Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images
Welcome to the seventh article of my “Dynasty Breakdowns” series where I take both an analytical and real-life perspective to estimate players’ current and future values in the world of dynasty football. You can find my other breakdowns here and at the link attached to the end of this article! While discussing David Montgomery’s addition to the Detroit rushing attack in a previous breakdown about D’Andre Swift, I couldn’t stop thinking about the post-free agency state of the Chicago Bears rushing attack. Therefore, I’ve chosen to write about Khalil Herbert for this article!
Herbert was drafted in the sixth round (217th overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Virginia Tech. Drafted with relatively insignificant capital, Herbert came into the Bears offense listed as the fourth back on the depth chart behind David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, and Damien Williams. Three weeks into the season, Herbert had yet to receive a touch. However, a knee hyperextension strain to David Montgomery in week four would leave the team without their starting running back for the following four weeks. Tarik Cohen’s knee rehabilitation from an ACL tear in the year prior was expected to keep him out longer than expected. This left the team down to Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert to fill in as the two primary backs for an extended period of time. In those four weeks, the team would gradually shift RB 1 duties to Herbert, who recorded snap percentages of 53, 89, 77, and 84 over that span. In those four games, he averaged 13.45 PPR points, pretty good for a sixth-round rookie. After Montgomery was healthy enough to return, he once again took over the majority of snaps at the position for the remainder of the season. Herbert, having proved his talents and abilities, would not be forgotten by the Bears who were expected to utilize his talents much more in his second season. In 2022, Khalil Herbert was elevated to the clear-cut RB 2 role in Chicago’s offense, still trailing behind David Montgomery on the depth chart. After a couple weeks with little usage, Herbert’s number was called on once again as David Montgomery got injured in the early stages of a Week Three matchup against the Texans. Playing only 60% of the total snaps and getting 22 touches, Herbert scored 30.90 PPR points, the highest of any running back on the week. The following game, Herbert had another solid performance that simply didn’t translate as well to fantasy football. The remainder of the season, Herbert saw a somewhat increased snap share, but eventually found himself on the injury report for four weeks due to a hip strain. Going into year three, Khalil Herbert finds himself as the last man standing from the Bears’ 2021 running back core. Having shown incredible efficiency on a small portion of rush attempts, Khalil Herbert’s value is at its highest point, even with the recent free agency addition of D’Onta Foreman.
Graphs Courtesy of KeepTradeCut
Considering Khalil Herbert’s dynasty value graph, there are multiple major spikes due to some of the breakout games he’s displayed filling in for an injured David Montgomery. As of recently, his value has slightly decreased since D’Onta Foreman joined the Bears. Let’s get into some of the different metrics we can use to analyze Khalil Herbert and compare him with D’Onta Foreman to predict how the Bears will choose to distribute touches in their backfield.
Below is a chart depicting Herbert’s snap percentage by game throughout his career. There is a break in the data to separate his rookie season from his sophomore season.
While the spikes in his snap counts due to David Montgomery’s injuries are fun to look at, I’d like to focus more on his snap counts as the RB 2. From year one to two, Herbert saw a gradual increase in snaps, a very good sign for his value. However, he still didn’t quite reach the RB 1B role we may have hoped to see.
A data visualization I’ve used in previous articles, EPA per rush vs. rush yards over expected (RYOE) is a great way to measure running back efficiency. The table below shows this metric in 2022; running backs in the top-right are the most efficient while those in the bottom-left are the least efficient. The larger a player’s dot is, the more rushes they’ve received.
Data Viz by Tej Seth (@tejfbanalytics)
David Montgomery is slightly into the bottom-left quadrant, much less efficient than his former teammate Khalil Herbert, who finds himself in the top right. Just to the left of Herbert (with slightly less EPA/rush) is his new teammate, D’Onta Foreman.
The graph below is an extension of the previous visualization, isolating the data to the three backs relevant to our discussion. This allows us to see cumulative RYOE over the course of this past season, breaking down how these totals were reached over time.
Data Viz by Tej Seth (@tejfbanalytics)
When comparing the three backs, it’s obvious that Herbert and Foreman pull far ahead of Montgomery in terms of efficiency, a great sign for Bears fans. While Herbert and Foreman are very similar in terms of efficiency, they are very different in terms of their usage. Foreman received nearly 60% more carries than Herbert and has demonstrated his ability to be a workhorse back in the past. Outside of a few games filling in as the RB 1, we have yet to see the Bears give similar volume to Herbert.
RAS, another metric I’ve used in the past when evaluating running backs, is a very useful tool to consider athleticism as a whole.
RAS Metric and Graphic Courtesy of Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb)
It is important to consider that these numbers are from the combine and/or pro days of these players. Since these numbers were recorded, both backs have sustained various injuries. Foreman is also two years older than Herbert, placing him much closer to the running back expiration date of around age 27. Considering the RAS ratings for the two current Chicago running backs, it is clear that Foreman is more athletic. He has a much bigger frame and heavier build, ideal for taking on a large workload. On the other hand, Herbert is smaller and shiftier, more fit for receiving outside runs and passing-down work. Because of this, the Bears may be more inclined to give Herbert less snaps.
As much as I love to dive into the stats, I think it is very important to consider the capital and investment the Bears have placed into each of their running backs. Khalil Herbert is still on his rookie deal for the next two seasons; Foreman, on the other hand, was just signed for a one-year contract. While the Bears have put more year-to-year money into Foreman, Herbert will be on the team for a year longer.
A rather troubling sign for Herbert, though, is his draft capital. As concluded in my No Running Back is Safe article, running backs taken with day-three draft picks typically aren’t valued heavily due to their lack of athletic ceiling and low investment. Although Herbert has obviously been relatively successful thus far, the fact still remains that Chicago does not have a major investment in him via draft or financial capital.
Bringing it all Together
Herbert and Foreman are very similar in efficiency. Herbert is two years younger than the incoming veteran and has an extra year on his contract, which is potentially a sign the team will look to give more touches to the back with whom they have a greater future investment. On the flip side, the Bears have not yet shown great faith in Khalil Herbert as a workhorse back, whereas D’Onta Foreman has effectively filled this role in the past. While the Foreman signing gives optimism that the Bears won’t draft a running back early, I wouldn’t eliminate the possibility either. As of right now, I expect a 50/50 snap distribution between Herbert and Foreman. With Herbert’s efficiency, this could turn him into a reliable option.
Buy or Sell?
Overall, I am a bit lower on Herbert than I was before writing this article. However barring injury, Herbert should improve his fantasy point totals from last year and will likely have a larger role in the offense than ever before. Herbert’s success in fantasy/dynasty will be entirely reliant on how the Chicago Bears choose to distribute touches. Considering the various positives and negatives of Hebert’s situation, I believe he is accurately valued by the dynasty community. If you are looking to buy a share or two of the young back, I would hold off until after the draft on the chance Chicago opts to take a running back in the first two days. As mentioned in the past, this running back class is deep, and I believe there will definitely be some surprise landing spots. The addition of another young running back to this backfield would be troublesome for both Herbert and Foreman.
Check out other Dynasty Breakdowns here and check me out on twitter @JackJReinhart