Last off-season I made the case for and against many players, pounding my fist on the table with my opinion. As with every expert, I got many of those correct but I got a few wrong too. You can read my confessional on last year’s calls here. It’s 2017 and I’m back at is again! This time I’m all in on Ameer Abdullah. I believe this is the year he blossoms and becomes a force in fantasy football. I know this goes against the grain of conventional wisdom. That’s really the point. It’s easy to go with what most people say but value is really created when you can think for yourself and have the courage to go it alone.
Ameer Abdullah was a second round pick out of Nebraska for the Lions only two short seasons ago. When he’s been on the field he’s been productive. The problem is that last year he was hampered by a shoulder injury which kept him out of training camp and then a foot injuy put him on IR after the first game of the season, ruining his sophomore campaign.
While injury concerns are valid as he dealt with a lot last year, those were the first games in college or pro in which he missed, so it’s not as if he’s truly injury prone. He is small for an NFL RB though, so I think many people feel he just won’t stand up to the rigors of the NFL. And that may be so, only time will tell. In the meantime, he’s currently being drafted as the 25th RB off the board in consensus rankings, below the likes of Bilal Powell, Ty Montgomery, and Spencer Ware.
And this is where DMX can help you find gems. Abdullah’s DMX score is elite, 1.35. Bilal Powell’s is 0.50, Ty Montgomery’s is 0.71 and Spencer Ware’s is (0.03). Abdullah is a MUCH better prospect than many of whom are being drafted over him. Above I have shared a comparison of Jamaal Charles’ DMX breakdown with Ameer Abdullah’s. Why the comparison to Charles? Because both backs are listed right around 200 lbs. Abdullah’s DMX score is higher than Charles’ to start with. He’s not as fast as Charles but has elite level agility and leg power. Abdullah was drafted higher than Charles too.
As you can see from the DMX charts above, there are a lot of similarities in Jamaal Charles and Ameer Abdullah. Here are some other similarities to consider, they are both around 70 inches tall and 200 lbs. They both played in the Big-12, Charles at Texas and Abdullah at Nebraska. The point here is, Jamaal Charles and Ameer Abdullah have a very similar profile. They differ athletically, Charles is much faster where Abdullah is much more agile and explosive (as proven by the DMX comparison above), but they have more similarities than differences. Both are relatively small for NFL backs, very athletic and productive in the Big 12 conference.
Next, let’s look at their career stats. Here are Jamaal Charles’ career stats:
And here are Ameer Abdullah’s career stats:
The first thing that stands out is that Abdullah’s rookie year was better than Charles. He had more TDs and more yards than Charles did in KC. Surprised? I was when I saw it too. Now, in year two Charles began to establish himself and jumped from the 57th ranked RB to 12th, right at the cusp of RB1 territory. He then went on to elite status finishing in the top 10 4 times in 5 years, in the top 5 in two of those years. The only anomaly was in 2011 when he tore up his knee.
In comparison, Abdullah had a better year his rookie year, finishing as the 41st RB and then had a lisfranc foot injury that closed him down in year two. Though it was a super small sample, Adbullah did have a great first game in his second year, scoring over 20 fantasy points that game and dominating the backfield for Detroit. It’s hard to say that his second year would have kept up that way if he wasn’t injured, but surely the trajectory was on pace with Charles, given the small sample size. Abdullah certainly could have finished around 12th if he had a full year, but we will never know. That uncertainty, and the current conventional wisdom that he is injury prone and too small to be elite, is what is causing his current low consensus ADP.
When you look at what the Lions have done this off-season, it is all about putting Abdullah in position to succeed in 2017. While their run game suffered without Abdullah in 2016, they also evaluated their line and made some big changes during this free agency season. They brought in Rick Wagner at right tackle from Baltimore and TJ Lang at right guard from Green Bay. Both of these guys are great run blockers and are expected to bolster the run game. In the draft, the Lions did not choose a running back. They held pat with Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington. Zenner and Washington are low round backups, Riddick is nothing more than a passing down back. Jim Caldwell, the Lions head coach, has said Abdullah is their RB1. All of this sets Abdullah up for success in 2017. There has been absolutely no bad news for him during this off-season. His injury has healed and he is practicing already, his line is better than last year and the Lions made the playoffs last season. All good stuff for Abdullah.
Can Ameer Abdullah’s third season be as productive as Jamaal Charles’ third season? Absolutely, it can. Will it be? Nobody knows, certainly I don’t. What I can tell you is that Abdullah’s rise between year 1 and year 2 was cut short by injury. In year 3 the Lions have done everything in their power to create an environment for Abdullah to both be the RB1 and to succeed. If he doesn’t, it is certainly on him. But isn’t it worth a buy-low trade just to find out?
To me it is and I have put my money where my mouth is. Prior to the 2017 NFL draft I traded for Abdullah in two of my leagues, buying low with picks or players I was not sold on, including Spencer Ware in one of the trades (a PPR league). It was a risk, as the Lions could have drafted over Abdullah but they did not. If you can get him without much fanfare, do so. while Jamaal Charles production isn’t the most likely outcome this season, it’s also not out of the cards.