Nyheim Hines 2020 Fantasy Football Penny Stock Target as Colts Pass-Catching Weapon - Roto Street Journal
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Nyheim Hines 2020 Fantasy Football Penny Stock Target as Colts Pass-Catching Weapon

As The Athletic’s Zak Keefer looked on Colts’ practices this week, he couldn’t help but notice how many targets Nyheim Hines has been showered with:

It hasn’t been just one practice. Or two. Or three.

It’s been two straight weeks. Hines has been everywhere.

And the same thought’s crossed my mind almost every day we’ve watched the Colts practice: I’ve never seen Hines this active in the offense.

It’s probably not a stretch to say the third-year running back has caught more passes from Rivers than anyone else.

In fact, Keefer predicted a 75-catch season “isn’t that insane.” Good lord, sound the PPR Fantasy Radars!

Actually, we’ve been ringing them ever since Philip Rivers showed up in Indianapolis.

Still, this type of confirmation is nice. Keefer’s not alone, either.

IndyStar’s Jim Ayello’s observations during the Colts’ scrimmage last Monday expressed a resounding “yes.” Backs accounted for 35 percent of the day’s completions.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, given Rivers’ history targeting his RBs:

Via our first Hines piece:

Just last year, the Chargers ranked first in both pure RB targets (164), and percentage of pass plays to the position (30.9%).

We all know the results, with Austin Ekeler finishing 10th among all players in receptions (92), behind only McCaffrey at the position. Thanks to 992 receiving yards and 8 TDs through the air, Ekeler was the RB4 in fantasy.

The year prior, the Chargers ranked fifth (137 targets) and third (28.4%) in RB passes; in 2017, they were 10th (124) and 11th (23.1%).

Don’t forget Danny Woodhead, who played with Rivers and Reich in 2015 and 2013. He netted 80 receptions (106 targets) and 76 receptions (88 targets), along with six scores each season. He was the RB11 and RB3 in PPR formats those seasons.

The case is clear: when provided a pass-catching RB specialist, Rivers will squeeze the most PPR fantasy juice out of them.

The enormous RB Aerial Pie has been apparent all camp, and the ratio continues leaning towards Hines. In a recent practice, he caught seven balls, with Jonathan Taylor catching five, and Marlon Mack with two.

Should we expect this to continue into 2020?

MACK’S DIMINISHING ROLE?

Last year, experts made case after case for Mack to be more of a threat in the passing game, here, here, and here. Even here, just before the 2020 NFL Draft, FanSided’s Ryan Stano made another case for Mack to see more passes, even to just make the Colts’ offense less predictable with him on the field. But even Stano couldn’t get through the piece without mentioning that Mack is “good, not great” in the passing game, and was a liability in pass protection. Marlon owners in fantasy watched last year as the throws his way just, weren’t, happening.

Currently coming in third in practice time passing work to Taylor and Hines, it’s hard to imagine Mack making a substantial impact in that area. Where Taylor’s passing game chops are still an unknown, the writing seems on the wall for Marlon… he’s an early-down back. That’s a plus for Jonathan Taylor, who now has a real opportunity to emerge as the only real dual-threat back for the Colts, and then likely earn the uptick in snap count that comes with the advantage of keeping opposing defenses guessing at whether a play will be a run or a pass.

Consequently, we prefer Hines, and his more established role, than Mack.

HINES’ FANTASY IMPACT

Is there enough room for Hines to flourish while Taylor, and perhaps Mack to a lesser extent, still see enough balls thrown their way to affect their fantasy stock?

Colts head coach Frank Reich was Philip Rivers’ OC in San Diego when Danny Woodhead saw 80 catches on 106 targets. The aerial pie was still big enough for the other Chargers’ backs, including another rookie out of Wisconsin in Melvin Gordon, to dish out another 54 catches on 65 targets. Now, behind Pro Football Focus’ highest ranked O-line for 2020, Rivers should have plenty of time for check-downs, along with the designed plays that are being implemented in Colts practice.

Hines has a realistic pathway to 75 catches this season. If he continues his career rate of 7 yards-per-catch, his passing game work alone would amount to 127.5 PPR points for the year, equivalent to the RB40 in 2019. That mark should be Hines’ floor, considering that it’s assuming no TD’s, growth with Rivers at the helm, or usage in the run game.

Nyheim’s ADP is sitting in the early 13th-round range. Grab him up a round earlier if you’re looking for solid RB depth for pennies on the dollar.

Hines is currently 108th overall (+37 vs ECR, +80 vs ADP) on our 2020 Big Board and Rankings

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