Fantasy Football: What Does the Derrius Guice Injury Mean for the Washington Backfield?

Derrius Guice saw his rookie season derailed with a torn ACL suffered in Washington's first preseason game. As fantasy football owners, where do we go from here?

Just a few short months ago, the NFL Draft featured a running back that dropped down draft boards. Despite being the consensus second-best running back in the class, some strange news -- founded or unfounded as it was -- surfaced and derailed the draft stock of Derrius Guice, a dynamic runner out of LSU.

Behind Saquon Barkley, Guice was expected to be a late first or early second round pick. But given the news, Washington was able to scoop up Guice with the 59th overall pick and as the 7th running back taken. This was a great value for a team seeking an early-down workhorse to complement the speedy, pass-catching Chris Thompson in the backfield.

But on his sixth carry of the night, in a meaningless preseason game against New England, Guice suffered a torn ACL on what seemed like harmless contact.

This injury will place Guice on injured reserve, ending his seeason and putting a damper on Washington's hopeful season. In terms of fantasy football, where do we go from here with this unproven backfield?

Depth Chart

Entering the preseason game, the official depth chart read:

First Team Chris Thompson ---
Second Team Rob Kelley Kapri Bibbs
Third Team Samaje Perine Byron Marshall
Fourth Team Derrius Guice Martez Carter

While Guice's fourth team status was clearly smoke and mirrors due to his rookie status, the depth chart could give us some indication of the top options to replace him, or at least mitigate the loss.

Familiar Names

The names Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley, and Samaje Perine stand out as players who were involved in this backfield just a season ago. Here is a look at how the opportunities (targets plus rush attempts) played out by week in that backfield:

So what's most likely to happen now that Guice's injury opens up a massive opportunity in the offense? Unfortunately, it could be a mess. If Perine and Kelley are both available, they will both contend for primary back duties, but Thompson will -- or at least should -- see an increased role.

Early reports on Thompson suggest that he is still not 100 percent recovered from the fractured fibula that put a stop to his impressive 2017 campaign. But he figures to be the most locked in running back on the roster. Could Perine or Kelley emerge as the preferred early-down runner?

The below chart includes each of the three players' numbers, including our in-house metric Net Expected Points (NEP) and Success Rate. NEP measures a player's overall efficiency and uses historical down-and-distance data to do so. For example, a three-yard reception on 3rd-and-2 is wildly different than a three-yard reception on 3rd-and-4, and NEP helps account for that by tracking the expected points players add to their teams' total over the course of a season. Success Rate is the percentage of plays in which a player produces positive NEP.

Category Perine Kelley Thompson
Rushes 175 62 64
Rush Success Rate 32.00% 35.48% 39.06%
Rush NEP per rush -0.15 -0.08 -0.04
Targets 24 7 54
Rec Success Rate 72.73% 75.00% 57.40%
Rec NEP per target 0.55 0.08 0.91

Perine and Kelley did not do much to impress during 2017, sporting Rushing Success Rate numbers below league average. However, the Washington offensive line should be improved after a terribly unhealthy 2017, boosting the prognosis of these players.

The player who has draft capital working in his favor is Perine. Selected in the fourth round just a year ago, Perine profiles as a heavyweight thumper with "good enough" passing game chops. Perine has shown the ability to carry in volume more than anyone else currently on the roster. For now, he looks like the preferred option over Kelley.

Lesser-Known Options

Byron Marshall, Kapri Bibbs, and rookie Martez Carter round out the Washington roster. Bibbs picked up some work toward the end of 2017, totaling 21 carries in the team's final 3 games. Marshall only picked up nine over that span. Carter is a tiny yet explosive 25-year-old rookie out of Grambling State.

While the competition is wide open, neither of these three players seem like natural fits to complement Thompson the way Perine or Kelley can.

Outside Help?

Washington could peruse the free agent market for a one-year rental until Guice returns in 2019. And there is at least one very familiar name on the list.

Alfred Morris, the former Washington running back turned Cowboys backup turned free agent, could be a great fit beside Thompson. Morris' 43.48% Rushing Success Rate narrowly edged out teammate Ezekiel Elliott's 43.39% in his year in Big D. The vet still has plenty to offer as an early-down runner and would be an ideal fit.

How to Proceed

There is no use in speculating which free agents Washington might entertain at this point, and the familiar names of Perine, Kelley, and Thompson figure to absorb the majority of the work. Until the depth chart clears up in the next two (or maybe even three) preseason games, Chris Thompson is the only player that offers a clear role. If you can still grab him in the eighth round of PPR drafts (per Fantasy Football Calculator), he offers quite a bit of value.

For now, I'm taking Perine ahead of Kelley, and both players are currently going undrafted, which won't last for long. I would have no problem taking Thompson in the seventh, Perine in the ninth, and Kelley in the thirteenth. We can always get more aggressive as we get more information, so don't get too crazy with this situation just yet.