The Round 2 Backs: Jeremy Hill or CJ Anderson?
The fantasy football world was introduced to two young running backs last year, both of whom helped lead fantasy players to the playoffs and championships: CJ Anderson of the Denver Broncos and Jeremy Hill of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Both running backs are being drafted in the second round in early 2015 drafts. In fact, they are the only running backs currently going in round two in standard leagues, and are joined by only Adrian Peterson in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues. If Peterson is cleared to play, there’s little doubt he would rise to the first round.
Hill will be entering his second year and Anderson his third, but Anderson essentially “redshirted” his rookie season; he carried the ball just seven times in 2013. Neither player entered 2014 as starters, but by the end of the season there was little doubt that Hill and Anderson were the best backs on their teams.
But which young back would you rather take in round two: Anderson or Hill?
The easy answer: It depends on whether you are in a PPR league or standard league. Anderson is your man in PPR leagues, Hill in standard leagues. But if I have to choose one over the other regardless of league, give me Hill.
Despite a relatively even split on snaps between Hill and Giovani Bernard last season (515 to 524), Cincinnati’s offense was so run-heavy that Hill’s production didn’t take a hit. He carried the ball 222 times (54 more than Gio) and gained 1,124 yards. Both numbers were in the top 15 among all running backs last season.
It’s not unreasonable to think Cincy will deploy the “thunder and lightning” approach with Hill and Bernard next season. If that’s the case, Hill could top 300 carries.
In Denver, all signs point to a Peyton Manning return, so it appears Anderson will still benefit from the effect Manning has on offenses: They tend to score a lot of points (and the running back will see a lot of check downs). On the flip side — and there’s certainly some conjecture here — we’ve been told that one reason Manning struggled down the stretch was because of quad injuries. That injury led to a reliance on Anderson. If Manning is fully healthy in 2015 and is more like the Manning we saw in the first half of 2014 than the one we saw in the second half, Anderson may not be relied on as much.
Anderson was also highly elusive last season. He was the fourth most elusive running back in the league, per PFF’s “Elusive Rating.” That’s fantastic, but elusiveness is hard to repeat.
Adrian Peterson was one of the 10 most elusive backs in both 2012 and 2013, and Marshawn Lynch has been among the 10 most elusive backs three years in a row. Two surprising names — Chris Ivory and Trent Richardson — have been among the 10 most elusive running backs each of the past two years, but other than those four players, no others have finished in the top 10 twice in the past three years.
In other words, recent history suggests Anderson will have a hard time being as “elusive” in 2015 as he was in 2014.
I also prefer Hill because he had a slightly larger sample size and his numbers, across the board, were slightly better than Anderson’s. In standard leagues, Hill bested Anderson in both points-per-snap (PPS) and points-per-opportunity (PPO). In PPR leagues, Hill led Anderson in PPS and tied him in PPR.
|Carries||Yds.||Rush TD||YPC||PPS (Std.)||PPO (Std.)||PPS (PPR)||PPO (PPR)|
Hill did, however, fumble the ball five total times, compared to one for Anderson. Anderson also tacked on two receiving touchdowns, seven more receptions and about 100 more receiving yards than Hill (which makes him potentially more enticing in PPR leagues).
It’s easy to argue that Anderson’s ceiling is higher than Hill’s. He did virtually all of his damage in the final eight games of the season. If you take Anderson’s final eight games and extrapolate them over a full season, he ends with 324 carries, 1,534 rushing yards, 60 receptions, 582 receiving yards and 20 total touchdowns.
To be fair to Hill, taking his stats from Week 9 on (when he fully assumed the lead back role) and extrapolating them over a full season, his stats aren’t bad either. That would equate to 306 carries, 1,651 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns for a full season.
Both running backs dominated down the stretch. Both running backs should be strong in 2015. My preference for Hill comes down, simply, to this: I think he’s a safer bet.
Hill was stronger than Anderson on a per-snap and per-opportunity basis last year, and he doesn’t have a potential shift in the way his offense does business on the horizon. Cincinnati will be run-heavy again, but Denver could return to the pass-happy team we grew used to from 2012-2014 before flipping the script last November.
Peyton Manning’s presumed return to full health is the ultimate wild card in this debate. If he is back, and Denver’s offense once again flows through him, Anderson just won’t see the rushing volume he did in the back half of 2014. Anderson’s ceiling may be a higher, but if he needs a hampered Manning to reach those heights, that’s not something I’d want to bet if Hill is still on the board.