When Denver slapped restricted free agent C.J. Anderson with an "original round" tender, they were gambling that another team wouldn't step in with a sizable contract offer.
Instead, Anderson generated quite a bit of interest, reportedly turning down an even better offer to sign a four-year, $18 million offer sheet with Miami. Denver decided to match the offer on Tuesday, which will keep Anderson in the orange and blue for the near future. Had the Broncos declined to match the offer, they would've received no compensation.
Considering his underwhelming start to the season, this may seem like a surprise, but Anderson had a terrific 2015 campaign.
Yes, I know. If you drafted him in the first round of your fantasy draft, he certainly let you down. But that was more a result of poor personnel mismanagement and a slow start than it was Anderson's all-around effectiveness.
It might seem silly to suggest a team that won the Super Bowl had mismanaged its personnel, but it's no secret that the Denver offense had its fair share of problems. In fact, the Broncos managed only 26 offensive touchdowns over 19 games. That 1.89 per-game rate was seventh-worst in the NFL.
With many focused on the team's management of the quarterback position, Anderson, who went undrafted back in 2013, was ceding snaps and, more importantly, touches to the grossly-inferior Ronnie Hillman. Across 18 games, Anderson was on the field for 623 snaps, handled 206 carries and was targeted 43 times. He played at least three quarters of the team's snaps in three games. Meanwhile, Hillman handled 239 carries and 36 targets on 599 snaps. Despite the similar usage, Anderson racked up 1,176 yards from scrimmage (4.9 yards per touch) to Hillman's 1,035 (3.9). Plain and simple, Anderson was underused, which was a major factor in his disappointing fantasy season.
Of course, as noted earlier, Anderson didn't help his cause with a slow start to the season. During Weeks 1-6, Anderson managed only 180 yards on 67 carries (2.69 YPC) and failed to score a single touchdown. Fifty-four running backs had more fantasy points.
Following Denver's Week 7 bye, however, the tide turned. During the final 11 weeks of the regular season, Anderson averaged a position-high 6.4 YPC. That included 2.8 yards after contact per attempt, which was best among 38 backs who carried the ball more than 70 times. Despite missing a game and ranking 35th at the position in carries, Anderson finished 19th at the position in fantasy points during the span, which included a trio of Top 20 finishes over his final five games.
Anderson, of course, truly exploded onto the fantasy scene during the 2014 season. A comparison of Anderson to the rest of the league during the past two years shows he stacks up with the best in the business. In terms of YPC, his 4.67 mark trails only Le'Veon Bell (4.76), Lamar Miller (4.81) and Justin Forsett (4.87) among 30 backs with at least 300 carries. According to Pro Football Focus, Anderson's 68 forced missed tackles are eighth-most in the league during the span. His average of one per every 4.87 carries is fourth-best (min. 200 carries).
Back with Denver, Anderson is locked in as the team's lead back, easily ahead of the likes of Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs. It's possible the Broncos re-sign Hillman, but as they seemed to learn during their Super Bowl run, Anderson is clearly the superior back. Denver will certainly add competition and/or depth at the position, but Anderson will obviously be the heavy front runner to carry the load in Gary Kubiak's run-first scheme.
Anderson owns a resume that shows excellent rushing production over 412 carries, coupled with competent effectiveness as both a receiver and pass blocker. Following a fairly quick rise up the NFL ranks similar to that of Arian Foster earlier this decade, Anderson is on the verge of finally exploding into fantasy stardom in 2016. The 25 year old should be on your radar as a fringe RB1 and one of this season's top post-hype sleepers.