1 Vs 1 RB Edition: Lamar Miller Vs CJ Anderson
In this series I'm going to compare two similarly ranked and drafted running backs putting them up against each other, and comparing them in a variety of categories such as 2016 stats, quality of offensive line, draft pedigree, age, combine results, measurables, teams time of possession, percentage of rushing attempts, snaps played, PFF grades, and depth chart competition. In an attempt to determine which of the two players will be the superior dynasty asset. In this edition I'm going to compare two very dynamic and polarizing runningbacks in Lamar Miller and CJ Anderson. Both of these runningbacks have been put in positions to be their teams three down workhorse and for various reasons neither have been able to really take the reins. As a result both Denver and Houston added runningback competition in the early rounds of the past two drafts in Devontae Booker and D'Onta Foreman.
They had very different 2016 seasons due to Anderson suffering a season ending meniscus tear in his right knee in week seven. Prior to that Anderson was having a respectable season with 110 carries for 437 yards and 4 touchdowns, averaging 4.0 yards per carry. He caught 16 passes for 128 yards and 1 touchdown on 24 targets averaging 8.0 yards per reception. Miller also missed time last season not playing in weeks 16 or 17 due to an ankle injury although he still managed to eclipse 1000 rushing yards. In 2016 Miller ran 268 times for 1073 yards and 5 touchdowns for an average of 4.0 yards per carry, and caught 31 of his 39 targets for 188 yards and 1 touchdown averaging 6.1 yards per reception. PFF graded them similarly with Anderson coming out ahead as the 38th overall runningback having a 72.0 grade, and Miller being the 42nd runningback with a 70.1 grade. I currently have Miller ahead of Anderson in my dynasty runningback rankings with Miller being ranked 17th and Anderson 21st. Advantage: Miller
A big part of running back success is tied to the quality of a teams offensive line, as we have seen time and time again a mid level running back with a top tier offensive line can have comparable stats with a much better running back with a questionable offensive line. In 2016 Houston's offensive line ranked 18th overall and are projected to slide all the way down to 29th in 2017, which isn't good news for a team that currently doesn't have a competent starting quarterback. Last season Denver had the 24th ranked offensive line, and it's essentially the status quo for them this season as they are projected to be the 25th ranked O-line, Denver also lacks a quality starting quarterback. Last year Houston averaged 31:32 time of possession per game and rushed the ball on 43.4% of offensive plays, Denver possessed the ball on average 28:27 per game, which was three full minutes less per game than Houston which equates to an extra 49 minutes of offensive possession over the course of the season which is the equivalent of Houston playing an extra game and a half. Both teams finished the season with a 9-7 record but Houston leaned on the run game significantly more than Denver due to terribly inconsistent quarterback play from Brock Osweiler. Advantage: Miller
When it comes to age, measurables, combine results, and draft pedigree, these two have a lot of similarities, starting with age as they are both 26 years old and less than three months apart with Miller being slightly younger than Anderson. They are nearly the same size with Miller listed at 5'10 225 pounds, just slightly larger than 5'8 224 pound Anderson. Miller has as slight advantage in combine results as he ran a 4.40 40, did not participate in the broad jump and had a 33 inch vertical, compared to Anderson's 4.60 40 time, 119 inch broad jump and 32 inch vert. It was also advantage Miller when is comes to draft capitol as he was selected with the second pick of the fourth round 97th overall in 2012. Anderson surprisingly was an undrafted free agent signing with Denver following the 2013 draft, and only rushed seven times in his rookie campaign, spending the vast majority of that season on the practice squad. Anderson declared for the draft a year earlier than most expected and technically only had two college starts as he split carries his sophomore year at Cal with teammate Isi Sofele, which was likely a contributing factor as to why he went undrafted. Advantage: Miller
Both players would have played nearly identical snaps last season if not for Anderson's season ending injury, Miller played 714 snaps, 79 of those were in pass protection, in which he given a grade of 72.1 according to Pro Football Focus. Anderson played 313 snaps, 32 in pass protection where he had an impressive grade of 78.1, when his snaps are prorated out over a full 16 game season he would have played 715 snaps, 73 of which in pass pro. Both players are their teams number one runningback but have some competition behind them on their depth charts. Miller has career backup Alfred Blue, and rookie 3rd rounder D'Onta Foreman as potential threats to cut into his carries. Anderson's depth chart is equally favourable, having only 25 year old sophomore Devontae Booker who was both inefficient and ineffective when given the opportunity to be the lead back last season. Jamaal Charles is also on the roster but after missing basically the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons due to multiple surgeries in both knees it's highly unlikely the 30 year old regains his 2014 form. Rookie sleeper sixth round draft pick De'Angelo Henderson remains a dark horse to slide up this somewhat open depth chart if any injuries occur. Advantage: Anderson
In this runningback comparison I'm going to have to give the edge to Lamar Miller, with more mediocre quarterback play in store now that Watson is done for the year it is a distinct possibility for Houston that Miller will be the focal point of that offense. No matter how bad the QB play is this season it's highly unlikely it reaches the “Brock” level that Houston seen last season, and if Miller could succeed against stacked boxes last year, he could definitely improve on last seasons numbers. My only concern being the coaching staff saying he was overused at times last season. Anderson is a quality runningback in a respectable offense and if he can manage to get through an entire season reasonably healthy he should finish with numbers close to that of an RB1. Winner: Lamar Miller