Fantasy Football Breakouts and Busts | Chase Edmonds vs. Ryan Tannehill

Welcome to Breakouts and Busts where I highlight one breakout candidate and one bust candidate for the 2021 fantasy season. In this edition, I’ll be taking a look at the new starting RB in the desert and the Titans’ QB coming off a career year.


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BREAKOUT - Chase Edmonds (RB - ARI)


Arizona Cardinals RB, Chase Edmonds

2020 Season Overview



(stats from pro-football-reference.com)


Chase Edmonds took a backseat to Kenyan Drake for most of the 2020 season, even though the Arizona Cardinals almost always looked better on offense when the Fordham product was on the field. Edmonds was the more effective rusher and receiver in the Cardinals backfield, but ultimately disappointed fantasy owners in Week 8 when he didn’t capitalize on his opportunity with Drake out of the lineup. Against the Miami Dolphins’ bottom tier run defense, Edmonds was only able to put 88 yards on 28 touches, averaging just 3.14 yards per touch. But Week 8 would end up being the low point of the season for the Arizona RB.


Edmonds played in all 16 games and ended the year with 97 rushing attempts for 448 yards and 1 TD, averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. In the receiving game, Edmonds caught 53 of his 67 targets for 402 yards and 5 TDs, averaging 7.6 yards per reception. In total, that’s 150 touches for 850 yards and 5 TDs, averaging 5.67 yards per touch. This was enough to make him the RB28 on the season in half PPR scoring.


What Went Wrong in 2020?


Edmonds split RB duties with Kenyan Drake.


The reason why many fantasy managers stay away from RB committees is simple. When there are too many RBs in a room, the pie has to be split between them, lowering each of their fantasy values. If a team has a bellcow back who handles the majority of the workload, you don’t have to throw a dart and hope it lands. You can trust that the volume is going to be there and he’ll produce for fantasy.


The thing is, no one expected Drake and Edmonds to be in a committee last year. If they did, there’s no way Drake would’ve gone in the 2nd round of most drafts. In the end, Drake got the majority of the rushing work while Edmonds got the majority of the receiving work.



(stats from playerprofiler.com)


Week 8 aside, Edmonds made the most of his limited opportunities. Despite only seeing a 45.1% snap share and averaging just 6.06 carries per game, he was only 150 yards off of a 1000 total yard season because of his passing game prowess. Edmonds saw 4.19 targets per game, which was ranked 15th in the NFL among RBs last season. This passing volume alone led to him having a decent season as a FLEX in half and full PPR leagues, depending on how deep your league was, of course.


What Will Change in 2021?


Unless the Cardinals pick one of the top RBs in the 2021 NFL Draft, Edmonds should be their bellcow back who will do it all in both the rushing and receiving game.


Luckily for Chase Edmonds dynasty owners and those looking to draft the RB in redraft leagues, Drake is now completely out of the picture. He signed a 2-year, $11 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders to form a solid one-two punch with Josh Jacobs, leaving Chase Edmonds, Eno Benjamin, Jonathan Ward and Khalfani Muhammad as the only RBs on the Cardinals roster. I expect to see more of Eno Benjamin next year, but not enough of him to make a big dent in Edmonds' workload. There’s just not a lot of competition for Edmonds, who should definitely be the lead back at the start of the 2021 season.


Edmonds’ receiving stats are likely to either remain the same or improve this season as I really don’t expect the Cardinals to add another pass catching back. It just doesn’t make much sense for them to do that. On the other hand, Edmonds’ rushing stats are sure to improve with Kenyan Drake gone. Arizona ran the 6th most rushing plays in the league last season and all those 239 vacant carries have to go somewhere, so it’s a real possibility that Edmonds will get around 10 more carries per game. Any RB averaging around 15 carries and 5 targets per game is a RB worth owning in fantasy. On top of all that, the Cardinals ran the 3rd most offensive plays and had the 2nd fastest pace of play in the league. Edmonds is the perfect back for their system and could be special for fantasy in the 2021 season.


Verdict


As of writing this article, according to FantasyPros, Chase Edmonds is their 25th-ranked RB and 56th overall in their Expert Consensus Rankings for half PPR scoring. He’s currently being drafted anywhere between the 5th and 6th round in 12 team mock drafts. If Edmonds is the only experienced RB on the Cardinals roster and they truly make him their bellcow back this season, I could see him being a great value pick. Edmonds could easily give you 2nd or 3rd round return at 5th or 6th round value and is worth picking up as your third RB in fantasy drafts. Edmonds is going around the same time as other RBs such as Raheem Mostert (SF), Kareem Hunt (CLE), Ronald Jones II (TB) and David Johnson (HOU). I would absolutely take Edmonds over any of those running back because his ceiling is just so high.


As the starting RB for the Arizona Cardinals, I project Chase Edmonds to run the ball 220 times for 1025 yards and 6 TDs, averaging 4.66 yards per carry. In the passing game, I project Edmonds to catch 65 of his 80 targets for 525 yards and 4 TDs. In total, that’s 285 touches for 1550 total yards and 10 TDs, averaging 5.44 yards per touch. That would’ve been good enough to make Edmonds the RB4 last season in half PPR scoring. Yes, that’s right, the RB4! As you can see, I’m very high on Edmonds and believe he could be the next superstar RB for fantasy.


