Fantasy Football 2017: Paul Perkins Stock on the Rise

The New York Giants recently released their leading rusher Rashad Jennings. Paul Perkins fantasy football stock is now on the rise, but how much?

Usually when a team parts ways with their leading rusher, it makes waves throughout the NFL and in fantasy football. In the case of the New York Giants, the move was barely noteworthy. Why exactly was this?

In 2016 the Giants as a team only averaged 88.2 rushing yards per game which ranked 29th in the NFL. Their leading rusher, Rashad Jennings, finished the season with 593 rushing yards. This was “good” enough for 27th in the NFL.

To give you an idea how ineffective Jennings was last season, his 3.3 yards per carry was the second-lowest mark among running backs with at least 180 carries. Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor finished right below Jennings with 580 rushing yards. Yet, Taylor had twice as many rushing touchdowns (6) than Jennings (3).

In the start of last season, rookie running back Paul Perkins was nonexistent in the offense. As the season progressed, Perkins began stealing work from Jennings. In Week 9 he saw a career high in both carries (11) and receptions (3). Before that week he never had more than four carries in any game.

Including the playoffs, Perkins closed out the 2016 season with five straight games of double-digit carries. The former UCLA Bruin also started the final two games over Jennings. Due to this changing of the guard, it’s no surprise the Giants released Jennings who wasn’t even a top-30 fantasy running back in 2016.

Without Jennings in the picture, the Giants have freed-up about 200 extra running back touches (Jennings totaled 216 last season). Perkins, who is now first on the depth chart, should be viewed as a RB2 heading into next season right? Honestly, no; he shouldn’t be viewed that high. At least, not right now.

With free agency and the NFL draft yet to take place, the Giants haven’t had the opportunity to upgrade and/or add anyone to their backfield. Unfortunately for the Giants, (and luckily for Perkins) there aren’t a lot of big name running backs heading into free agency. No, I’m not including Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who won’t make it to free agency.

There are some running backs out there who would immediately make the Giants backfield a timeshare such as Eddie Lacy and LeGarrette Blount. A free agent addition like Latavius Murray would be viewed as the team’s starter due to his age, production and the type of contract he would command. However, do the Giants have the money to sign one of these running backs?

According to Over the Cap, the Giants are currently 20th in the NFL in cap space with about $32M. They still have some in-house free agents they should consider re-signing such as Jason Pierre Paul, Johnathan Hankins, Leon Hall and Keenan Robinson. The fact is, if they want to re-sign these players or players of equal caliber, they may not have the money to shell out to a respectable running back. If that’s the case, the NFL Draft is the next place fantasy owners want to turn their attention to.

The running back class in this year’s NFL draft is deep. Running backs who are selected in day three of the draft could conceivably start the season as part of a 60/40 committee depending on the situation.

Obviously the higher a running back is drafted, the better of a chance he has of playing right away. If the Giants select a running back like D’Onta Foreman out of Texas in the third round, you better believe Perkins stock takes a major hit. If the Giants wait until rounds five through seven to draft a running back, the better the situation is for Perkins.

Another obstacle blocking Perkins path to RB2 status is the state of the Giants offensive line. Specifically, they need to do something about their offensive tackles.

Pro Football Focus ranked the Giants offensive line 20th in the NFL this past season and said left tackle Ereck Flowers and right tackle Bobby Hart “may have been the worst pair of tackles in the game this season”. If the Giants are able to get a suitable starter to protect Eli Manning‘s blindside while sliding Ereck Flowers to right tackle, it could go a long way for Perkins and the entire offense.

Although Perkins fantasy football stock is heading in the right direction, his exact status is far from settled. For right now, Perkins should be viewed as a RB3 with upside. Owners should get more clarity on the situation in a couple months after free agency and the draft take place. Until then, the Perkins hype-train should remain at it’s station.

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