he never saw the ball on the ground 171 and 168 times in the past two seasons, respectively.

Now, if these turnovers give way to more Bernard carries regardless of sacrificing the efficiency that Hill provides, then that's a different story.

That is to say that we don't know how his fumbles will impact future coaching decisions, especially near the goal line, but in terms of the metrics, Hill remains a legitimate option and it's hard to consider Bernard a superior option given his average-at-best track record as an NFL rusher.

If you can buy low on Jeremy Hill and if he manages to fix his fumbling ways -- he had only one fumble on 345 career carries in college -- you could be getting a back who could be a league-winning talent, as Hill finished as the 10th-best fantasy running back in the league last year even with Bernard seeing 168 carries and 59 targets.