Bryce Brown's 2013 Fantasy Football Outlook
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You probably fell in love with Brown on November 26, 2012 -- just like the rest of us.
That was the Monday night on which he set fire to the Carolina Panthers. Filling in after LeSean McCoy's concussion, the 7th-round rookie blew past a weak Panthers run D for 178 yards and 2 TDs on 19 carries. He did it again the following Sunday, this time toasting Dallas for 169 yards and 2 more scores on 24 carries.
Those 2 games included 5 runs of 20+ yards and about 8.1 yards per carry. Unfortunately, they also included 4 fumbles, 3 of which Philly lost.
Brown followed the Dallas contest with just 6 yards on 12 attempts against Tampa's league-best run D (at least in terms of yardage). He would finish his debut season with just 76 yards on 40 carries over the final 4 weeks. That's a putrid 1.9 yards per rush -- 3.0 fewer than his season average.
For all the speed and excitement, Brown still has plenty to learn. He basically skipped over college after a high school career that got him dubbed the best RB prospect in several years. He transferred away from Tennessee after 1 season, following Lane Kiffin's controversial departure for USC. After sitting out a year, Brown left the K-State team 2 games into the 2011 season because he was unhappy with his playing time.
The Eagles took a chance on the talent in Round 7, a move that looks like it will pay off. But Brown needs to work on ball security, reading his blocks and following his assignments. He tried to bounce everything outside as a rookie, seeking to leverage his sub-4.5 speed. Going that route too often doesn't even work if you have Chris Johnson's speed, though.
Brown certainly has the size to run effectively inside, with the proper coaching and practice. He stands a solid 6'0 and 223 pounds, slightly taller and bigger than McCoy -- though not nearly as good a player at this point. Fortunately, he doesn't have to be.
Although Chip Kelly used a clear primary back nearly every season at Oregon, that guy tended to garner about 45% to 48% of the carries. McCoy, meanwhile, drew about 61% of Philly's rushing attempts in 2011 and 48% the year before -- his 2 seasons of full action before he missed 4 games in 2012. For our purposes here, let's split the difference and give McCoy 54.5% of carries in the coming season. That might even be a little generous in a no-huddle scheme that will require a fair amount of substitution to keep everyone fresh. (McCoy has already compared the pace to a track meet.)
The Eagles are bound to run the ball a lot more often. Kelly leaned 60/40 toward the run in college. That split probably won't fly in the NFL, but he figures to strive for at least as close to 50/50 as possible. Throw in the offensive pace that generates extra offensive snaps, and you have more extra carries to play with than at any point under Andy Reid.
In Kelly's 6 years as OC or HC at Oregon, the #2 RB never carried fewer than 61 times -- despite the large number of attempts going to QBs. The #2 RB averaged 102.5 carries for the Ducks over that span. That total would have ranked 42nd in the NFL among RBs last year and would be a nice level for Brown to hit behind a healthy McCoy. Brown's rushing share would likely grow if Nick Foles beats out Michael Vick for the starting QB job, or takes over after Vick's inevitable injury.
It's tougher to predict his receiving work. Kelly often put 2 tailbacks on the field together at Oregon, regularly lining such players up in receiver spots. But RBs didn't catch a ton of passes. Then again, no particular position logged big reception totals. In Kelly's time, only 1 Duck surpassed 55 catches in a season. Only 4 guys reached 50 in a season over 6 years. Chalk that up to a run-heavy scheme that gets a lot of players involved.
With more passing in the NFL version of Kelly's scheme, 25 receptions seems doable for Brown. But that depends on Brown proving his worth in that area. He averaged just 4.3 yards on 13 catches as a rookie last season. Eleven of those came in the 4 starts he made for McCoy. Brown also caught just 11 passes in his truncated college career. He did at least take 10 of those for an impressive 137 yards as a true freshman at Tennessee.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Brown's talent and situation make him 1 of the strongest handcuff candidates in fantasy drafts this year. He has a chance to provide some flex value if he can develop this offseason and through training camp. If you're a McCoy owner looking to secure his backup, you'll likely have to start thinking about it in Round 7 or 8. That's too early to call him a "must" pick, but keep Brown in mind.
Ball security might be the biggest factor. Coaches can be patient with some things -- but not fumbling.
Felix Jones signed a pedestrian 1-year deal and doesn't look like a threat to Brown's role. He could easily step into it, though, if Brown keeps putting the ball on the ground.