What Should Fantasy Football Owners Do With Jeremy Hill?
Hill was the NFL’s leading rusher over the second half of last season, rushing for 929 yards and 6 touchdowns over his final nine games. Hill's owners expected this success to carry over into this season. Those expectations have not materialized.
Yet to top 63 yards rushing through six games this season and averaging just 3.1 yards per carry, Hill’s sophomore year hasn’t gone as expected. Fantasy owners are scratching their heads over what to do with Hill and his erratic fantasy totals week to week.
The Gio Bernard Factor
Expected to share just some of the workload with Giovani Bernard this season, Hill’s reign on early-down carries has been threatened. Bernard was supposed to stick to a third- and passing-down role, and Hill was the first- and second-down banger. So far this season, the two have been interchangeable on early downs -- for the most part -- with Bernard seeing more total work.
Through six games, Bernard has outproduced Hill in nearly every relevant offensive category.
|Rush Attempts||Rushing Yards||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Total Touchdowns|
As you can see, Hill has almost 200 fewer rushing yards than Bernard on just three fewer attempts. Unable to get consistent yardage, Hill’s fantasy value thus far has been tied to touchdowns. In the three games Hill didn't score a touchdown, he scored fewer than three fantasy points in standard scoring leagues.
Our metrics back up what the raw statistics say -- Bernard has been more effective. Hill’s Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry is -0.11 this season, ranking 36th out of 45 players with at least 40 rushing attempts. Bernard currently ranks fifth in the same scenario with a 0.15 average. When looking at Rushing Success Rate, the percentage of rushes that contribute positively towards a player's NEP, Hill closes the gap slightly among players with at last 40 rushing attempts, but is still behind Bernard -- Hill ranks 21st (41.89 %) and Bernard ranks sixth (50.65%) out of the 45 qualified players.
We're nearing the time last season when the fantasy community was clamoring for Hill -- the consensus was that Hill was the better runner and better fit for offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s scheme. Fast forward to this year, and now Bernard is the better runner, and the offense is now more effective with him on the field.
The answer in the backfield most likely lies somewhere in the middle. Each back brings a different element to an offense that has been one of the best this season.
The Bengals’ passing offense is first in schedule-adjusted Passing NEP per play, while the running game has been middle of the pack, ranking 17th on a per game basis. Overall, the Bengals are sporting the third best offense in the NFL based on our metrics.
Much of the Bengals’ offensive success and 6-0 start can be credited to the arm of the Andy Dalton. Bad Andy has yet to show up this season, and with his weapons healthy, hopefully that remains the case. The running game needs to improve, though -- specifically Hill.
Jackson is expecting Hill to get going after the bye, saying, "I know the player he can be, so I'm going to keep pushing him to get there." Jackson continued, "I mean, we need him. He's going to be a huge part down the stretch run once we get back here."
Based on Jackson's comments, Hill should receive more of the workload moving forward if his on-field play shows improvement. And, at the very least, as long as the offense continues to move the football, Hill's opportunities for short yardage scores should also remain.
Facing a difficult schedule to date, Hill has rushed for fewer than 60 yards in five of six games this year and averaged over four yards per carry just once. Of the defenses the Bengals have faced through six games, though, four rank in the top 10 in Adjusted Rushing NEP per play.
Looking ahead, the schedule has more tough matchups on the horizon, but there are some plus ones as well.
After the bye, Hill faces six defenses ranked in the top 12 and four defenses ranked 23rd or worse -- all against the run according to our numbers -- in the final 10 games of the season. One of the tougher opponents, the Ravens, is in Week 17 after most fantasy champions are already crowned.
So with the schedule softening a bit, expect Hill's rushing totals to rise.
What Should Owners Do?
The Bengals' offense is good enough to support two fantasy running backs. Bernard isn't built to handle a heavy workload, and has been his best with a power-back complimenting his style. It's unlikely Bernard takes a larger share of the carries than he already has.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson says Hill is a major part of the team's second half plans. As the weather turns colder at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals will look to Hill.
Hill's lows have been as low as possible, but it's doubtful fantasy owners have a ton of other options at the position given Hill's early-season cost. And as bad as it seems Hill has been, he's still finished as a top-13 running back in half his games.
Though weekly inconsistency will remain, his floor should rise. Look for Hill to provide decent value the rest of the way, making him a hold, but expectations of an RB1 are looking highly unlikely.