Chris Carson was one of 2018’s biggest breakouts in fantasy football. After an underwhelming rookie season, Carson appeared to be trapped behind first-round pick Rashaad Penny entering training camp. However, Penny suffered an injury in the preseason, and Carson made the most of the opportunity. Being the featured back in a run-heavy offense is obviously great for fantasy, but can Carson repeat his success in 2019?
2019 Fantasy Football Outlook: Chris Carson
Succeeding in the NFL is all about taking advantage of every opportunity, and that’s exactly what Chris Carson did in 2018. After entering training camp as a backup, Carson ended up recording 1,157 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 247 carries. Additionally, he also added another 20 receptions for 163 yards on 24 targets. This impressive season made him the RB15 in half-point scoring formats, but he also missed two games to injury. When factoring in missed time, Carson’s 13.7 points-per-game was tied for the 12th-best mark in the league among running backs.
From a consistency standpoint, Carson was everything you could’ve asked for as a fantasy owner. The second-year pro didn’t take command of the backfield until Week Three, but once he did he was an absolute stud. Carson recorded 14 or more carries in 11 of his final 12 games, including five games where he had over 20 carries. He also had eight games with a touchdown and nine games with over 69 yards, including six 100-yard performances. He only had one “bust” performance over his final 12 games, which is remarkable consistency from the running back position.
Despite his high workload and predictable playcalling, Carson still managed to be one of the more efficient running backs in fantasy. According to Sharp Football Stats, Carson had a 49.6% success rate on his carries, 2.1% above the league average. By comparison, Rashaad Penny had a below-average 40.4% success rate. Despite the drastic difference in draft pedigree, Carson’s efficiency and consistency allowed him to keep Penny buried on the depth chart.
Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible that 2018 was a career year for Carson. Carson had just about everything go his way last year, and it’s hard to project that happening again. For one, Penny has another year in the system and is starting to play faster. If these two players play at a similar level, Penny’s draft pedigree will ensure he sees more of the snaps.
Additionally, Carson’s physical style of play naturally leads to injury. Chris Carson has the ability to make guys miss in space, but he’s just as willing to lower the shoulder and plow through defenders. This skill, while fun to watch, is naturally conducive to injury. Carson’s physical style of play cost him two games in 2018 and 12 in 2017. Every player in the NFL carries an injury risk, but Carson has lower odds of playing a full 16-game season than most.
As if that wasn’t enough, Seattle probably won’t run the ball as much in 2019. The Seahawks still want to be a team that runs on first and second down, but that style of play simply isn’t sustainable in today’s NFL. The reason it worked last year is that Russell Wilson was absurdly efficient in the passing game and the defense played like an above-average unit. Wilson cannot maintain that efficiency, meaning that drives won’t last as long. Additionally, Seattle’s defense will probably be worse after losing Frank Clark to Kansas City and Jarran Reed to suspension. The Seahawks will need to throw the ball to stay in games, and Carson doesn’t project as a pass-catcher.
The good news is that there’s one less mouth to feed. Mike Davis left Seattle in the off-season to join the Chicago Bears, and the Seahawks didn’t do anything to replace his 146 touches. C.J. Prosise is made of glass and J.D. McKissic isn’t taking anyone’s job. At the very least, this lack of depth should give Carson a relatively stable floor.
Chris Carson Average Draft Position
Fantasy Football Calculator currently has Carson going off the board with the 45th overall pick in half-point scoring formats. This makes him the 24th running back off the board and puts him in the same tier as guys like Phillip Lindsay, Mark Ingram, and Sony Michel.
Carson is probably the last running back before a gigantic tier drop. Lindsay and Ingram should have better seasons than Carson, but Michel and Carson should have similar finishes. However, once Carson and Michel come off the board, the next running backs by ADP are James White, Kenyan Drake, and Tarik Cohen. White and Cohen are both major regression candidates, while Drake reportedly is losing first-team snaps to Kalen Ballage.
Due to the steep drop in running back talent, you should probably target running backs early in your draft. However, if you don’t have two starting-caliber runners in the fifth round, make sure you grab Carson. At the very least, Seattle’s run-heavy philosophy will ensure a safe floor, even if he probably won’t replicate his 2018 success.
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