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Fantasy Advice (NFL)

Scarcity at Running Back

Chris Carson. Photo by Jeffery Beall. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

I thought this article was important to go over why you should draft running backs early as a draft strategy in 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 Flex PPR format. I wanted to find the point where production starts to teeter off and compare the amount of RBs and WRs available at that point.

Most fantasy managers are shooting for a flex player that averages at least 12 points per game. At such an injury-filled position, it is common for running backs to play 14.5 game seasons, the total point threshold for consistent play will be 12 x 14.5 = 174.4 (the .4 difference weeds out one inconsistent running back discussed below).

Looking at the past 4 years, the top 15 running backs always hit 12 points per game and reached 174.4 points during the 16-week fantasy season. It’s important to try and grab 2-3 of those top 15 backs because of scarcity and injury at the position. You can usually grab WRs that hit those same thresholds, later in the draft. Some years have more than 15 consistent backs, which makes it easier to grab a 3rd back, but 15 has been the minimum in recent years.

 

2019: The drop off in running back talent cratered from RB 21 to RB 22 in PPR formats. Devonta Freeman scored 188.3 points and Marlon Mack scored 161.6 points. Mack did average 12.4 points per game, but he only played in 13 games. A usable back, but not as consistent as Freeman above him. 21 consistent running backs reached 174.4 and 27 usable running backs averaged 11.6 points per game.
I chose 11.6 points per game as the threshold for “useable” backs because it included useable Matt Breida for 2018 and excluded unusable Derrius Guice (11.5 PPG) in 2019.

The goal is to try and get 3 of those backs from the top 21. As an example, I was able to ride Dalvin Cook, Chris Carson, and Mark Ingram to my fantasy championship title last year.

To highlight RB scarcity compared to WRs: there were 32 WRs that reached 174.4 points and 41 WRs that averaged 11.6 points per game. 11 more consistent WRs and 14 more usable WRs compared to RBs.

Another scarce position, only 6 TEs were consistent enough to reach 174.4 points. Austin Hooper was the last consistent TE of that year. I try to draft TEs early because of their scarcity as well. I aim to draft a top 3 TE every year.

 

2018: 19 consistent running backs reached 174.4 points and 30 usable running backs averaged 11.6 points per game. Tevin Coleman was the last consistent back with 181.2 points that year.

To highlight RB scarcity compared to WRs: there were 25 WRs that reached 174.4 points and 37 WRs that averaged 11.6 points per game. 6 more consistent WRs and 7 more usable WRs compared to RBs. This was the lowest difference in scarcity among all 4 years.

Only 5 TEs were consistent enough to reach 174.4 points. Jared Cook was considered the last consistent TE of that year.

 

2017: 15 consistent running backs reached 174.4 points and 20 usable running backs averaged 11.6 points per game. Devonta Freeman was the last consistent back with 174.4 points that year.

This is the year I looked at to mark the total point threshold. Jerick McKinnon was the 16th back at 173.7 points, a small difference, but still wildly inconsistent compared to Freeman and his cut-off.

To highlight RB scarcity compared to WRs: there were 24 WRs that reached 174.4 points and 32 WRs that averaged 11.6 points per game. 9 more consistent WRs and 12 more usable WRs compared to RBs.

Only 3 TEs were consistent enough to reach 174.4 points, but I included Evan Engram as the 4th consistent TE with an average of 11.6 points and 173.6 total points. Evan Engram was considered the last consistent TE of that year.

 

2016: 21 consistent running backs reached 174.4 points and 25 usable running backs averaged 11.6 points per game. Tevin Coleman was the last consistent back with 176.2 points. Bilal Powell had a good year and came as close as you can get to the threshold with 174.3 points. But when looking at his game log, he was more inconsistent than you would want out of a starting RB, so the threshold remained true.

To highlight RB scarcity compared to WRs: there were 38 WRs that reached 174.4 points and 43 WRs that averaged 11.6 points per game. 17 more consistent WRs and 18 more usable WRs compared to RBs. The highest difference in scarcity among all 4 years.

Only 5 TEs were consistent enough to reach 174.4 points. Jimmy Graham was considered the last consistent TE of that year.

The strongest championship contenders will have: 2 RBs in the top 15, a top 4 TE, 2 WRs in the top 24, and a flex in any of the same categories. Because RB and TE have the smallest margin of error, the easiest way to land within those bubbles is to take RB and TE early before the talent drops off.

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