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Alex Collins Fantasy Outlook 2018: Sleeper or Crow Away?

Alex Collins Fantasy 2018

In what has to be seen as a rare error under John Schneider, the Seattle Seahawks decided to cut Alex Collins last summer. Collins’ rookie year with Seattle saw him get limited opportunities. He had just 31 carries and 125 yards, but he averaged four yards per carry behind a Tom Cable coached offensive line with minimal talent to go with the awful blocking scheme. He clearly had ability, but the Seahawks opted to run with Thomas Rawls, Chris Carson, CJ Prosise and Mike Davis instead. The Seahawks loss was the Ravens gain as they picked Collins up and gave him an opportunity. Collins not only did enough to survive in the NFL, but there is a good chance the Ravens got a franchise running back for absolutely nothing.

Below, I will look at Alex Collins Fantasy outlook for the upcoming 2018 NFL season, and whether we should buy into him as a high-end RB2/low end RB1 candidate.

Ravens’ Offense 2018

Despite a very lopsided 2017 season, the only coordinator that the Ravens decided to keep was offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Given the fact, the Ravens were an excellent defensive team this was a surprising choice. Mornhinweg didn’t get much positive press in Baltimore, but he was hardly given a good roster to work with. Joe Flacco is about as close to being elite as I am and he hardly had a variety of talented skill position players to target. Mike Wallace was good for the odd deep-shot, but outside of this you could feasibly argue Javorius Allen was their next best pass catcher living on dump offs.

The Ravens did, however, address this in the off-season, signing Michael Crabtree to be the significant sideline threat and Willie Snead to be their possession receiver. They also drafted two tight ends in high rounds in Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews. This suggests a commitment to power sets, and this only boosts Alex Collins Fantasy value.

The Ravens run game was one of the most diverse in the NFL, and it was arguably the main reason Mornhinweg kept his job. In 2016 the Mornhinweg-Marc Trestman combination used a bland power run game, but in 2017 the Ravens expanded it. They use a lot of misdirection and they started to incorporate Collins more into outside zone concepts, something he thrived in at Arkansas. The increased creativity by this coaching staff only boosts Collins’ value moving forward.

The big red flag when attempting to project the Ravens is the quarterback position. Joe Flacco has been horrendous since winning the Super Bowl, and Ozzie Newsome’s selection of Lamar Jackson suggests he might finally see this. Flacco did show some improvement towards the end of the season, but he is still not a certainty, and Lamar Jackson has a legit chance of displacing him. Jackson’s offense at Louisville was a pro-style one. Because of this, the transition to the NFL won’t be as big a jump as many are predicting. He was at his best playing out of power sets and playing on the move, and the Ravens do a lot of this anyway. The addition of two tight ends emphasizes commitments to power sets, so this offense could quite efficiently work with Lamar Jackson from day one.

The Ravens pass game should improve. Because of this Collins will get more opportunities in the red zone. The Ravens were 24th in yards per drive, and this was largely because they were a very predictable team. Their only real passing option was Mike Wallace, but a WR1 who only runs two routes is not ideal. Michael Crabtree offers a versatile threat to a decimated receiving corps, and Willie Snead’s versatility will make the Ravens a less predictable passing game than they were in 2017.

In essence, the only confirmed constant going into the 2018 season for the Ravens is Collins. Javorius Allen will still play a role on passing downs but outside of that, there has been a lot of change.  The pass catchers are all new, the quarterback position is in competition, so Collins is the only certainty going into the new season.

Alex Collins’ History

Collins was an afterthought as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. He was not fantasy relevant at any point and was buried behind Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael. Collins did impress in a limited body of work which saw many Seahawks fans to call for more carries, but it didn’t happen. He was cut before the 2017 season started, and the Ravens picked him up. Straight away he didn’t do a lot, but he took advantage of injuries to Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon and turned the offense into a good one.

Collins admittedly had little competition in Baltimore to Kenneth Dixon’s suspension and subsequent injury coupled with Javorius Allen really being only a receiving threat. Despite this, Collins played excellently, averaging 4.6 yards per carry in a revamped Ravens run game. It took him until week four to become the bell-cow back, but he took his chance excellently. The Ravens never looked back, and Terrance West became a distant memory. He was the RB21 in PPR formats, but the fact he took a couple of weeks to fall into the role definitely skews this. He was the RB15 from when he first got double-digit carries and from then, the Ravens offense looked a lot better.

Why Alex Collins Could Succeed

Collins turned into a legit bell cow back towards the end of the 2018 season. One of the reasons he entices me so much across all formats is because he is one of a handful of guys with a serious chance of being in this position. We are seeing the rise of committees as the pass game becomes more important in the NFL. Because of this, backs such as Collins have found themselves out of the league, though the emergence of the likes of Joe Mixon, Saquon Barkley, and Derrius Guice may see a reverse to this trend.

