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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fantasy football: Peyton Hillis analysis

If you're a Browns fan, you probably love Peyton Hillis.

If you're just a fantasy football fan (and how can you not be?), you appreciate Hillis' unlikely rise to a featured role in an NFL backfield after serving as a blocking back for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas.

You also have to love the video below, whether you like the Browns or Steelers.

Take away the feel-good story and the YouTube video, though, and you have a bruising back who took a lot of punishment last season and already is dealing with a hamstring injury during the 2011 preseason.

Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 61 passes for 477 yards and two TDs last season. He had 331 touches in 16 games, an average of 20.7 per contest.

Look a little deeper at the numbers, though, and you get this:

  • First 11 games: 199 carries, 905 yards, 4.5 average, 11 TDs, 46 receptions for 414 yards, two TDs. TOTALS: 245 touches for 1,319 yards and 13 TDs (5.4 yards per touch).
  • Last five games: 71 carries, 272 yards, 3.8 average, zero TDs, 15 receptions for 63 yards, zero TDs. TOTALS: 86 touches for 345 yards and zero TDs (4.0 yards per touch).

Clearly, Hillis wasn't the same player in the last five weeks of the season.

Clearly, that's a concern if you're planning on investing a second-round pick on him on draft day.

A few words of advice: Don't -- in Round 2.

The addition of Brandon Jackson and the return to health of Montario Hardesty (at least that's what we're led to believe on the latter) should mean fewer carries for Hillis, which might keep him fresh in December.

It also could lead to a decline in his yardage and TD totals. If you're in a point-per-reception league, you have to wonder if Jackson, who had 43 catches for the Packers last season, will be the primary third-down back and help keep Hillis' catch total below 40.

In its preseason rankings, ESPN has Hillis No. 13 among running backs and No. 25 overall. CBS has him No. 17 at running back and No. 33 overall, and Yahoo is similar to CBS with rankings of 15 at running back and 32 overall.

I haven't finished all of my research for 2011, but in my mind, there are 11 running backs you have to take ahead of Hillis -- Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Rashard Mendenhall, Steven Jackson and Darren McFadden. There are two others I probably would select over Hillis -- Michael Turner and Matt Forte, though it would be understandable if you think Hillis is better than both.

That puts Hillis as a third-round pick in a 12-team league. I'd much rather have him as my No. 2 running back, not my No. 1.

Cool story and all.

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