Javonte Williams’ promising season took a nosedive on Sunday when he reportedly tore his ACL. He also tore his LCL and posterior lateral corner, according to Ian Rapoport. The injury is so bad that only 50% of NFL players continue their careers after suffering from it, per the Sports Health Journal.
Can Melvin Gordon Manage as the New Broncos’ RB1?
To say Melvin Gordon’s 2022 start has been less than stellar would be an understatement. It has been Gordon’s inability to hold on to the ball that has been the shocker. Through four weeks, Gordon has more fumbles than 27 other teams in the league. This is a new issue for Gordon who has only had more than four fumbles in an entire season once in his career.
Gordon does have the ability to be an RB1. The two-time pro-bowler has put up over 850 yards rushing in five of the last seven seasons. He has very good hands for a running back and possesses a 75% catch rate out of the backfield during his career. Over the last two seasons in Denver Gordon averaged 4.5 yards per carry. He still managed to put up an average of 10.4 fantasy points per game in 2021 despite sharing the backfield with Williams. Considering that Gordon is 29 years old, he’s quite durable. Gordon hasn’t missed a game due to injury since the 2018 season.
Broncos’ head coach Nathaniel Hackett presented this as a positive opportunity for Gordon, saying that it’s “a great opportunity for him to get right back out onto the field and prove himself.”
Is Mike Boone the Next Man Up?
One reason the Broncos’ staff is staying positive about Gordon is their lack of depth behind him in the backfield. With Williams out of the game and Gordon apparently on the sideline for fumbling against Las Vegas, Mike Boone was the next man up.
Boone did carry the ball three times and caught one of his three targets for a total of 29 yards of offense. Put in perspective of his career, that performance was one touch short of Boone’s 2021 total touches.
It’s likely that Gordon is close to his fumble quota for the season in the eyes of the coaching staff. If he continues to cough up the ball, or if he does end up on the injury report, Boone is in a really good spot to have a shot at a major load uptick in Denver. This makes Boone waiver pick-up worthy in deeper fantasy leagues.
Further down on the depth chart is veteran Latavius Murry, who the Broncos picked up from the Saints’ practice squad. Murray did carry the ball 11 times for 57 yards in the Saints’ week four game in London. Murray has rushed for 5,539 yards over 9 seasons in the league. While he is unlikely to suit up for Denver on Thursday night against the Colts, Murray will see a few carries over the next few weeks. How many probably depends on the performance of Gordon and Boone.
What is a Fantasy Manager to Do?
Four weeks into the 2022 season, the Denver backfield isn’t a bad spot for running backs. The team has a below-average pass rate over expectation and Russell Wilson has shown that he isn’t afraid to throw to running backs. Williams had 22 targets in 3 and a half games, good for 6th in the RB target rankings.
Savvy fantasy managers might have a buy-low opportunity with Gordon. Some fantasy players might be looking to sell due to his fumbles and weak stats over the first month of the season.
In smaller leagues, Boone is not worth dropping a good flex player for. Boone started his career as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Since then he has been a journeyman back-up. If he does end up in the starting role, it’s unlikely that he has a major fantasy impact. Denver must agree, the Murray signing being our proof of that. Teams that are very thin on running backs might consider him. If he does end up in the Gordon role, he would be considered a low RB2 or Flex Play.
In deeper leagues, Boone is a stash play with a couple of bad scenarios on the table. One is having Gordon secure the RB1 position or the other option is that the Broncos choose to move on from Gordon and go to a three-way running back committee.
Fantasy managers that already have Gordon should consider scooping up Boone as a handcuff to Gordon, with the idea that Gordon might fumble away this opportunity. If Gordon can hold onto the ball in the next couple of weeks, he should be able to return to his former Fantasy RB1 status.
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