Should Jeremy Langford Be Worried About Ka'Deem Carey?

With Matt Forte now out of the picture, it's safe to assume that Langford will be the primary running back in 2016, right?

At this time of the NFL offseason, attention is, understandably, turned to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

However, the news doesn't stop for all 32 NFL teams.

Last week, a small news blurb came out regarding Chicago Bears’ head coach John Fox and what he thinks about the state of his running backs following the departure of Matt Forte.

Often, these quotes get totally blown out of proportion (except for the nipple part), starting a narrative that never really had legs to begin with. That could very well be the case here, too.

But assuming there was a least some smoke above this perceived coaching campfire, should Jeremy Langford really worry about an oncoming challenge for his assumed starting spot in 2016 from Ka'Deem Carey?

The Profiles

Using athleticism as a starting point for this discussion, it’s pretty easy to see that, on paper,  Langford has the clear advantage over Carey in terms of workout metrics.

Granted, NFL Combines and Pro Day numbers should never be taken as the only piece of evidence when deciphering between two players, but Langford’s straight-line speed alone sets him miles apart.

Langford does lack in short-area quickness according to his metrics, but Carey didn't show much in that department, either.

Both players were acquired using very similar draft capital in back-to-back seasons (Langford at pick 107, Carey at pick 110), although that may not mean as much considering the coaching turnover in Chicago.

Both Carey and Langford were ultra-productive at the college level, showing the ability not only to handle the majority of carries but also to contribute in the passing game.

What We Learned From 2015

Using numberFire’s Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, we can gain a better understanding of how efficient each player was with his touches last season.

It’s important to keep in mind that a direct comparison probably isn’t fair due to the large discrepancy in touch volume between the two players. Nonetheless, focusing on per-play metrics gives us some idea of what could happen if the touches were prorated to be more similar.

Full Name Rush Rush NEP Rush NEP/P Rec Rec NEP Tars Rec NEP/Tar   Catch Rate
Jeremy Langford 148 1.93 0.01 22 22.53 42 0.54 52.38%
Ka'Deem Carey 43 -2.54 -0.06 3 2.04 3 0.68 100.00%

Not only did Langford best Carey in terms of efficiency, but he also performed better than the incumbent starter, Matt Forte. He showed well as a runner by ranking 11th in Rushing NEP per carry among the 44 running backs with 100 or more carries.

Carey was the better receiver of the two -- albeit with a much smaller sample size -- hearkening back to what he was able to do over his three collegiate seasons at Arizona. 

Maybe most importantly though, in the three games that Forte missed last season, Langford out-touched Carey 65 to 30.

An Upcoming Controversy?

Although we can make best guesses, the truth is we don’t know what the Bears’ roster will look like come August. They could very well draft a running back or add one in free agency before training camp rolls around.

But if we assume that no major bombshells get dropped on the Bears’ backfield, it’s tough to see anyone but Langford getting first crack at the starting gig in 2016.

Carey will most likely take his place in some sort of timeshare -- he vultured a few touchdowns in 2015, causing headaches for Langford’s fantasy owners -- but not doing enough to warrant rostering him.

Instead of worrying about Carey stealing away the starting job, perhaps we should just take caution when figuring out how to value Langford in the first few rounds of upcoming fantasy drafts, knowing a 300-touch season might not be a sure thing.