Matt Breida is owned in more than 50% of leagues, which I usually do not write about. That said, his ownership percentage is about to shoot up near 100%; rightfully so. If he is already owned? This is one of those cases in which buying high is the correct play, which is why he’s Week 2’s Flavor of the Week.
As Chris Spielman said in Week 2’s telecast, this guy was running angry. He was clearly recovered from a shoulder injury that cut his preseason short and took it out on an overwhelmed Lions defensive front. This is not a new development for the small school dynamo either. A month ago we all expected a former Georgia Southern player to take control of this run game, but his name was Jerick McKinnon. Little did we know another former Golden Eagle would be that guy, but injuries happen and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan certainly took notice of Breida’s performance Week 2. If Breida is already owned his current owner certainly is aware of what he did Sunday as well. There’s reason to believe that owner has not totally bought in yet and this is your last chance to buy before it’s too late.
Why is Breida due for an uptick in touches? He’s everything that a Shanahan looks for in a running back. He runs with tremendous balance, he’s sudden in-and-out of his breaks, he finishes his runs, and has the breakaway speed to take it to the house when the opportunity arises. This was evident when he came into the league and it was all on display Sunday. Which begs the question, if all that is true why was he an undrafted free agent out of college? Quite simply, he and his team had a terrible year before he declared. He was instrumental in the team’s success in 2014 and 2015, but he was unable to help get his team over the hump amidst turmoil in 2016. When you’re a 5’11 190 pound running back playing at a smaller school you’re not offered that sort of leeway. Kudos to Shanahan and his team for mining the bottom of the barrel to find Breida, a perfect fit for his scheme.
So if he is a perfect fit then why would his current owner be looking to sell him? Despite his performance he is still just 3rd in total snaps among the 49ers running back corps. He’s been below 50% in each game with a total of 56 compared to Alfred Morris’ 65 and Kyle Juszczk’s 66. He’s also only had a total of 26 touches, which given his size one could argue is by design. Additionally, when the 49ers were protecting a 4th quarter lead Sunday despite what he’d done all day they didn’t call on Breida; Morris out touched him 7-to-1. I get it, you’re reading this thinking to yourself I’m trying to sell you on him by saying his own team hasn’t used him enough. Thing is, that’s exactly what his owner is thinking right now. If the 49ers were doing everything they could to make him the lead back then his owner isn’t considering moving him. San Francisco has intentionally been using him as a part time player, but I think that’s going to change.
Shanahan does not historically like to alternate between running backs. Devonta Freeman’s best years came with him calling the shots – averaging more than 300 total touches in those two seasons. Carlos Hyde came one touch short of 300 last year, 55 more than he’d ever seen in a season previously. He displayed similar tendencies as an offensive coordinator with Washington as well. He won’t force someone to be the lead back, but if one emerges then he will utilize him accordingly. Breida has given him every reason to believe he is capable of being that guy, so he is about to get his shot.
What should you be willing to offer to get him? Every team and every league presents its own unique set of circumstances. Start with popular names drafted later than previous years off to fast starts – Randall Cobb, DeSean Jackson, Isaiah Crowell, and Marshawn Lynch fit the bill. Next I’d go to players drafted early and due to return from suspension or injury soon – Alshon Jeffery and Mark Ingram immediately come to mind. After them would be slow starters like Corey Davis, Larry Fitzgerald, Kenyan Drake, or Alex Collins. Last would be names that may have been unfamiliar to many a month ago but have burst onto the scene – Phillip Lindsay, Austin Ekeler, Keelan Cole, or Tyler Lockett.
Will everyone be successful in their pursuit of Breida? No, of course not. You may lack the right makeup of players, his current owner may not have sufficient replacements at running back, or he may be equally as high on him. That said, there will be buying opportunities for many and this is probably be the last chance. The schedule remains soft for the 49ers as the Chiefs (32.5 points against, 4.5 yards per carry against), Chargers (29 points against, 2nd worst run defense from a year ago), and Arizona (29 points against, bottom 5 in total yardage vs. the run) loom the next three weeks. Breida is about to take off and you want to be along for the ride.
This week’s Flavor of the Week are wings at the popular local dive bar. It may not be a familiar name to passer-by’s from out-of-town, but those that have walked through the doors know what they’re in for. Let those that don’t know better go to the chain restaurant down the street while you enjoy something a whole lot more satisfying at the off-brand shop around back.