Terrance West and The Path to Fantasy Success

Terrance West and The Path to Fantasy Success 6

Terrance West

Terrance West Fantasy Preview

Fantasy owners are always on the lookout for a breakout running back. Oftentimes, the current crop of rookies is the best place to search for the next big thing.

The 2014 draft’s running back class has a number of intriguing fantasy options. By far, Bishop Sankey went into the best situation with the Titans. Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Hill will play for run heavy teams. Even Devonta Freeman and James White are underrated, and in good places to thrive. Through it all, I think the rookie in the best position for fantasy success is Terrance West.

Talent

There wasn’t much consensus when it came to this draft’s running backs. Evaluator’s opinions of Terrance West were no exception. CBS’s Dane Brugler was high on West as the 89th ranked player in the draft. Yet, some experts didn’t even list him as a top 10 running back. Many were quite worried about West’s small school background, coming from Towson University.

I was on the high-end of the pre-draft Terrance West projections, as he was my fifth ranked running back. West is a well-built runner; weighing in at 225 pounds with 4.54 speed. He was the far superior player amongst his peers on his college tape, which is what you want to see in small school prospects. You’d be hard pressed to find many plays where he went down on first contact. West has the wiggle, balance and foot quickness many men his size lack. He can stop and start with ease, before slamming through the heart of the defense.

West generally displayed good vision in college, but was better once he crossed the line of scrimmage. He could work on identifying lanes and processing them faster. West only amassed 30 receptions at Towson, but shows the skills needed to improve there. He has soft hands and nice spatial awareness. His weaknesses are minor ones and should improve with time in the NFL.

After the draft ended, RotoViz published plenty of pro-West content. The site known for their advanced statistical and metric analysis believes West is the Browns’ back to own. Many are worried that a fellow rookie, the undrafted Isaiah Crowell, will overtake West. Most view Crowell as the more talented player, but RotoViz’s Jeremy Hardt (@FantasyGumshoe) asserts West’s college production makes him the superior prospect.

Terrance West is talented enough to win a lead running back job in the NFL. He just needs to follow the path laid out for him.

Opportunity

Terrance West and The Path to Fantasy Success 7When talent meets opportunity, it marks the start of a beautiful fantasy football relationship. Terrance West has the talent, but also finds a favorable situation in Cleveland.

The Browns added Ben Tate as a free agent when the Texans did not bring him back. Cleveland’s running game was dreadful last season. The popular assumption was Tate would remedy the situation. Fantasy owners were quick to agree. The early offseason chatter revolved around Tate being a popular draft target and approaching fantasy RB2 territory. The trouble is, the fantasy community overrated Tate from the start.

It seems like this is Tate’s first crack at a starting job. We’ve forgotten that Tate already had his chance to shine as a primary back last season. He did nothing to seize the day. After Houston lost Arian Foster for the season, Tate only managed a single 100-yard rushing day. His three rushing touchdowns all came in one contest. His production was underwhelming in fantasy leagues too. He had a 28-point bonanza against the Patriots when he scored those three touchdowns. Other than that, he only hit double-digit points once (in standard leagues) and never showed the ability of a featured back.

Despite all that, Tate’s biggest issue isn’t his performance. The former Auburn running back hasn’t been able to stay healthy with any sort of regularity. He missed his entire rookie season and was passed up by Foster. Since then, Tate has missed at least one game every year he’s played in the NFL. It would be an anomaly if Tate starts every game for Cleveland in 2014.

Whether through an injury to Tate, or by simply outplaying him, Terrance West will get a shot at the starting gig. The Browns only sank $7 million over two years into their free agent running back. The front office showed more of an infatuation with West by trading up from the fourth into the third round to take him. The table is set for West. When he bellies up to it, he’ll find a prosperous situation.

Scheme and Situation

Talent and opportunity are ingredients for a tasty fantasy treat. If you want to graduate to a five-star option, you’ll need to mix in a good situation. Landing with Cleveland provided Terrance West with a fine compliment to his talent and opportunity.

