Veteran Values: Dion Lewis

Mike Wallace, Contributor 

Every year going into fantasy football drafts people are excited about the incoming rookies or other young players getting a chance for a larger role. Fantasy football buffs are excited by upside and seek the thrill of the chasing the unknown  that could help them win a fantasy league…if they beat the odds and pan out. Yet every year proven veteran performers drop a few rounds lower than they should. This series will highlight the veterans I expect to outperform their draft position and provide great value.

Lewis Can be a 3 Down Back

Dion Lewis moved this offseason to the Tennessee Titans and people who think he is going there only as a receiving option out of the backfield are not valuing him correctly. The Titans did not sign Lewis to the contract they did to only be a 3rd down back. The Titans backfield will be a committee, but Lewis is going to be very involved and will have value for fantasy owners.

The Titans have utilized both Derrick Henry and Demarco Murray in the offense over the past 2 seasons. When looking at 2017 stats, Dion Lewis actually averaged more yards per carry than either of them. Henry averaged 4.2 yards per carry while Lewis average 5.0 yards. Lewis was 9th in the league in broken tackles while Henry was 19th. Lewis and Henry saw a similar number of carries last season with 180 and 176 respectively. Both teams had offensive lines that rated highly in 2017, which proves Lewis was actually more effective as a ball carrier. Lewis is much more effective as a ball carrier than he is given credit for.

A Target You Can’t Miss

With Murray gone, there are running back targets that will need to go somewhere else. Henry was only targeted 17 times all season, while Murray saw 47 targets. Lewis played in a system with multiple pass catching running backs and he still saw 35 targets. Lewis is the more talented receiver and will see the majority of the targets out of the backfield. It is safe to assume he will be targeted at least 3 times a game, the additional involvement will add to the value of Lewis. It will also allow for Lewis to be on the field more often.

In 2018, I do not think it is crazy for Lewis and Henry to end up with similar fantasy production, there is a non-zero chance that Lewis is actually the more valuable fantasy option. Henry would need a significant edge in carries to outscore Lewis, but if Lewis continues to be the more efficient runner then Tennessee would be crazy not to keep him as involved as possible. The only worry with Lewis is the injury history, but anyone, especially at running back, could go down at anytime. Depending on the format, Henry is currently being drafted anywhere from 2 to 3 ½ rounds earlier than Lewis, according to early ADP information. Based on that, waiting and taking Lewis on draft night seems like the better choice. Do not let yourself be the owner that gets excited about Henry, only to be disappointed at the value Lewis ends up providing.

 

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