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Fantasy Football Consistency: Running Backs


Bob Lung shares the most consistent quarterbacks of 2016 and his projections for 2017. Follow him @bob_lung

The running back position had lost its stranglehold on Fantasy owners over the years. The draft theory of grabbing two running backs in the first two rounds is still dead, but the ZERO RB theory is also dead! As I have mentioned over the past couple of years, you can see the trends below regarding the decline of the super-stud backs (scoring based on PPR).

 

2002 – 2008 – Number of RB’s over 300 points in one season = 31 running backs

2002 – 2008 – Number of RB’s over 400 points in one season = 5 running backs

 

2015 – 2009 – Number of RB’s over 300 points in one season = 20 running backs

2015 – 2009 – Number of RB’s over 400 points in one season = ZERO running backs

 

Despite this, fantasy footballers rejoice! 2016 was slightly better with our first running back (David Johnson) over 400 points since 2006 when Ladainian Tomlinson and Steven Jackson both did it! There were two running backs over 300 points, Ezekiel Elliott and LeVeon Bell. Bell earned over 300 points in only 12 games, so 400 points for Bell in a season isn’t out of the question.

So, as we head into 2017, the No RB approach has died before it really had life. Not that I believed in it anyways. The top three picks once again in Fantasy drafts are running backs. Finding consistent quality at the running back spot after that can be troublesome. This is where the Clutch Games and consistency play a key role in identifying the consistently excellent backs that can help you win a championship versus the very good, yet inconsistent, backs that will cause you headaches.

Let’s look at those running backs ranked in their projected Tier for 2017 and show you their 2016 total points and consistency and where they ranked in those categories in 2016.

So, let’s start with the top tier of running backs.

TIER ONE

Player Name Total Points Pts Rank Total CG Total GP CR % 2016 Rank 2017 Tier 2017 Rank
David Johnson 411.80 1 15 16 94% 2 RB1A 1
LeVeon Bell 317.40 3 12 12 100% 1 RB1A 2
Ezekiel Elliott 327.40 2 14 15 93% 3 RB1A 3
Melvin Gordon 254.60 7 11 13 85% 6 RB1A 4
LeSean McCoy 297.30 4 13 15 87% 5 RB1A 5

 

This Tier consists of running backs that can obtain an Expected Clutch Rate (ECR) of 80+% in 2017. All five of them accomplished this in 2016 and should be capable of doing it again. David Johnson and LeVeon Bell are locks for the #1 and #2 overall in most Fantasy drafts this year. Ezekiel Elliott concerns me a little bit as the Cowboys lost two offensive linemen in the offseason. I believe he’ll hit the 80% ECR, I just believe he’ll slip a bit. Melvin Gordon and LeSean McCoy should be late first round picks after the WR1A wide receivers come off the board. In summary, if you can get any of these backs in the first round, you are off to a good start.

TIER TWO

Player Name Total Points Pts Rank Total CG Total GP CR % 2016 Rank 2017 Tier 2017 Rank
DeMarco Murray 295.90 5 14 16 88% 4 RB1B 6
Devonta Freeman 286.10 6 11 16 69% 8 RB1B 7
Jordan Howard 232.10 10 11 15 73% 7 RB1B 8
Todd Gurley 200.20 15 11 16 69% 10 RB1B 9
Lamar Miller 193.10 19 9 14 64% 12 RB1B 10
Jay Ajayi 217.30 11 7 15 47% 28 RB1B 11
Frank Gore 216.30 12 11 16 69% 9 RB1B 12

 

The running backs in this Tier (RB1B) have an ECR of 67-80% in 2017. As you will note above, most of them earned this Clutch Rate in 2016. DeMarco Murray earned an 88% Clutch Rate last season, but I have a difficult time putting Murray in the RB1A range as long as Derrick Henry is healthy. Murray’s current ADP is RB10/pick 23. I believe he should be ranked higher than that as evidenced by his ranking of RB6 above.

The back that scares me the most is Jay Ajayi. He ended the year ranked 11th in total points, but his HORRID Clutch Rate of 47% screams “Stay Away”! There’s no reason to believe that’s going to change. Same offense, same head coach, etc. says he’s not consistent enough to be picked as a RB1. In fact, I would pick Frank Gore ahead of Ajayi, if he wasn’t so damn old! My thought is if you get to a draft day decision between Ajayi and a consistent wide receiver, take the receiver.

TIER THREE

Player Name Total Points Pts Rank Total CG Total GP CR % 2016 Rank 2017 Tier 2017 Rank
Tevin Coleman 191.10 20 8 13 62% 16 RB2A 13
Isaiah Crowell 209.10 14 9 16 56% 19 RB2A 14
C.J. Anderson 102.50 45 4 7 57% 18 RB2A 15

 

This is a small section of RB2’s, who are above the rest and have the ability to earn between an ECR of 60-67% this year. Tevin Coleman on most other teams is an RB1, but with Devonta Freeman in the way, Coleman maintains a solid RB2 status. His 62% Clutch Rate last year is amazing considering his time share with Freeman. Isaiah Crowell is a forgotten man in Fantasy because he plays for the Browns. However, a new and improved offensive line could improve his solid Clutch Rate of 56% in 2017. If he earns just one or two more Clutch Games, he’s in the RB1B Tier. C.J. Anderson is on the fence with me. He has the ability to up his game but, he needs to stay healthy and keep Jamaal Charles from cutting into his carries.

TIER FOUR

Player Name Total Points Pts Rank Total CG Total GP CR % 2016 Rank 2017 Tier 2017 Rank
Spencer Ware 199.90 16 7 14 50% 22 RB2B 16
Mark Ingram 242.20 8 8 16 50% 21 RB2B 17
Danny Woodhead 27.10 94 1 2 50% 25 RB2B 20
Theo Riddick 161.80 25 6 10 60% 17 RB2B 21
Mike Gillislee 125.60 38 5 15 33% 45 RB2B 22
Latavius Murray 210.20 13 9 14 64% 11 RB2B 23
Carlos Hyde 196.10 18 8 13 62% 15 RB2B 24

 

This section has some running backs, who prior to 2016 had some very consistent seasons. Mark Ingram and Danny Woodhead were once in the RB1 Tiers. Ingram would have been there again, except the Saints signed Adrian Peterson in the offseason. Woodhead is now in Baltimore and with Kenneth Dixon being a head-case, could be a very consistent PPR back for the Ravens. His current ADP is RB37, so there’s a ton of value to be had. Mike Gillislee in New England this year also provides a ton of value. His current ADP is RB34 and is certainly worth a look come draft time. Latavius Murray and Carlos Hyde have both earned over 60% last season, but their situations on their respective teams are shaky at best.

Well, there are your Expected Clutch Rate rankings for the running backs in 2017 with some 2016 data to support their cause. If you didn’t make the playoffs and you had Mark Ingram or Matt Forte on your team and can’t understand why, I hope this helped clear things up.

To find out more about consistency in Fantasy Football and how it can help your teams, just go to www.BigGuyFantasySports.com. There you can find the 2017 Fantasy Football Consistency Guide and many more tools to help your team improve!

 


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