BUST - Ryan Tannehill (QB - TEN)





2020 Season Overview




(stats from pro-football-reference.com)


Ryan Tannehill had an unbelievable 2020 campaign, posting a career high in TD passes and a career low in INT%. In fact, it was the first 30+ passing TD season of his career. In a run first offense, Tannehill delivered game in and game out by taking advantage of defensive formations. The Tennessee Titans run a simple offense focused on running the ball early and often with some play action here and there to keep the defense guessing. Derrick Henry forced defenses to stack the box, which opened up big play action plays for Ryan Tannehill all season long.


Tannehill finished the season completing 315 of his 481 pass attempts for 3819 yards, 33 TDs and 7 INTs. On the ground, he added another 266 yards and 7 TDs on 43 carries. That’s an incredible 40 total TD season despite only averaging 238.7 passing yards per game. Tannehill only had three games last season with less than 16 fantasy points and was very consistent, finishing as the QB7 in 4pt passing TD leagues and the QB8 in 6pt passing TD leagues.


What Went Right in 2020?


High efficiency.


There may not have been a more efficient QB in the NFL over the last two seasons than Ryan Tannehill. He only attempted an average of 30 passes a game last season, which didn’t change much from 2019 where he averaged just 28.6 passing attempts per game.


Usually, these low passing attempt totals lead to lackluster production, but not in the case of Ryan Tannehill. Last season, the Titans QB had a TD% of 6.9 and, in 2019, he had a TD% of 7.7. Just to put those stats into perspective, Patrick Mahomes - the best QB in the NFL - has a career TD% of 6.8. Yup, Tannehill has been even more efficient than Patrick Mahomes since joining the Titans, which is absurd when you think about it.




(stats from playerprofiler.com)


As you can see, Ryan Tannehill ranked in the top 10 for every single efficiency metric tracked by playerprofiler.com, other than accuracy rating and air yards per attempt, and didn’t rank in the top 10 for any passing opportunity metrics, other than supporting cast efficiency. The stat that stands out the most to me is that he ranked 2nd in fantasy points per dropback, which just goes to show that he did so much with so little opportunity last season.


But going back to Tannehill’s supporting cast efficiency rating, it’s ranked 4th in the NFL because the team was loaded with talented skill position players in 2020. Like I mentioned earlier, the Titans are a run first offense. When you have a RB capable of producing a 2000 yard season and rushing over 375 times, it opens things up in the passing game tremendously. If you add AJ Brown and Corey Davis’ breakout campaign (92/65/984/5) into the mix as well, then you have all you need to set up Ryan Tannehill for a remarkable season.


What Will Change in 2021?


A downgraded supporting cast.


Adam Humphries, Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis all left the team in the offseason and Josh Reynolds is the only new receiver on the Titans. As of right now, their receiving core is made up of AJ Brown, Josh Reynolds, Anthony Firkser, Cameron Batson and Chester Rogers. That’s very underwhelming. AJ Brown is without a doubt one of the elite WRs in the NFL, but the others, not so much.


I fully expect them to add both a WR and a TE in the draft, but unless they trade up, they won’t land a top prospect such as Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith. The Titans pick 22nd overall and all of these players will likely be gone by then. Sure, they may still add a player or two in the draft who can contribute right away, but they won’t be the same caliber of player as the four I just mentioned.


On top of all that, the Tennessee Titans are a run first offense and have an offensive line built for the run, not the pass. According to PFF, their offensive line received a pass protection grade of 57.9 last season, ranking them 28th in the NFL. We’ve seen how Tannehill performed with a sub-par offensive line and a lack of weapons in Miami. It wasn’t pretty and that could be what we see out of Ryan Tannehill this season.


I wouldn’t be surprised if most of Tannehill’s stats remain the same from last season, but I fully expect to see severe TD regression and increased INTs due to all of the team’s departures in free agency. In other words, his supporting cast should be much less efficient.


Verdict


As of writing this article, according to FantasyPros, Ryan Tannehill is their 10th-ranked QB and 93rd overall in their Expert Consensus Rankings. He’s currently being drafted anywhere between the 8th and 10th round in 12 team mock drafts. Considering the lack of weapons around Tannehill and the sub-par pass blocking offensive line in front of him, it’s hard for me to consider taking the Titans QB anywhere in the first 10 rounds. If he drops to round 12 or later, there might be some good value there, but I doubt he’ll fall that much. Tannehill is going around the same time as other QBs such as Jalen Hurts (PHI), Matthew Stafford (LAR), Joe Burrow (CIN) and Tom Brady (TB). Honestly, I would draft any of those QBs over Tannehill.


On a Titans offense lacking receiving talent, I project Ryan Tannehill to complete 320 of his 480 passing attempts for 3850 yards, 22 TDs and 10 INTs. On the ground, I project Tannehill to carry the ball 50 times for 250 yards and 2 TDs. Assuming passing TDs are worth 4 points and INTs are worth -2 points, those numbers would’ve made Tannehill the QB16 last season, just ahead of Cam Newton. This production would make Tannehill a streamer at best heading into the 2021 season, which is exactly what I view him as.

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