Fantasy Football: Everyone Is Sleeping on Rashad Jennings
I’m masquerading through the countryside this offseason as a Rashad Jennings evangelist.
I’ve stumped for him once before, and I’m going to keep preaching because the dude is criminally undervalued.
I’m not going to try to figure out why he’s being valued the way he is (94th overall), but I’m going to try to show you why -- at anything close to his current price -- he’s well worth a draft pick this fall.
His 2015 Was Better Than You Remember
The New York Giants struggled to run the ball for the majority of last year, finishing the season 23rd in Adjusted Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. (You can read more about NEP in our glossary.)
The Giants found their most success when they turned over the running game to Jennings late in the season. New York only had three games all year where they rushed for better than 5.0 yards per carry, and two of them came over the final three weeks.
In the last four games of year, Jennings got the chance to be the lead back, and he thrived, rushing 79 times for 432 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and snagging 7 catches for 89 yards.
Even though he wasn’t getting bell-cow volume until late in the year, our metrics loved his season-long production. Among backs with at least 100 carries, he finished 8th in Rushing NEP per play. In that same subset, he ranked 1st in success rate, which measures the percentage of plays on which the runner increases his team's NEP. Among backs to see at least 40 targets, Jennings checked in 12th in Reception NEP per target.
It’s certainly cherry-picking, but over the final four weeks, Jennings was one of the top running backs in the game from a fantasy perspective.
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Don’t get it twisted. Jennings isn’t an elite option -- far from it -- but he’s solid. Everyone wants to swing for the fence and land the next star, but solid weekly production can win fantasy titles.
Jennings ended last season 20th among running backs in standard-scoring formats. He was an RB2 -- a top-24 back -- seven times, and he was an RB1 (top 12) three of the last four weeks.
Two of the times Jennings finished outside the top 24, he narrowly missed RB2 status, finishing inside the top 30 and making for a solid flex play those weeks.
So, in all, Jennings was useable -- a top-30 running back -- nine times last season.
Giants' Passing Attack
While the Giants had a tough time on the ground last year, Eli Manning and company were good through the air. New York ranked 10th in Adjusted Passing NEP per play in 2015.
Jennings isn’t a huge part of the passing game, hauling in just 29 passes for 296 yards and 1 score last year, but the Giants’ having a good passing offense certainly helps him. Good offenses get into the red zone more, thereby giving their skill players more chances to score touchdowns, and in fantasy, touchdowns make the world go round.
At 6'1", 231 pounds, Jennings should have as good of a shot as anyone to get those red-zone and goal-line carries. Rookie Paul Perkins (5'10", 208 pounds) and pass-game specialist Shane Vereen (5'10", 205 pounds) are not ideally built to be goal-line mashers while Andre Williams, well, he’s just bad and may be browsing on Indeed.com soon.
What’s It Going to Cost Me
As with anything in fantasy football, cost of acquisition always matters, and Jennings’ price is mouth-watering.
He costs less today than fireworks after the Fourth of July.
Jennings is the RB38, according to Fantasy Football Calculator’s average draft position (ADP) data.
Our early projections peg him to rush for 659 yards and 5 scores on 155 carries, adding another 212 yards on 27 receptions. But we may be selling him short based on expected volume, if recent reports prove to be true.
Giants beat writer John Schmeelk expects Jennings to push for 15 carries per game.
If Jennings saw at least 15 carries per game over 16 games, that would give him a floor of 240 attempts, which is 95 more than we expect in our projections. Obviously, more carries leads to more production, even if it dings his efficiency a little.
None of the other backs going in Jennings’ neighborhood offer the kind of volume he does. They’re mostly handcuffs or, at best, locked into split backfields.
So instead of hoping to catch a break and luck into a lead back, why not just take a lead back?