Peyton Hillis seems to give drafters the cold sweats when he’s still sitting out there in the third and fourth rounds of fantasy drafts. All fantasy drafters have essentially assumed that Hillis can’t do what he did last year. The only question then is how much falloff you will see year over year.
I have Hillis as a value pick because you’re getting a discount in order to take him at his current ADP. So even if Hillis sees a production dropoff, he could still perform equal to his ADP. But one thing I always like to do is compare my targets to other guys he was similar to the previous year, but who are going ahead of him in ADP. For Hillis that guy is Steven Jackson. Jackson is currently going 2 RB spots in front of Hillis.
Below are Hillis and Jackson’s stats for 2010. Hillis finished with more total yards, more receptions, and 7 more touchdowns than Jackson. Hillis did all of this with 40 less touches than Jackson. Hillis is also 3 years younger than Jackson. It seems like Hillis should be the one to be drafted higher right?
I look at these two backs and think that whatever risk there might be in Hillis breaking down (the most often cited knock against Hillis due to his finish last year) has to be equal or less than the risk that the 28 year old Jackson breaks down.
Some have also pointed to Hillis’ touchdown numbers and predicted regression. But the reason that Hillis had good touchdown numbers is that the guy is ridiculous in the red zone. He led all running backs last year in TD Rate in from the 10 yard line and closer, and also averaged the highest yards per carry as a percent of the yards to goal. Steven Jackson was one of the worst running backs in the league by these two measures.
Running Back Effectiveness Inside the 10 Yard Line
|RB||Carries||TD||YPC||YTG||TD Rate||YPC as % of YTG|
|P.Hillis – CLE||19||9||3.11||4.26||0.47||0.73|
|A.Bradshaw – NYG||24||6||3.26||5.92||0.25||0.55|
|M.Tolbert – SD||30||11||2||4.07||0.37||0.49|
|K.Moreno – DEN||16||5||1.44||3.25||0.31||0.44|
|B.Green-Ellis – NE||25||9||1.96||4.48||0.36||0.44|
|A.Peterson – MIN||26||10||1.81||4.19||0.38||0.43|
|M.Bush – OAK||23||7||2.09||4.91||0.30||0.42|
|R.Rice – BAL||16||5||2.44||5.81||0.31||0.42|
|W.McGahee – BAL||16||4||1.94||4.63||0.25||0.42|
|T.Jones – KC||25||5||1.84||4.64||0.20||0.40|
|A.Foster – HOU||42||13||1.95||4.95||0.31||0.39|
|R.Mendenhall – PIT||28||11||1.36||3.68||0.39||0.37|
|B.Jacobs – NYG||17||7||1.65||4.65||0.41||0.35|
|M.Jones-Drew – JAC||26||4||1.88||5.65||0.15||0.33|
|M.Turner – ATL||44||11||1.50||4.70||0.25||0.32|
|L.McCoy – PHI||16||2||2.06||6.50||0.13||0.32|
|C.Johnson – TEN||24||6||1.17||3.71||0.25||0.31|
|M.Forte – CHI||22||2||1.59||5.45||0.09||0.29|
|C.Benson – CIN||33||6||1.31||4.94||0.18||0.27|
|C.Ivory – NO||16||4||1.25||5.50||0.25||0.23|
|M.Barber – DAL||20||3||0.70||3.55||0.15||0.20|
|S.Jackson – STL||24||3||0.92||5.58||0.13||0.16|
|M.Lynch – SEA||20||5||0.25||3.55||0.25||0.07|
Maybe one thing that has the potential to derail the Hillis train this year is the change in offensive system. But it’s interesting to note that Hillis will be in the same offense that Jackson was in last year. Another interesting point is that both RBs will be in offenses led by 2nd year quarterbacks.
Perhaps another element going into the Hillis discount is the unknown situation with the running backs in Cleveland. Montario Hardesty is returning from injury and Brandon Jackson is also in the mix now. I sort of doubt that Hardesty’s ACL can stay in one piece for an entire season given the way he runs, and Jackson is just an inferior back to Hillis. Jackson has averaged under 4 YPC for his entire career.
Brandon Jackson Career Stats
It’s also worth mentioning that Saint Louis has brought in two free agents (Jerious Norwood and Cadillac Williams) to help out running the ball as well. So Jackson’s carries might be under the same pressure that Hillis’ carries will be under. I think it’s probably fair to say that Hillis and Jackson have similar risk due to competition.
Jackson is only going 2 RB spots in front of Hillis, so it’s not a big difference. But I do think going through this analysis is helpful in trying to figure out when you’re picking Hillis, if you’re getting a big enough discount to take him. Readers of this site will know that I believe all players have risk, it’s only whether or not we recognize that risk that is the difference among players. So if I can draft guys whose risk has already been priced in to their draft spot, that’s the best I can hope for.