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Spotlight: LeGarrette Blount

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 14th


Jason Wood's thoughts

Like many football fans, the first time I heard of LeGarrette Blount was when he made headlines for punching Boise State linebacker Byron Hout after an embarrassing 19-8 loss. Blount - as senior - was suspended for 10 games, before being reinstated late in the season. Blount was contrite, and had what seemed like a strong collegiate resume. Blount had been dominant for two years of junior college (2,292 yards and 18 rushing TDs), before transferring to Oregon for his junior season. In that year, Blount ran for 1,002 yards on only 137 carries (an impressive 7.3 yards per rush) and an Oregon record 17 rushing TDs. Had he not derailed his senior season, some thought Blount would be a 1st draft draft pick.

But the fates were not aligned, and Blount went undrafted. He had suitors though, and first agreed to join the 49ers before ultimately signing with the Tennessee Titans. To Blount's credit, he made the 53-man roster but was waived shortly before the season, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed him.

The Bucs had Cadillac Williams in place, but there wasn't much in the way of Blount making a name for himself beyond the oft-injured Williams. Blount saw his first game action in Week 3 against the vaunted Steelers defense and carried the ball 6 times for 27 yards and a TD. Cadillac continued to start, until Week 7. And that's when the magic happened. In Blount's first start, he battered the woeful Cardinals for 120 yards and 2 TDs, and permanently claimed the starting job.

Over the final 10 weeks of the season, Blount was a workhorse:

  • 180 carries
  • 905 yards
  • 5.0 yards per rush
  • 5 rushing TDs
  • 5 receptions
  • 14 yards receiving

Pro-rated over a full 16-game season:

  • 288 carries
  • 1,448 yards
  • 5.0 yards per rush
  • 8 rushing TDs
  • 8 receptions
  • 22 yards receiving

Once becoming a starter, Blount was a Top 10 fantasy RB:

Rank First Last Rush RuYds RuTD Recs RecYds RecTD FPTs
1 Arian Foster 210 970 10 47 424 1 205.4
2 Jamaal Charles 149 978 3 33 338 3 167.6
3 Peyton Hillis 165 714 6 34 288 1 142.2
4 BenJarvus Green-Ellis 160 746 9 11 79 0 136.5
5 Ray Rice 176 697 3 39 417 1 135.4
6 Rashard Mendenhall 192 742 8 14 119 0 134.1
7 Michael Turner 203 784 9 3 12 0 133.6
8 Adrian Peterson 143 614 7 19 197 1 129.1
9 Fred Jackson 167 696 4 27 218 2 127.4
10 LeGarrette Blount 180 905 5 5 14 0 121.9

Entering 2011, the table is set for continued success:

  • Josh Freeman has emerged as an elite QB - Freeman is both accurate, strong armed, and mobile - it's going to be impossible for opposing defenses to focus on Blount
  • The offensive line is intact, and rock solid - Davin Joseph didn't have a great 2010, but is healthy again and re-signed long term. Meanwhile the other starters - Jeremy Trueblood, Jeff Faine, Ted Larsen and Donald Penn are all back for another go around
  • This will NOT be a running-back-by-committee - The Bucs didn't use a committee last year, and parted ways with Cadillac Williams. While rookie Allen Bradford has long-term potential, he won't challenge Blount for carries in 2011

But there are also reasons for caution:

  • Blount is a non-factor in the receiving game - Blount only caught 5 receptions as a rookie, and we shouldn't expect that to change much in 2011. Blount only caught 4 receptions in his two seasons at Oregon; it's simply not part of his game. A lack of receiving yardage will make it very hard for Blount to ever become a top tier RB1, no matter how many rushing yards he piles up
  • Josh Freeman is going to get rushing TDs - Freeman didn't score a rushing TD last year, but that was a major anomaly given his mobility and rushing yardage totals. Freeman is going to find the end zone at least 3-5 times as a runner, and that means slightly fewer opportunities for Blount to find pay dirt

Positives

  • Blount is huge (6'1", 245-pounds) and runs with rare power -- he was among the league leaders in fewest times stuffed behind the line of scrimmage, and lead the league with 50 missed tackles
  • Blount isn't purely a pounder, he ranked 8th with 32 rushes of 10+ yards, and averaged 5 yards per rush as a starter
  • The Bucs want to win games the old fashioned way, and Blount has no real threats to his playing time