Collins’ carries gradually went up throughout the season, and he succeeded because of a very well designed run game. Many running backs fall victim to basic play designs, but the Ravens mix in a bit of everything. Something else that could work in Collins’ favor is the frequency at which the Ravens target running backs out of the backfield. The Ravens have had a running back in the top 15 of targets league-wide every year under John Harbaugh. Last year Javorius Allen was the main receiving back as he received 3.8 targets per game compared to Collins’ 2.3. However, in the Ravens final three games, Collins averaged six targets per game. He is not a particularly great route runner and although his catch percentage of 63.9% is uninspiring, he is good enough in the passing game to persist with.

The volume is certainly there for Collins as the Ravens are not a team who are going to pass the ball heavily. In 2016 the Ravens led the League in pass percentage, but there was a clear move away from this in 2017. The Ravens not only re-committed to the run game as proven by the fact they dropped to 22nd in pass percentage, but they ran efficiently. Part of this was the fact they mixed a variety of concepts into their run game. But in honesty, the main factor was how good Alex Collins was. John Harbaugh is not stupid; he wasn’t just going to commit to the run for the sake of it. Collins averaged 4.6 yards per carry and his performance revitalized the Ravens scheme and should have led them to a post-season berth.

To put it simply, Collins was the chief reason that the Ravens offense was relatively good towards the end of the season. The Ravens are likely going to keep riding him because they have been looking for a winning formula on that side of the ball for quite some time, and that increases his fantasy value.

Why Alex Collins Could Fail

Though I do see Collins as the RB1 in Baltimore, Javorius Allen’s role shows that the Ravens do still value a more traditional receiving back as highly as any other franchise. Allen had more red zone carries than Collins, and this was largely because Allen is an excellent receiving back. The Ravens lacked individuals who could win one on one in the red zone, so they needed as much illusion as possible. Collins is not a bad receiving back at all, but he is not a smooth a route runner as Allen and the Ravens’ usage of the backs in the red zone suggests they believe this too.

Collins’ value is higher in standard than PPR because the Ravens do like to use Allen as the receiving back. The fact they use Allen is more a reflection of his own ability than any negativity on Collins’ part, as the former Razorback has definitely improved as a receiver. The counter-argument to this is that Allen’s usage was so high simply because the Ravens lacked underneath pass catchers. This has obviously changed with the additions of Willie Snead and Michael Crabtree. Despite this, I’m not sure Allen is really going anywhere as he was quite productive and adds unpredictability in the red zone.

Something that also might be a factor is the return of Kenneth Dixon. He was legitimately breaking out before his suspension and injury in the 2017 pre-season. He will be hungry to return and fight Collins for carries, and he has a great chance of doing this. Dixon led the League in the average number of touches per missed tackle with 3.4 in the 2016 season, which shows his elusiveness.

Dixon was also regularly targeted out of the backfield at a higher rate than anyone else in the NFL in 2016. At the minimum, Dixon will eat into Collins’ PPR value, but the potential is there for him to do more than that.

This was two years and ago and a lot of changes in that time. This is especially true for running backs, but Dixon is good enough to affect the way I see Alex Collins in 2018. He is coming off two knee injuries, but he made the most of his carries as a rookie and should do again in what will be his second full season as an NFL player.

Alex Collins Fantasy ADP

Alex Collins Fantasy

Currently, Alex Collins Fantasy ADP is 3.12 in Standard Scoring leagues (RB20) and 4.01 in PPR Fantasy Leagues RB19. – Data from Fantasy Football Calculator.

Alex Collins Fantasy Forecast: My Take

Alex Collins FantasyI like Alex Collins more in standard than I do in PPR, as he is a legit power back who scores touchdowns while ceding receiving work to the very capable Javorius Allen. The Ravens are a smart franchise who stick to things that brought them success. This is exactly why Joe Flacco is still under center in Baltimore. He brought them success once upon a time as a deep passer and they have held onto this.  I expect them to now transition towards Collins because he made their offense a middle of the road one, which is good enough given how good their defense is.

Collins won people their Leagues in 2017, but I question whether he can do it again at his current ADP. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, he is currently going off the board at 37th in PPR formats, which is at the round 3-4 turn in most 12 man Leagues. He will have the volume on his side even if Kenneth Dixon does compete for carries. Our own projections here at Gridiron Experts have Dixon getting 36 receptions this year, and Mike Clay of ESPN has projected him to get 35 receptions. This number is larger than his projection for both Javorius Allen and Alex Collins. People may disagree with projections, but most are in agreement that Kenneth Dixon is going to have a role. This eats into Collins’ value, and I question whether a third-round pick is a great value when you consider the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Rashaad Penny, and T.Y Hilton are there.

Collins is a great back and he will get work as the Ravens produced with him. But the third round for a guy with two legitimate competitors for his work seems slightly steep at this point. I’d consider him towards the lower end of the fourth round, but I’ll happily pass in the third round.

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Thanks for Reading

Joe Hulbert

Joe Hulbert

Now residing in England, Joe lived in New York from 2008-2012, and it is there that he discovered his love for the Seattle Seahawks, as he wanted to be different to everyone he went to school with. Joe also writes about the NBA, the Premier League and MLB in his spare time, and has a deep love-hate relationship with Manchester City, the Ottawa Senators, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Cincinnati Reds.

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