Is Justin Forsett Still a Viable Fantasy Football Option for 2016?
If you have any idea how to handle the Baltimore Ravens' offense in fantasy right now, you might be the only one. There's a whole lotta ambiguity, a ton of mouths to feed, and no real hope of clarity in sight.
When we have this haziness about who will get carries and targets in the offense, everybody's average draft position (ADP) gets shoved down the chute. This creates value if we can pinpoint the eventual winners, but doing so is not the easiest of tasks.
We may finally have a bit of light to help lift this fog.
Forsett leads the way into camp, but there will be a heated battle for the No. 2 role: https://t.co/LiOVXQ97DT pic.twitter.com/2gwV5ZqrEF
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) July 12, 2016
Within that piece, Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com writes that veteran Justin Forsett enters camp as "the clear lead dog" in the running-back competition. Mink went on to write that the lead-back role for Forsett was "his job to lose," further advancing the narrative that Forsett is still the man in the Ravens' backfield.
With young, talented backs like Javorius Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Kenneth Dixon on the roster, it's understandable if you're still a bit hesitant to buy into Forsett prior to his age-31 season. But -- as Mink wrote -- it's Forsett's job to lose, and if the past two years are any indication, it's not a role he's likely to forfeit.
If Forsett comes out of the gates and rushes with decent efficiency, there would be little reason to send carries elsewhere. Ever since he joined the Ravens, efficiency has been no obstacle for him.
We can check out said efficiency using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP). This is the metric we use to track the efficiency of both teams and players with the team totals being weighted for strength of opponent.
Here's how NEP works. Prior to a play, an offense will have an expected number of points that it will score on the drive. A three-yard carry on 3rd-and-2 will increase those expected points, resulting in positive NEP. That same three-yard carry on 3rd-and-4, though, will likely result in a punt, giving the team negative NEP. Tracking these fluctuations in expected points over the course of a season can tell us which players helped their teams the most.
We have two separate NEP tools when discussing running backs. The first is Rushing NEP per carry, which shows the average expected points added each time the player touched the ball. The second is that player's success rate, which illustrates the percentage of carries on which a player gives the team positive NEP. Forsett has fared well in both the past two seasons.
The table below shows Forsett's rankings in these metrics for the 2014 and 2015 seasons among running backs with at least 100 carries. For context, there were 43 qualified backs in 2014 and 44 in 2015.
|Season||Rushing NEP per Carry Rank||Success Rate Rank|
Even though Forsett's Rushing NEP per carry lagged in his second year in Baltimore, his success rate was still one of the better marks in the league. That 2015 season looks even rosier when we compare Forsett to other backs in the same environment.
Let's break all of the Ravens' 2015 running back rushing attempts into two separate buckets. The first is when Forsett carried the ball, and the second is whenever any other back did. One of these splits is not too shabby, but the other...
|Rusher||Rushing NEP per Carry||Success Rate|
|Other Running Backs||-0.16||39.8%|
Flaming donkey doo.
Most of that struggle came from Allen, whose 138 carries turned into -22.13 Rushing NEP and -0.16 Rushing NEP per carry. At least based on last year's numbers, he couldn't sniff Forsett's production, further validating the assertion that Forsett could still thrive as the Ravens' lead back.
It seems as if Forsett will get the first crack at locking down the job as the top dog in the backfield. If he does, his past few years have shown that he can still be an effective runner, even at an advanced age. As things stand right now, he's a pretty obvious player to target in re-draft leagues.
Time to Buy
Forsett is currently the 32nd-ranked running back off the board in point-per-reception leagues, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. For a potential lead back on a team Bovada projects to win 8.5 games, that's a dandy value.
There are reasons to be afraid of Forsett. He's not heavily involved in the passing game, he's clearly on the tail end of his career, and a potential quality rookie in Dixon is waiting in the wings. All of that, though, is baked into his current ADP while his upside may not be.
With an 8.5-win total, the Ravens are a team that should expect to be in positive game script with decent regularity. That's a major boon for a run-first option like Forsett, who could also see a good number of red-zone opportunities if the Ravens approach that win total. He showed in 2014 that he can be a league-winning fantasy option, and while his ceiling isn't as high this year, he's going to have value if he gets a chance.
We still have a bunch of questions surrounding this offense. However, Forsett seems like he is one of the safer assets in the group. His efficiency was still good through last year's struggles, and even with the young pups breathing down his neck, he's a guy we should be buying at his current price.