Negatives

  • Blount is a limited receiver, and the lack of receiving yards makes it next to impossible for him to become a top tier fantasy RB1, even if he runs wild week in, week out
  • Blount was on a 1,500-yard rushing pace as a starter, but only on pace for 8 TDs, and that was without Josh Freeman finding the end zone a few times, as he will this year
  • Ball security might be an issue -- he lost three fumbles in spite of only carrying the ball 200+ times

Final thoughts

LeGarrette Blount was one of the more surprising breakout players of 2010. Best known for his poor judgment and hot temper, Blount seemed like an afterthought when the Bucs claimed him off waivers from the Titans. Yet, by midseason he was the Bucs' workhorse starter and helping Tampa to a shocking 10 win season. And this wasn't a case of a plodder being the only game in town. Blount LEAD THE LEAGUE IN MISSED TACKLES, and averaged 5 yards a rush one he got the starting gig. He's a special, power back. With his offensive line intact, Blount can easily be among the NFC's leading rushers. His lack of receiving skills limit his upside, but you should be happy to roster Blount as your RB2 this year -- he'll deliver.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

BigSteelThrill said:

So many thing in his current scenario are just primed for him to produce really big fantasy #s at a fraction of his draft day cost.

The #15 RB currently going at pick 24/25...

In his 7 starts to finish the season he average 19.42 carries, 92.57 yards. With 2 TDs and a healthy 4.76 ypc.

Very easy to extrapolate this out for 16 games...

310 carries. 1481 yards. 8 TDs. No receiving stats.

And he has room to go far beyond that, especially TDs (which I bumped from 5 to 8).

rzrback77 said:

LeGarrette Blount is a polarizing player. Most know about the punch he threw at a Boise State player after the opening game of Oregon's 2009 season, but there is a lot more to this guy's story. He was only rated as a two star recruit out of high school and although invited to Auburn's camp did not qualify academically and wound up in Mississippi playing JuCo ball for a couple of years. Following two successful years in junior college, he was highly regarded and wound up at Oregon.

His first year at Oregon produced just over 1,000 yards in a split role with Jeremiah Johnson who had over 1,200 yards. He had several clashes with Coach Belloti and had a few suspensions during the year and again in the off-season before his senior year when he had an indefinite length suspension for missing workouts.

He was completely shut down by Boise State in the 09 opener as he had negative yards for the game and not only hit the Boise State player, but a teammate as well. He was suspended until late in the year and played in only a few games with minimal impact.

He was undrafted but signed a free agent contract with the Titans and he made the team, but was later waived and picked up by the Bucs. He played sparingly for the first few weeks, but over the final ten games had the following stats. He had 180 carries for 905 yards, averaging 90 yds per game and 5.03 ypc. He was not included much in the passing game as the Bucs relied on Cadillac Williams for that role. Blount caught only 5 passes for a total of 14 yards.

Seasonal projections are mostly for re-draft leagues and he could present a bargain there this year, because of his checkered past and his limited stats that some may not recall were in limited games. In dynasty leagues, I would be a seller as I don't trust his attitude at all.

fightingillini said:

Should have a solid year. Cadillac can't stay healthy, TB didn't address the RB position early in the draft, and TB is emerging on offense. Concerned a little about his attitude and checkered past, but he's an intresting play....a guy that you can draft a little later that could carry the load all year.

MrTwo94 said:

Blount is a very interesting play in 2011. I was really interested to see if TB would invest in another RB in the draft. Some like to hype their 6th round selection of Bradford, but let's remember how often 6th rounders have impacts their rookie years (or at all for that matter). In 2010, Blount was only used in specific packages. There was talk of him being limited to 40-50% of the playbook. Either way, the guy's last 10 games extrapolated to 16 games would be 288 carries 1448 yds 8 TD with negligible receiving stats. Although, despite his size, his ability at the goal line was questioned by the coaching staff and plans were made to utilize Earnest Graham in goal line situations in the last few games. As far as I know, this situation never arose so I don't know how it actually would have played out. Might want to note it and proceed with caution if you are expecting him to load up on touchdowns next year. Personally, I don't expect it to be a problem, although the sooner camp opens up the better for him. He needs to get in and learn so that he can increase his role in the passing game. As of right now, I project him in a similar role to last year. Initially, I thought Tampa's schedule would be pretty tough due to the 10-6 finish, but at first glance I'd say the schedule is pretty decent for Blount. He has a lot of upside in the TD department if he can earn his coaches' trust and learn to pound it in at the goal line instead of hesitating and waiting for a hole.


LeGarrette Blount projections

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