Jeremy Langford's fantasy football stock shot through the roof after the departure of Matt Forte from the Chicago Bears, and he should be able to deliver.
In backing up Matt Forte in 2015, Jeremy Langford became a bit of a sensation as he averaged 3.6 yards per carry en route to 537 yards on the ground, six rushing touchdowns, 279 receiving yards on 22 receptions, and another receiving TD for good measure. That production, from a backup running back, had some fantasy football owners excited to see what he can do in 2016.
It also had the Chicago Bears excited. So excited, in fact, that they were willing to party ways with longtime stud RB Forte, who landed with the New York Jets.
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Going forward, Langford will be the man in Chicago, and that's great for fantasy owners. He has a goal of being a three-down back, writes ESPN's Jeff Dickerson. The Bears may be hinting at a running back by committee approach (increasingly more popular in the NFL), but in a backfield that features Jacquizz Rodgers and Ka'Deem Carey as the primary people behind Langford, it's hard not to think that Langford will be the cream of the crop.
Which is exactly what fantasy football teams need. Not every workhorse running back actually performs on each and every play. It's rare to see a running back even take 95 percent of snaps at his position these days. But Langford looks to get at least as many touches as any other back with the "workhorse" label, even if the Bears are marketing the backfield as a committee. Make no mistake, Langford is the top guy in that committee.
As of this writing, ESPN's Matthew Berry has Langford ranked 22nd among running backs, which may be too low. He's barely ahead of players who will be splitting time like Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon, Cleveland Browns' Duke Johnson, and the once-dominant Arian Foster. Those players will take a serious hit due to split time. Langford doesn't look to have the same concern.
That isn't to say that Berry isn't going along with conventional wisdom. Fantasy Pros has Langford's average draft position at 22 (just behind the guy he replaced at 21). Based on their work, he goes as high as 20 and as low as 28. Those are bargain pick levels.
But the lack of appetite in the fantasy world for Jeremy Langford doesn't tell the whole story. As noted by Matt Franciscovich at NFL.com, Langford's larger sample sizes (games with double digit carries) saw him exceed 4.0 yards per carry in five of them. He's proven that when given opportunities to run as a key part of the offense, he can deliver yardage on a consistent pace. Franciscovich argues that three of the four games with under-4.0 yard averages were against top defenses, which is worth note but not a particular concern as fantasy owners want stud RBs that can deliver against anyone.
Either way, the mystique surrounding Langford has fantasy football owners intrigued. Anybody with the opportunity to replace Forte in the Bears offense has a chance to be something special. Langford looks to have the majority of those opportunities going forward. He's shown he can be successful in place of Forte before and he should improve with an offseason of work in which he prepares to be the the guy.
The real question is, will Langford deliver? Will he be the player who can exceed four yards per carry in most games and thus become an efficient player for the Bears and a reliable player for your fantasy football team? Or will he be someone on par with other backs who split time with their teammates?
It's tough not to be optimistic about Langford's ability. It's tough not to want him to succeed, and for that reason I say he'll be a force. He has the opportunities to get it done.
Besides, at 22nd among RBs, he'll be an absolute bargain to pick up.
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