Samaje Perine Fantasy 2017: Sleeper Prospect or Obvious Choice?

Samaje Perine Fantasy

Quick! Who is the all-time leading rusher at the University of Oklahoma?  Surely it’s the superstar and former NFL MVP Adrian Peterson, right?  Or maybe it is former 2014 NFL leading rusher DeMarco Murray?  Could it be Billy Sims or Joe Washington, a pair of star OU running backs from the 1970s?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you would be wrong. According to soonerstats.com, the correct answer is actually Samaje Perine.

Stats provided by SoonerStats.com

Like most of you who read this article, I was shocked when I found this out.  Surely he had more carries and played more games than these other running backs, right?  Wrong again.  As seen in the chart provided, Perine actually had 62 fewer carries than Peterson and 74 less than Murray during their time spent at Oklahoma.  Perine even had 8 more touchdowns than Peterson over the course of their college careers.

Perine is not the quickest or most agile back to enter the NFL.  However, that does not mean he cannot be an effective NFL running back.  Standing at 5’11’’ and weighing 233 lbs with a 4.65 40-yard dash time, he has been compared to players like Eddie Lacy and Michael Turner.  Perine has extraordinary size and power that can allow him to become a successful power back in the NFL.  The Redskins certainly hope he can do so, as they spent the 114th overall selection on him.

He does enter a crowded backfield in Washington, as Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, Matt Jones, and Keith Marshall are all in the mix.  While this could very well end up being an RBBC (Running Back by Committee), Perine may very well find his way atop the depth chart at some point during this next season.  Kelley is a good bet to start the season as the lead tailback, but even though he stepped in admirably last season, he is still an UDFA (Undrafted Free Agent) that only has one year of production under his belt.  What if he can’t repeat that success this season?  In addition, Jones’s struggles with ball security are well documented.  Once Kelley entered the mix last season, Jones received very few carries.  Thompson usually serves the role as the pass-catching back, much different than the role Perine is assumed to fill.  Keith Marshall has a lot of potential, but he has had numerous injuries over the past few years that have prevented him from seeing adequate playing time.  Perine is not a sure thing himself, but the opportunity will be there to ascend the depth chart if he can stay healthy.

That being said, barring injury to Kelley, Perine figures to start the season in a timeshare, limiting his fantasy potential early on.  I could see him and Kelley each receiving about 8-10 carries a game in the beginning of the season and OC Matt Cavanaugh riding the hot hand each game.  Perine could have a few multi-TD games here and there, but it will be tough to predict when those will occur until he receives a larger share of the carries.  By selecting Perine in the middle rounds of the NFL draft, it is clear Washington has a plan for him to contribute in their offense; I just would not expect him to do that much early on. FantasyPros currently projects Perine as RB41 in standard leagues, in between Mike Gillislee and C.J. Prosise, and as the 122nd player overall.  For 10-12 team leagues, that projects him to get drafted between rounds 10 and 12 in fantasy drafts.    That may be a little early for a rookie entering the league with an undefined role on his team thus far.  I would rather draft veteran running backs in his same tier, considering I would be a little more confident in what I am going to get out of them in the upcoming season.

However, Perine might actually be a better play in dynasty formats, where some teams can afford to stash him on their bench and wait for him to develop and hopefully become the lead back at some point. In Jody Smith’s 2017 rookie rankings, Perine ranks in the top of the second round, however, I have seen his name as high as the late first round in some cases. Taking him in the first round seems a little risky given the immediate competition for carries he faces coming in. On the other hand, any pick in the second round of rookie drafts seems like a pretty good investment based on the information we have so far, especially if you have a couple established running backs already on your roster and space to stash Perine on your bench.

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About the author

Kyle Holden

Kyle Holden

Kyle Holden graduated from Cal Poly SLO and currently resides in Sacramento, CA. He has enjoyed playing and watching sports his entire life. Although he never actually played organized football, he has loved watching it for as long as he can remember. Growing up in Los Angeles when there was no professional team there allowed him to focus on rooting for individual players instead of for a single team. His research of players quickly led him to participate in many fantasy leagues and even run a few of his own. He is excited to now be able to write articles to provide knowledge and advice on various football topics.

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