2011 Fantasy Player Profile | Peyton Hillis
Where do we begin with Peyton Hillis? He went from being a Josh McDaniels throw-away in Denver to a bull-dozing fan favorite in Cleveland. Add in his late-season slide in 2010 and a tournament victory for the 2012 Madden video game cover, and suddenly the guy that came out of nowhere to rush for over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns (whilst winning our hearts, mind you), is borderline trash.
At least, that’s the vibe we’ve been getting. Just about everywhere you’ll read these days (except over at FF Extreme), experts are extremely down on Hillis for 2011. Whether its his lack of elite speed, the comeback of Montario Hardesty, the Madden curse, the whole “white running back” thing, or his “major breakdown” in 2010, people just aren’t showing Hillis the love these days.
Well, the best way to talk Hillis up for 2011 is to show you that all of his negatives are just premature guessing with a negative tone.
1. The Madden Cover
It actually has a pretty solid history of ringing true, but there are enough times where its not spot-on that there is optimism that Hillis isn’t dead in the water before the ship even sets for sail. Besides, most of Ohio would have to admit that Cleveland has been cursed so much throughout their franchise history (well, ever since the days of Otto Graham and Jim Brown, anyways), that even a hefty Madden curse would simply have to be off-set. And even if you’re not buying that logic, I’ll just remind you that this is still a curse we’re talking about here. So, moving on…
2. The Late-Season Fade
Really? The dude runs wild on everyone in the league for almost the entire season and the wheels come off for the final three weeks, and suddenly he’s no good anymore? How about we go tell that to Maurice Jones-Drew, who was on a tremendous tear, but missed the final two games of the season due to injury. Or let’s go talk to Adrian Peterson, who had a less than desirable finish in three of Minnesota’s final four games to end the season.
The point is, while the end of the year is huge for stud fantasy options, its not all there is to your season. Add in that Hillis was clearly injured heading into the stretch run, two of his final three opponents were stud defenses in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and he was being backed by a rookie quarterback and an extremely predictable offensive scheme, and his sorry stretch run is pretty forgivable.
Call me crazy, but after seeing what a healthy Hillis could do over the first 14 weeks, I’m okay with giving the guy a mulligan.
3. Montario Hardesty
True, Hardesty should be healthy and ready to contribute. Heck, even if he’s not the number two guy, the Browns have been vocal that someone will be added to some sort of rotation that keeps Hillis both healthy and fresh for his weekly pounding. But even with all that music floating around, I still don’t buy the addition of another back as a huge detractor of fantasy production. In fact, wouldn’t another back spelling Hillis keep him more fresh for the end of games, and allow him to be stronger for the end of the season? All logical signs point to yes. I’m not blind to the possibility that Hillis ends up in a timeshare, but I also don’t think Cleveland truly wants to keep this guy from doing what he did last year, which is absolutely dominating the opposition.
4. Oh, Yeah…
This isn’t a negative, but if you didn’t notice a common theme for Hillis in the Cleveland offense – the dude is versatile. He’s a fantastic receiver with great hands and the ability to make difficult plays. His excellent PPR value is sometimes off-set by his random fumbling issues, but it still can’t go unnoticed. Regardless of the amount of carries Hillis winds up getting, Cleveland would be foolish to leave him out of the passing game. With 67 receptions in his first full season as a starter, the future looks bright for his prospects in PPR leagues, alone.
Ultimately, it’s going to come down to you buying into Hillis as a potential stud again in 2011, or confiding in an inconsistent Matt Forte, a one-dimensional LeGarrette Blount, or a slew of backs that are either in new uniforms, signed to fresh, bloated contracts, or are even rookies. At least with Hillis you can feel pretty confident you’re getting safe RB2 value with real potential for RB1 numbers.
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