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When I scouted Jeremy Langford coming out of Michigan State last year, I didn’t really like what I saw…but that was 2013–2014. I set out with a fresh mind to watch 2015. With that approach, I can honestly tell you that after watching his entire 2015 NFL campaign…I like him even less than before.
I kinda got suckered the same way I’ll bet most people did. He had that nice breakout moment on Monday Night Football versus the Chargers in his first real ‘start’, and then had a couple of TDs the following week versus the Rams, including a long, 83-yard screen-pass-turned-touchdown. We all heard the talk, and saw evidence of the Bears shifting more work from Matt Forte toJeremy Langford. The story was writing itself. The assumption was becoming written in stone, Matt Forte would be moving on in free agency, and Jeremy Langford would move right in and become Forte 2.0. Once the Bears made it clear Forte was not coming back after the regular season, Langford now had to be seen as Forte 2.0—and that would be a great thing for Fantasy Football…if you possessed Langford.
I think Langford lovers and Bears fans alike are in for a very rude awakening.
First and foremost, Matt Forte is a major football talent, a possible Hall of Fame type player. The thought that Jeremy Langfordwould just be shoehorned in and do the same exact thing with the same effectiveness is a major assumption, selling Forte short and pushing Langford too hot—Langford is not in Forte’s class of football player.
I just watched every carry and target from Langford in 2015, and I can tell you unequivocally that Langford is nowhere near in the same class as Forte. And that’s an important point to keep hammering home, because most all of Jeremy Langford’s Fantasy Football valuation right now is based on the simplistic theory that Langford = Forte. It’s not true.
In order to see Langford as a major runner-receiver weapon, on the level of Forte, he would have to possess a similar size and skills as a runner, while also having excellent hands in the passing game. He has none of that compared to Forte. Langford’s more of a limited, one-dimensional NFL running back. He has enough of one type of skill (fast 40-time) to make him NFL-worthy, but not a future star.
Let’s look at him as a runner first. The most obvious difference between him and Forte is that Langford rolls about 10-pounds lighter than Forte. Langford is not a bruiser who can be critical to his team, or even rack up great FF-numbers, as a shorter-yardage goal line running back. 205–210 pound running backs do not have to make their bones as a physical force, per se, if they’re super speedy and extremely nimble. Langford is fast, and that’s the main reason he can stay in the NFL, but not quick/nimble. He’s a 4.49 40-time runner at last year’s NFL Combine. If you give Langford a head of steam he can outrun some defenders. He’s not an amazing racehorse with blinding speed, but he can get up and go. The problem is that he has terrible agility. His agility measurements at the NFL Combine were not good (7.2+ three-cone), and you can see this problem on tape. All you can do with Langford is run him up the middle, keeping him north-south. You cannot succeed much sending him east-west, and he’s not going to be able to dodge away from would-be tacklers like most starting NFL running backs. He doesn’t create extra yards with elusiveness (and you’ll see statistical evidence of it in a few)—he runs as fast as he can, as far as he can until he is easily brought down. His lack of agility also makes him a little stiff/clunky flaring out for short passes like Matt Forte made a living doing withJay Cutler.
There is an additional problem in the receiving game beyond his physical limitations. I did not realize it until I watched his entire 2015 season, but Jeremy Langford is not an extremely reliable receiver. I was shocked when I saw the amount of legitimate drops he had. Go look at his 2015 game log, and you’ll be floored—he caught only 52.4% of his targets last season—that’s a stunningly low number for a running back catching mostly simplistic passes. I was not that shocked when I sought out the ‘drops’ information from 2015 and found that Jeremy Langford tied for the most drops among all RBs last season (tied with Devonta Freeman). By percentage of targets, Langford was THE most dropsy RB in the NFL last season. By percentage, Langford had the highest rate of drops among ANY positional player with 20 or more targets in 2015. Not good. Langford is not a full-out hands problem—you can find him snatching some passes nicely, but you would also be shocked if I produced a ‘highlight’ reel from 2015 of his drops/botches. He’s nowhere near as reliable a receiver as Matt Forte.
With Jeremy Langford, you have a smaller, ‘tweener’ NFL running back with questionable NFL agility, with sudden doubts about his reliability in the passing game. Does this sound like an advertisement for the next great young running back in the NFL?
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Speaking of the next great young running backs in the NFL, I did a quick analysis of Langford versus some of the top rookie runners from 2015. I think the results will be eye-opening:
Percentage of their 2015 carries with 10 or more yards gained:
14.9% = Thomas Rawls
12.8% = David Johnson
11.3% = Todd Gurley
9.1% = Matt Forte
8.1% = Melvin Gordon
7.4% = Jeremy Langford
6.1% = Danny Woodhead
Percentage of their 2015 carries with 6 or more yards gained:
31.2% = David Johnson
22.3% = Todd Gurley
20.4% = Danny Woodhead
22.0% = Matt Forte
17.7% = Melvin Gordon
13.5% = Jeremy Langford
Percentage of their 2015 carries with 20 or more yards gained:
4.8% = Todd Gurley
4.7% = Thomas Rawls
3.2% = Melvin Gordon
2.4% = David Johnson
1.8% = Matt Forte
0.10% = Danny Woodhead
0.07% = Jeremy Langford (one carry out of 148 with 20+ yards…23 yards)
*Why is Danny Woodhead here? For those who cry that Melvin Gordon was a victim of ‘blocking’.
**Why is Matt Forte on here? To show the difference among the Bears RBs we’re discussing.
If you’re using 2015 data as your guide, it’s clear that Jeremy Langford does not belong in a discussion among the top rookie runners…or on an even playing field with teammate Matt Forte.
Now, if the Bears want to bet all their chips on Jeremy Langford in a manner like the San Diego Chargers did with Melvin Gordon, then I guess Langford has some Fantasy Football value in 2016. Touches are always a good thing in Fantasy, typically. However, what you saw with Gordon-2015 was a guy you really could not use in Fantasy because of his lack of production…despite a ton of carries. I have a feeling Langford is headed down that same path—a guy who is the stated/assumed starter opening day, and will get the early opportunity, and then by midseason 2016 he’s been bumped into either a split/RBBC or just surpassed by another running back on the Bears’ roster—and I don’t think Ka’Deem Carey is any answer either; never have. In the end, the Bears cannot go into an NFL season with Jeremy Langford thought to be a workhorse, and feel like they have a major advantage over other teams and defenses at running back. You could go into 2016 with Langford as a part of an ensemble duo or trio; there’s some logic there. Langford has a few gifts to bring to the table, I guess. However, what I see is a running back who is mediocre at best, a ‘C’ player, a guy who you could get similar production from 100+ other NFL running backs bouncing around practice squads or as backups.
If I were a Dynasty GM, and I owned Jeremy Langford, I would not feel very comfortable today. I believe Langford’s best value right now is to trade him on the news, take advantage of the headlines. We are in a period where people or believe Langford = Forte, and thus he will be a solid/good/great Fantasy weapon in 2016. I sell that assumption for as much as I can get for it. The moment the Bears sign an interesting free agent running back, even a backup-type one—your Spidey senses will tingle. If the Bears draft an interesting runner in the middle of the NFL Draft, then there’s another problem for Langford.
I don’t think the Bears are going to go into 2016 with an ‘all in’ on Langford. No NFL team should do that with any running back, but especially with Langford. I think the clock is ticking on Langford’s higher valuation in Dynasty/Fantasy, and you should cash in on it at its peak, right now.