Is C.J. Anderson now a first round pick?
Jeff Boggis discusses C.J. Anderson’s ranking after a breakout 2014 campaign.
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As much as you would believe that the Denver Broncos and QB Peyton Manning are a pass first offense, in actuality they are a run first offense. Leading the way this season will be C.J. Anderson. In his first full season last year, Anderson rushed for 849 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and scoring 8 touchdowns. He finished as the top running back in fantasy football over the last 5 weeks of the 2014 season.
Head coach Gary Kubiak has already made two encouraging comments this offseason. The first is that Denver plans to run more in the red zone. The second is that C.J. Anderson is Denver’s “bellcow” running back, meaning Anderson will be a 3 down back for Denver this season. As the new head coach, Kubiak will be incorporating a zone-blocking scheme which should create additional running lanes for Anderson this season. Since 20012, Denver running backs have averaged 14 TDs per season, and I am projecting Anderson for 1,200 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Anderson is also a threat out of the backfield as a pass catcher and provides additional value in points per reception (PPR) league formats. I am expect Anderson to have 50 receptions, 400 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. Anderson’s fantasy playoff schedule includes a favorable matchup versus Oakland in week 14, a neutral matchup at Pittsburgh in week 15, and a favorable matchup versus Cincinnati in week 16.
Anderson’s current overall average draft position (ADP) is 12.5, right on the border of the first round of a 12 team league. However, Anderson should be considered as a legit first round draft pick, regardless of your fantasy football league format. If he were to fall into the mid-second round, he would be a steal in. Based on the consensus RB ADP rankings, Anderson is the 7th RB going off the board. Let’s analyze the 3 RBs that are being drafted around him.
Matt Forte (CHI)
RB ADP: #6
He is now 29 years old, turns 30 in December, and is in the final year of his contract. While he may play with extra incentive this season for a contract extension, it’s hard to get overly excited about a running back nearing age 30. New head coach John Fox likes to run the ball, so Forte should see less opportunities catching the ball out of the backfield. Forte has also verbally commented this preseason that catching 100+ balls is not his goal as a running back. The Chicago Bears ran the football only 35.3% last season, and Forte’s huge fantasy season was highly credited to his pass catching ability with 102 receptions, which ranked him 4th overall compared to wide receivers! Heading into 2015, Marc Trestman is now gone and Adam Gase will run the offense. In 2014, Gase was the offensive coordinator in Denver where he ran the ball 41.5%. His RBs combined for only 68 receptions which is 34 less than Forte’s total of 102. In 2013, Gase ran the ball 39.9%. I am downgrading Matt Forte in PPR league formats, and am neutral on standard league formats as the Chicago Bears offensive line ranked 5th overall last season in run blocking. His fantasy playoff schedule includes a tough matchup versus Washington in week 14, a favorable matchup at Minnesota in week 15, and a neutral matchup at Tampa Bay in week 16.
LeSean McCoy (BUF)
RB ADP: #8
LeSean McCoy leaves a great offensive line in Philadelphia for the worst offensive line in Buffalo. 2014 offensive line run blocking rankings had Philadelphia ranked #1 overall and Buffalo ranked last at 32. Look for new offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, to increase the Buffalo run game this season. In the past 3 years, Roman’s offenses ran the football no less than 50.2 percent of the time. And new head coach, Rex Ryan, also likes to run the football. During his time with the New York Jets, Ryan’s offenses ranked 6th or higher in rush percentage 5 times. His fantasy playoff schedule includes a favorable matchup at Philadelphia in week 14, a tough matchup at Washington in week 15, and a neutral matchup versus Dallas in week 16.
DeMarco Murray (PHI)
RB ADP: #9
Murray led the league in rushing attempts with 392, but guess which team had the 2nd leading rusher? It was the team he was traded to in the Philadelphia Eagles as LeSean McCoy had 312 rushing attempts. It will be hard for Murray to repeat on his incredible season last year where he led the league in rushing yards (1,845), rushing yards per game (115.3), first downs (85), and tied for first with Marshawn Lynch for rushing TDs (13). The Chip Kelly offensive juggernaut will keep Murray busy this season, so expect no significant drop off in fantasy points. My concern with Murray however, is the talent behind him in Philadelphia. You have Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles that will vulture Murray’s carries. Look for Murray to have reduced carries from 449 to my projected 275 touches this season. He has the toughest postseason schedule among running backs as his fantasy playoff schedule includes a neutral matchup versus Buffalo in week 14, a tough matchup versus Arizona in week 15, and a tough matchup versus Washington in week 16.
Again, evaluating the back surrounding C.J. Anderson, it shows that Anderson has more upside than the 3 other Running Backs that are currently being drafted around his ADP. He left Friday night’s preseason opener against Seattle with an an ankle injury, but it is nothing more than an ankle tweak at this time. I currently have C.J. Anderson ranked 3rd overall, only behind Eddie Lacy and Le’Veon Bell, and you could make the argument that it’s fully possible for Anderson to finish 1st overall in fantasy points this year.