Lions Running Back Ameer Abduallah’s performance in week 1 last season against Indianapolis (120 total yards and a receiving touchdown) indicated a potentially fruitful 2016 for Abduallah in terms of fantasy. However, any hopes and dreams of a breakout campaign for Abdullah were put on hold when he suffered a Lisfranc injury week 2 against the Titans.
The key part of the previous sentence is hopes for a breakout season in 2016 were put on hold. Plenty of reasons exist why 2017 could be the year Abduallah emerges as a quality and reliable fantasy running back.
To start, it’s been documented that Abdullah’s health is not a concern. He was cleared from the Lisfranc injury in February and was a full participant during OTAs. In fact, he didn’t just participate in OTAs, but he impressed the onlookers. Tim Twentyman of DetriotLions.com reported that Abdullah exhibited excellent burst, had a few impressive cutback runs, and was active in the passing game. His foot doesn’t look to be holding him back at all.
General Manger Bob Quinn made the offensive line a priority in the offseason. He signed the best free agent right tackle prospect in Ricky Wagner from Baltimore, and added one of the better guards in the league in TJ Lang from the Packers. Left tackle Taylor Decker’s torn labrum undoubtedly hurts this offensive line. But as long as TJ Lang can come back healthy from January hip surgery, Abdullah should have some nice open holes to run through on the right side. Wagner and Lang form one of the better right guard/tackle duos in the game.
Regarding a lesser known signing, the Lions also added blocking tight end Darren Fells to help improve the run game. The addition of Fells obviously didn’t make headlines, but it shows General Manger Bob Quinn’s commitment to turn the run game from a weakness to a strength in 2017.
The Lions organization clearly believes in Abduallah to be their feature back. They didn’t draft a running back, and didn’t add any backs of note this off season that could give Abdullah legitimate competition. “”I believe this: I believe Ameer Abdullah, when he’s healthy and rolling, he’s awfully good. Don’t listen to me. Look at the numbers and see when he’s on the field what he does for you”, coach Jim Caldwell said when speaking with MLive.com. It looks like Bob Quinn and Jim Caldwell will give Abdullah every opportunity to take the Lions running game to the next level.
It’s expected Theo Riddick will jump back into his role as the primary receiver out of the backfield, but he’s recovering from surgery on both of his wrists. If Riddick’s wrists are’t one hundred percent healthy, there’s no reason to believe Abduallah won’t get more action in the passing game. As I mentioned earlier, Abdullah made his presence known as a pass catcher out of the backfield during OTAs.
Health, what should be an improved offensive line (at least on the right side), and belief from the organization (leading to consistent opportunities) is exactly what any fantasy owner wants with a boom or bust candidate like Abdullah. Abdullah’s current average draft position in 12-team standard mock drafts is in the late fifth round, according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
If you’re thinking about drafting Abdullah, it’s important to keep an eye on Riddick’s health status throughout training camp. If Riddick is slowed in his recovery process, this gives Abdullah more value, especially in PPR leagues where it was initially thought Abdullah might have less of an impact.
Abdullah is a mid-tier RB2 and a high end FLEX option, but he has plenty of upside (for all of the reasons mentioned) to make him worth a fifth or sixth-round pick. Also, if you have a stud at your RB1 spot, such as Bell/ David Johnson/Zeke, you can take a little more risk with taking a guy like Abdullah as your RB2.