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2016 Fantasy Football Sleeper - Ameer Abdullah

I was a huge fan of Ameer Abdullah entering the 2015 NFL season. Abdullah was a highly touted running back out of the University of Nebraska who was best known for his shifty footwork, ability to make people miss and his pass catching skills out of the backfield. His potential in fantasy football seemed limitless, as he entered a high-powered Lions' offense lead by gunslinger, Matthew Stafford.

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A Deeper Look At Ameer Abdullah

Finally, after drafting him in almost all of my 2015 fantasy leagues, the season began -- and Abdullah went bust.

Maybe my hopes were too high, but nonetheless many fantasy owners were let down. The former Cornhusker finished the 2015 campaign with 597 rush yards, 183 receiving yards, and three total touchdowns. There were also the pesky fumbling issues that followed him up from the mid-west as well.

Entering the 2016 season, it is pretty obvious that Abdullah owners from 2015 are still feeling the burn and those that are not are reluctant to get too close this season. According to FantasyPros.com, 74 percent of people rank Abdullah as worse that his average draft position in standard leagues (RB#27) and 46 percent felt the same way under the PPR format (RB#32).

In all honesty, that is a very fair assessment after his disappointing rookie season, however Abdullah is likely to have much more success in his sophomore season.

The Lions made a move early in the 2016 off-season that will benefit Abdullah greatly, when they cut hometown hero Joique Bell. With Bell no longer in the Lions backfield, it will present a tremendous opportunity for Abdullah to become the featured running back. In 2015, Abdullah only had six games in which he was presented with a chance for double digit carries, and only two games in which he received five or more targets through the air. With Bell gone, logic tells you that those numbers will increase -- at least some. As of now, it looks as though Abdullah will share the workload with Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner. Riddick is primarily a third down back due to his pass catching abilities and Zenner may steal some goal line work.  Therefor, it might be good to expect Abdullah to lose some receptions and touchdowns, but he is still the best suited of the three for a featured back role behind Stafford and company.

Further benefiting Abdullah is the return of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter for his first full season calling plays in the Motor City. Abdullah did see his numbers improve when Cooter took over the Lions' offense for Joe Lombardi at the mid-way point last season, totaling 81 carries for 375 yards (4.6 yards per carry) in the final nine games. Additionally, Pro-Bowl wideout Calvin Johnson is no longer with the team, which could cause Cooter to lean on the run game and his young offensive line a bit more.

Speaking of the offensive line, new team General Manager Bob Quinn wasted no time in starting work on the Lions biggest team weakness. In the NFL Draft, the Lions selected Ohio State offensive tackle, Taylor Decker in the first-round. While it has yet to be confirmed where Decker will line-up on the offensive line, it is likely that he will take over for Riley Reiff at left tackle, sending Reiff back down to his natural right side. In the third round, the Lions and Quinn then selected University of Michigan center, Graham Glasgow. While the selection of Glasgow isn't as sexy of a pick, there is a very good chance that he is able to beat out Travis Swanson at center, therefor making his immediate impact an overall improvement for the team -- and for Abdullah's run blocking out front.

Later on in the fifth round, Joe Dahl, an offensive guard from the University of Washington was selected. Dahl's strong suit in football?

Effective run blocking with excellent movement skills.

With all of that in mind, the preseason hype that occurred last year, (at least on my end) may be more warranted for this season. Abdullah was being drafted on average in round six last year, but in some leagues he was going as high as round four. In the mock drafts that I have been participating in so far this year, I have been selecting him as late as round nine. I'm excited to take Abdullah at his current price and think other fantasy drafters should be as well.


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