The Browns made a big commitment to their running game when they hired Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator. The zone-blocking scheme Shanahan’s father, Mike, made famous has been proficient in churning out productive rushing attacks. With father and son united in Washington, the 2012 and 2013 Redskins ranked as a top-five rushing attack, in terms of both yards and yards per carry.

Kyle Shanahan took plenty of abuse for the way things unraveled in Washington. However, there is no denying that the system he employs produces bountiful running games. It’s reasonable to expect that Shanahan will thrive in his third stint as offensive coordinator; out from under the shadows of his father and Gary Kubiak.

The surrounding talent on the Browns’ roster also paints a favorable picture for West. The offensive line looks especially strong. Left tackle Joe Thomas, and center Alex Mack are among the best at their positions. John Greco and Mitchell Schwartz are above-average veterans at guard and right tackle, respectively. Cleveland also took Joel Bitonio in the second round to finish out the group. Bitonio was a college tackle, but profiles as an excellent NFL guard. He has the athleticism and movement skills to be a great starter in the zone-blocking scheme. This unit should have no trouble blasting open lanes for West.

There is also the Johnny Manziel factor. Fantasy owners are quite familiar with what a mobile quarterback can do for a running back. Chris Johnson was legendary with Vince Young in the backfield, but mediocre since then. Whether it’s read option plays, or the loss of a defender to spy the quarterback, running backs get more room with mobile passers.

Terrance West should reap similar benefits playing alongside Manziel. The rookie passer is a rushing threat and unravels defense with his improvisational style.

Playing in a system with a great running reputation, behind a solid line and a mobile quarterback, Terrance West finds three factors that indicate future success in Cleveland.

ADPs and Predicting the Outcome

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Here at the beginning of June, it’s very early in the fantasy football process. Things can change, but as it stands today, Terrance West is projected as a great value.

Fantasy Football Calculator has West’s current re-draft ADP at 9.03. That’s a fine spot to take a chance on a rookie in a great situation. Other sites have West going at an even greater value. My Fantasy League’s ADP results have him as the seventh rookie running back off the board. Plenty of rookies landed in nice spots, but West going that low is lunacy.

The data shows that there’s a strong chance your fellow drafters are underrating West. He’ll be available to grab as your RB4. Still, it’s always better to be early than late when targeting potential steals. Therefore—if the current trends stand—you should plan to make West your eighth round pick. It’s a step above his current ADP, but the move is worth it. The eighth round projections are littered with middling veteran options at the position. Take a chance on youth and upside over guys like DeAngelo Williams, Fred Jackson and Darren McFadden.

West has a clear path to fantasy success right off the bat, despite a few obstacles. Could Ben Tate stay healthy and hold the job? Sure, but history shows that’s unlikely. Will talent win out and Isaiah Crowell steals the spotlight? Perhaps, but the Browns actions show they want West to be the future.

The front office traded up for Terrance West, so they clearly believe in his talent level. The team has a strong offensive line, a new mobile quarterback and an offensive system known for running the ball. It’s not crazy to think West wins this job out of camp and emerges as a surprise 1,000-yard rookie. The stars are all aligned for that scenario to take place. At worst, West snags the job from a banged up Tate at some point. With a fresh West next to Manziel late in the season, he could be a major asset in the race to the fantasy playoffs.

The experts and fans will all be talking about Sankey as the premier 2014 rookie running back. Let them. Be savvy and see that West is a more talented player and in a pretty nice spot himself. Terrance West could be the best long-term fantasy running back from this draft class. You don’t want to miss out on him.

About the author

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Matt Harmon

Matt is an NFL writer and analyst. A lover of all things music, sociology, and television shows, and love to talk about those in addition to football. I also own a number of stupid theories about life you probably will not be interested in, but I will trick you into listening to.

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