Each week throughout the season, I’ll cover at least two rookies in the Rookie Report Card and try to always include the biggest performers from that particular week. On top of reviewing my expectations for each player coming into the league and covering how he’s performed at the NFL level to this point, I’ll actually give him a grade in three categories. Those categories are performance to date, 2017 potential and long term upside.
The series continues with a look at a pair of ball carriers, D’Onta Foreman and Samaje Perine.
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D’Onta Foreman, RB HOU
Week Eleven Stats: 10 carries, 65 rushing yards (6.5 YPC), two touchdowns, three receptions, 15 receiving yards (three targets)
I remember seeing Foreman’s junior year stats late last year and thinking to myself, “Damn, he’s got to be good.” He ended up rushing for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns in his final season at Texas and to most that watched him, looked great doing it.
I was skeptical, however, while watching his film.
Although his short, choppy steps make him impressively nimble for a tailback of his size (6’-0”, 235 pounds) and his balance is excellent as he regularly bounces off contact in the hole to continue down the field, I thought his film as a Longhorn showed a running back that didn’t like to play up to his size. It appeared that he’d regularly try to shake a defensive back in the open field rather than lower his shoulder or give him a stiff arm to get to the next level. Also showing limited acceleration at the line of scrimmage, I wasn’t convinced Foreman would be able to consistently beat an unblocked backside linebacker through a running lane off tackle.
Appearing as a downhill runner that lacked explosion, I simply couldn’t get interested in Foreman. Even his relatively good landing spot didn’t sway me.
Ever since he got to Houston however, he’s continued to make me rethink my view of him.
I started questioning myself in the opening week of the pre-season when Foreman burst off right tackle against the Panthers, shook a safety at the second level and blasted down the right sideline for a 41-yard gain. I wrote it off as a rookie beating defenders that would be cut in a couple weeks, and confident that a starting NFL safety wouldn’t let him run past with such ease.
The big plays continued in the regular season. His two catches against the Patriots in week three accounted for 65 yards and showed Foreman has at least adequate straight-line speed. And a couple weeks later against the Chiefs on Sunday night, his 25-yard run up the middle featured multiple broken tackles by a runner lowering his shoulder and carrying defenders for extra yardage. That carry really opened my eyes as I don’t recall seeing such drive from Foreman with the Longhorns.
In week 11 against the Cardinals, Foreman again made a splash. While his three-yard touchdown run showed good vision as he picked his way around blocks and into the end zone, it was his 34-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that was most impressive.
Lined up to the left of the quarterback in the shotgun, he took the inside handoff and blasted off right tackle. With impressive burst, he outraced Arizona’s entire defense around the corner and to the goal line.
I shook my head as he scored the touchdown and instantly hit rewind on my remote control, having to see the run again. After watching it a couple times, I thought to myself, “I may have been wrong about Foreman” and wishing I had at least one share of the former Texas tailback. It was only then that I realized that Foreman had suffered what appeared to be a significant leg injury on the play.
It’s truly unfortunate that Foreman suffered such a serious injury. As a critic of him, every play he’s made as a pro has stuck with me. On Sunday, I found myself becoming a fan.
Although I feel now that Foreman would have had a much higher upside than I did a few months ago if not for the Achilles injury, it’s difficult to forecast what his future will bring. Hopefully he can recover quickly and we get to see him carry the ball again in 2018.
Foreman owners in deep enough leagues to do so should hold the rookie and hope for the best next year. In shallow leagues without injured reserve, it’ll likely be nearly impossible to do that, however.
Samaje Perine, RB WAS
Week Eleven Stats: 23 carries, 117 rushing yards (5.1 YPC), one reception, 9 receiving yards (two targets)
Samaje Perine is another tailback that wasn’t high in my rookie rankings during draft season.
Another runner lacking burst and explosion compared to other NFL tailbacks, Perine proved to be an excellent college running back while piling up more than 4,000 rushing yards and 49 touchdown at Oklahoma but I questioned whether he could make a consistent NFL impact. Although he displays good vision between the tackles and runs behind his pads well, which helps make him a very powerful runner, Perine is the type of back that needs time to get to full speed and doesn’t change directions with much quickness.
Although many gushed about his downhill running style, tackle breaking ability and nose for the goal line – which are all valid reasons to like a prospect – his weaknesses simply outweighed everything that Perine did so well at Oklahoma as I evaluated him entering the draft. All things told, I saw him as a short yardage specialist with the ability to contribute as a pass catcher if called upon.
No surprise, I didn’t end up with Perine on a single dynasty roster.
Since landing in Washington as a fourth round pick, Perine has had an up-and-down start to his NFL career. Glowing reports throughout training camp were wiped away by fumbling problems in the preseason which limited his early season opportunities. Even when Rob Kelley suffered an injury earlier this year, he plodded his way to less than three-yards per carry and looked sluggish in the process.
After taking a backseat to Kelley since that point, week 11 brought another opportunity as the Redskins’ starter went on injured reserve. This time Perine didn’t disappoint, running for 117 yards and scoring on 23 carries against the Saints.
His performance included a handful of runs that featured good vision to find running lanes, multiple slide steps to get into those holes, and consistent power. Perine showed all the positives he showed in college, running behind his pads well, breaking arm tackles with ease and even jumping over the heels of his offensive lineman while following blocks.
His biggest run came on a well-blocked 30-yard burst up the middle in the first quarter where he hit the hole off right guard and cut back to avoid the safety coming down in run support. While it was a big play, it was a perfect display of Perine’s biggest weakness. As he hit the open field, he lacked the pull-away speed to score, getting caught from behind by that very safety that he cut back on.
Although Perine has been inconsistent at best as a rookie, he’s coming off what was easily his biggest game and will continue to get opportunities – perhaps even more so now that Chris Thompson was lost for the year on Sunday.
While nobody should be surprised if Perine puts up high end RB2 numbers for the rest of 2017 due to volume and being in a quality offense, I remain wary of his long-term potential for dynasty owners. Although he has the skills to be a playmaker around the goal line and has proven he can make an impact as an injury replacement, he appears to me to be better suited as the thunder to another running back’s lighting in a committee.
If I were a Perine owner, I’d put him in my lineup and soak up the fantasy points over the next handful of weeks with a smile on my face. Then this off-season, I’d look for a fellow owner willing to pay high-end RB2 prices for him.
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