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Don’t Panic About T.J. Yeldon Just Yet in Dynasty Leagues

What's going on with Jaguars rookie RB T.J. Yeldon? And is it time to panic?
What's going on with Jaguars rookie RB T.J. Yeldon? And is it time to panic?

Through three weeks of the 2015 NFL season, Jacksonville Jaguars rookie RB T.J. Yeldon has not exactly blown the doors off the fantasy football community. In fact, some have already given up on the 21 year old starter, citing his performance so far in the season. If you are one of the many counting out Yeldon already, then you might be making a serious mistake.

Firstly, let’s start this off by saying that if you are in a redraft league (your standard fantasy league) and you were hoping Yeldon would become a cheap RB1 option, well, that’s probably not going to happen. For a lot of different reasons, Yeldon is a player that will be constrained by the success of the Jacksonville offense, and for that reason he makes for a much better Dynasty league asset going forward than a standard league starter. With that said, Yeldon’s performance so far has been much better than his dreary 3.2 YPC would indicate.

The Tale of Two Numbers

If you took a look at the 48 carries taken so far by Yeldon, you might be shocked to find that 17 of his runs were for one yard, no gain, or behind the line of scrimmage (35% of his carries). In telling you that, you might be quick to leap to the assessment that Yeldon must not be running well, but what if I told you those 17 runs totaled a whopping -11 yards, and it has nothing to do with Yeldon dancing behind the line? When numbers become so severe in the opposite direction, the deficiencies of the offensive line become more than apparent from a statistical point of view. And, when you actually go back and watch the All-22 game tape of Yeldon, you don’t see a runner that is playing poorly by any means — you see a line that is.

In fact, on the other 31 runs Yeldon has had (64% of carries), he’s averaging a whopping 5.3 YPC. Obviously we are removing Yeldon’s poorest runs, so it’s expected Yeldon’s YPC should climb, but we are talking about two really big extremes that I think really highlight how much Yeldon’s production has been suppressed so far by penetration at or behind the line of scrimmage.

There is a good chance that Yeldon’s woes in Jacksonville will continue for quite a while, as the upcoming schedule might delay Yeldon’s coming out party even longer than the line has thus far. This week, the Jaguars face off with the Indianapolis Colts, which has the chance of being a gameflow problem for Yeldon if the Colts jump out to an early enough lead. After that, five of the next six weeks for the Jags will see them take on: Houston, Buffalo, the Jets, and Baltimore with a BYE inbetween. While some of those games might give the Jaguars a better opportunity to stay competitive, it does not bode well for the Jaguars’ already poorly performing offensive line to face such tough defensive fronts.

What T.J. Yeldon and Le’Veon Bell Have in Common

No one is making the mistake of confusing Pittsburgh Steelers fantasy stud Le’Veon Bell with T.J. Yeldon anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean they don’t share some important similarities that are critical to their success as players. While Bell’s 230+ pound size makes him capable of grinding out yards, his real skill lies in his patience, vision, footwork and the ability to make defenders miss in moderate space.

In a lot of ways, that’s the same game T.J. Yeldon possesses. In fact, “mini Bell” was a not-so-uncommon comparable for Yeldon by scouts, and like Bell we might need to wait a while to really see him shine.

Yeldon is a “bigger” back at 6-2, 225 pounds, but he’s more of a slasher than a true power-back option. Yeldon does his best work when he has room to show off his vision, has holes and cutback lanes to reveal his good decision making and has an effective offense, where his quick north-south cuts and the ability to squeeze through small holes makes him an excellent redzone threat. Unfortunately for Yeldon, as a player who plays best when given a little bit of space, the Jaguars’ line has offered no such luxury.

What To Do About Yeldon?

As a redraft option, there’s reason to be and stay concerned with Yeldon’s production until things have an opportunity to turn the corner late in the season (perhaps too late for many), but if you are a Dynasty league football fan and looking to invest in a player that hasn’t actually played poorly at all this season, but is starting to be viewed as someone who is, then you might want to wait a few weeks for Yeldon’s value to further depreciate as he runs through a difficult schedule, and be prepared to buy him low after.

Game film can tell you a ton about a player, and three names stood out to me the most after just the first week as players that played much better than their stats indicated: Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Allen Robinson, and I’m confident that Yeldon will emerge at some point if he continues to put on good tape. Most likely, you can expect to see an uptick in his production once the Jaguars get healthier as a team, and the offense as a whole grows this season, which there is still good reason to believe will happen, albeit slower than many might prefer.

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