Dynasty Mythbusters: Antone Smith and George Winn

Jacob Feldman


Another week is now in the rear view mirror and the injuries to fantasy starters continue to pile up. When you add in aging veterans who are in rapid decline there is opportunity for a lot of young players to step on up to the plate and show what they are made of. Some of them look like the stars of tomorrow, but we know from the past that most of them are just a flash in the pan. Of course the tricky part is figuring out who are those special exceptions. That is where I come in. For those of you unfamiliar with the Dynasty Mythbusters series, the goal of the article is to analyze certain trends, potential breakouts or just downright bad play in an attempt to predict what we can expect in the future.

Am I always right? Definitely not. But I did suggest that you sell, sell, sell on Trent Richardson very early in the season last year (before it was a trendy thing to say!), and ignore the week one “breakouts” of Jerome Simpson and Leonard Hankerson just to name a few.

The fantasy community as a whole tends to have a very strong tendency to overreact to small sample sizes. This is especially true when it comes to early season production. After all, it is only natural after months and months of buildup, thinking your team is great, to get disappointed when your stud disappoints. Don’t go trading them for pennies on the dollar. They will be back. It works in the opposite direction as well. We all like the feeling of grabbing that virtual unknown and watching them turn into the next Jimmy Graham. The problem is the vast majority of the time they don’t pan out and trading your first round pick or an every week starter away for him would be a major mistake.

Through this series, I’ll do my best to focus on players who are likely to be talked up as potential waiver additions or who are end of the bench guys on most rosters who you might be able to snag with a reasonable trade offer.

This week I’m going to take a look at a pair of running backs who have looked flashed in limited work but so far haven’t been given much of a chance to shine. Opportunity might be just around the corner for them though. Is it worth adding them though?

Antone Smith, RB ATL
Season totals: 17 touches for 277 yards and four touchdowns

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If you have watched any of the Falcons games this year, it is extremely likely you have seen an undersized, backup running back come into the game off the bench before he breaks a big, sometimes game changing play for a touchdown. The reason it is extremely likely is because Smith has done just that in four out of the five games this year. He doesn’t have more than four touches in any of those games, yet he has scored a touchdown of at least 38 yards every week except for week two. It is to the point now where it is almost expected of him to make the big play, but the major question is if the Falcons will actually get him more than four touches and what he can do with them if he gets them.

The Good: The most positive thing for Smith is pretty clear, his production. With 17 touches for 277 yards, he is averaging over 16 yards per touch. Toss in a touchdown once every 4.25 touches and there isn’t anyone in the NFL with that kind of production this year. To put it another way, Smith is tied for ninth in the NFL in touchdowns even with his limited usage. If he could was able to keep that kind of production and double his snaps he would be one of the league leaders in touchdowns and one of the top players in all of fantasy.

The other big item in his favor is the team he’s playing on. The Falcons have an offense which is capable of massive production in the blink of an eye, but their running backs outside of Smith have all been extremely underwhelming in my opinion. Steven Jackson looks every bit the part of a 31-year old running back, Jacquizz Rodgers is the same thing he’s been for years now and Devonta Freeman has looked good, but not great in limited action. Smith has easily been the best of them, trailing Jackson by only 18 yards even though he has less than one fourth the touches. He also has more touchdowns than the other three combined.

The Bad: The obvious knock against Smith is that he is a 29-year old running back who has been around the Falcons since 2009, yet we are just hearing about him now? From 2009 through 2013, Smith only had a total of eight touches, seven of them in 2013. If he had game changing talent, wouldn’t the Falcons have gotten him more involved over that time? After all, it isn’t exactly like they have been flush with running back talent over the last few years. The other major concern aside from age is size. At 5’9” but only 190 pounds, he doesn’t really have the frame to be a full time running back and his usage thus far hints at the Falcons being concerned as well.

The Ugly Truth: Smith is extremely explosive and there is no denying his big play ability at this point in time. Even with only seven touches in 2013, he still had 155 yards and two touchdowns – this means 2014 isn’t the first time Smith has shown that explosiveness and if you put the two seasons together he has 25 touches for 432 yards and six scores. If you go all the way back to his 2009 pro day, Smith’s numbers were extremely impressive with a 4.33 second time in the 40 yard dash, very respectable jumps, and a massive 31 reps in the bench press. His physical ability is definitely there.

So why hasn’t he seen the field?

Unfortunately, I’m afraid only the Falcons can answer that one. When he has been given a chance, he has excelled over and over again, but there must be something about him they aren’t pleased with that keeps him off the field and limits him to 15 or fewer snaps every game. In my mind, he has more than earned increased playing time but they haven’t given it to him just yet. I’m really not sure what more he can do to get himself onto the field.

At this point, I think Smith is destined to be what he has been, an infrequent but exceptional piece of the offense. His pace is completely unrealistic but he’s definitely a game changer. I just don’t trust the Falcons to give him enough touches to make him startable. If you’re really desperate due to injuries and bye weeks you could put him in as a flex play and hope he gets yet another big play, but it is a major gamble.

Final Verdict: At 29 years old and his past of being on a very limited snap count, he isn’t going to be consistent enough to matter. Unless his snap count increases he’s a very risky boom or bust play.

George Winn, RB DET
Week Five totals: 11 carries for 48 yards.

Going back to last year, Detroit hosted one of the most potent one-two combinations of running backs in the league. Thanks in part to Scott Linehan’s play calling, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell were both top 25 running backs and every week starters in PPR leagues. Bell missed week five with a concussion and Theo Riddick also missed it with a hamstring injury. When Bush was hobbled with an ankle injury in week five there was only George Winn to pick up the slack. With everyone else on the roster questionable with injuries, Winn could get another shot to be involved, but is there anything to see here?

The Good: The 2013 undrafted rookie was a big time favorite of some in the draft community after he burst onto the college scene during his senior year at Cincinnati. His size is nearly ideal at 5’11” and about 215 pounds and he ran with nice power both in college and during the game on Sunday. He has the build and the look of an NFL running back and the frame to hold up to a major role in the offense. His 48 yards on 11 rushes against a very underrated Buffalo defense were definitely a nice surprise.

The Bad: Winn spent most of the 2013 summer building up from frequent flier miles as he went from one team to the next, spending time with the Texans and Patriots before being left off of an NFL roster for the 2013 season. It wasn’t until the 2014 summer that he was signed by the Lions. Not being good enough to even be on an NFL team’s practice squad is a definite red flag for Winn. If teams don’t think enough of him to keep him around then there are some concerns.

From a physical standpoint, Winn has nice power, but he is lacking when it comes to explosiveness. At the combine, he managed only a 4.75 second time in the 40 yard dash. He also had very limited experience in the passing game in college and hasn’t been involved catching passes with Detroit so far – this might limit him to more of an early down power back role.

The Ugly Truth: Some of the comparisons for Winn coming out of college were to Alfred Morris. I think a lot of them were meant in a positive way, meant to say he is a power back who could be a late round steal for an NFL team. I see it in a slightly different way. The comparisons to Morris are also true when it comes to the slow, power back who is a liability in the passing game.

Winn has a nice opportunity with the rest of the depth chart injured, but I don’t think he has the skill set to be a viable long term option. The best case for Winn would be as the early down role in a committee, but I think the chances are slim. With Bush and Bell both aging, could it be a possibility down the road for Winn to be paired up with someone like Theo Riddick. Anything is possible, but I just don’t see Winn as being anything more than just another guy on the depth chart.

Final Verdict: Winn might have a small window of great opportunity over the next week or two while the others heal up, but I don’t think he has the skill set to hold on to the job long term. There are better uses of a roster spot.


jacob feldman