Hello fake footballers and welcome to the second installment of Scoring Settings Analysis for the 2012 NFL season. The last time around, we looked at how the fantasy rankings of quarterbacks changed based upon the value of passing touchdowns and interceptions. This episode of autism-inducing number porn focuses on running backs and how their rankings change based on the fantasy point value of a reception, be it 1.0, 0.5, or 0.0 points. I’ll also take a quick look at which RBs profited the most in leagues using kick and punt return yardage as a stat category.
For this exercise, assume these constant scoring settings:
• 25 passing yards = 1 point
• Passing TD = 5 points
• Interception = -2 points
• 10 rushing yards = 1 point
• Rushing TD = 6 points
• 10 receiving yards = 1 point
• Receiving TD = 6 points
• Return TD = 6 points
• 2-pt conversion = 2 points
• Fumble lost = -2 points
The following spreadsheet shows the total and per-game points scored by RBs for each reception point value in 2012.
Some quick notes on navigating the spreadsheet:
1. The first tab amasses all the statistics and then calculates total fantasy points and fantasy points per game, but does not order or rank the players based on these numbers. It also contains a table showing the variance in fantasy points and rankings when return yards are used as a stat category.
2. The second tab ranks the players by fantasy points per game under each possible scoring setup.
3. The third tab ranks the players by total fantasy points under each possible scoring setup.
4. The fourth tab is the same as the second tab, except the players are color-coded for easier identification of trends between scoring setups.
Fantasy Points per Game Trends:
• The top tier of running backs is not surprising, with Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, and Arian Foster earning the top 3 spots regardless of scoring settings. One could argue that AP was really tier-1 all by himself. He was at least 2 points better per game than Martin in all formats, while the most by which Martin out-scored Foster was 0.594 points per game in PPR leagues.
• Tier 2 is significantly more ambiguous and very much depends on the value of receptions. Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice, and Trent Richardson all certainly belong, as none rank lower than #7 in any format. Alfred Morris also deserves inclusion, despite his #10 ranking in PPR. C.J. Spiller, LeSean McCoy, and Jamaal Charles round out the list, but it’s worth noting that McCoy was much more valuable in PPR formats. Contrary to the perception of Charles as a pass-catcher, he actually slides down the rankings as the value of receptions increases. With Andy Reid headed to Kansas City, look for Charles to flip the script and put up better numbers in PPR formats next season.
• Despite his petite stature, Darren Sproles is always the elephant in the room when it comes to scoring settings analysis for RBs. Last year, he was #16 in non-PPR, #13 in 0.5-PPR, and #9 in PPR. This year, he rushed for 359 fewer yards, so his rankings gap between formats is even more significant. Sproles jumps from #20 in non-PPR to #11 in 0.5-PPR to #9 in PPR. No other running back in the PPR top-30 ranks more than five spots higher than his spot in non-PPR.
• Outside of the top-30, the following RBs matched or bettered Sproles’ 13-spot rankings jump from non-PPR to PPR: Jacquizz Rodgers (14 spots), Marcel Reece (17), Ronnie Brown (26), Dexter McCluster (28), James Casey (13), and Chris Ogbonnaya (16). As players with multiple position eligibility, McCluster and Casey make a lot of sense in that list. The rest are true third-down backs, making their living catching screens and dump-offs out of the backfield.
• The yin to Darren Sproles’ yang, Stevan Ridley goes from #10 in non-PPR to #21 in PPR. Whether you perceive this as Ridley “falling” or “rising” in the rankings is up to you and your biases, but it’s best to imagine these ethereal forces as complimentary. Ridley at #10 in non-PPR couldn’t exist without Ridley at #21 in PPR and vice versa. The universe is infinite. All leagues are one. Don’t draft a kicker until the last round. Om.
• With rankings-drops comparable to Ridley’s 11-spot fall from non-PPR to PPR, here are the “Stone-Hands All-Stars”: Michael Bush (10-spot drop), Chris Ivory (14), Mark Ingram (13), Beanie Wells (19), David Wilson (10), Justin Forsett (14), Tashard Choice (11), and Montario Hardesty (14). The second-team of plodders is as follows: Andre Brown (5), Ahmad Bradshaw (5), DeAngelo Williams (5), DuJuan Harris (6), Donald Brown (8), James Starks (7), Shane Vereen (5), Brandon Bolden (8), Bernard Pierce (8), Lamar Miller (7), and LeGarrette Blount (5). An RB landing on these lists is just as indicative of usage/team philosophy as it is of pass-catching ability. Ivory and Ingram don’t need to catch passes for the Saints because that responsibility falls on Sproles and Pierre Thomas. The Patriots use tight ends, slot receivers, and Danny Woodhead for their short-to-intermediate passing routes, so Ridley, Vereen, and Bolden spend all most of their playing time carrying the ball and helping in pass protection.
• Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee were essentially the same fantasy running back on a per-game basis.
• For the second season in a row, Chris Johnson failed to deliver on his first-round draft price, finishing at #19 in the Average Composite Rankings (see the QB piece for an explanation of ACR). Fool me once, shame on Chris Johnson. Fool me twice, never drafting him again.
• Based on his preseason ADP and struggles staying healthy, DeMarco Murray’s 2012 season is probably perceived poorly by most fake footballers. He still finished at #13 in PPR and #14 in 0.5-PPR in points per game, right around Matt Forte and Frank Gore. If Murray can stay healthy next season, he could be a nice value in the late first round or early second round, especially in PPR formats.
• Speaking of Gore and Forte: slightly unexciting to own, but still fantasy relevant.
• Green Bay running backs: very unexciting to own, not particularly fantasy relevant.
• Even worse than the Packers RBs were the Steelers RBs. Jonathan Dwyer fared the best, but only managed the #40 ACR. Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall finished #57 and #59, respectively, but each were more valuable in PPR leagues than standard scoring leagues. I’d like to think the best Steelers RB for 2013 isn’t on the roster yet, but if Pittsburgh doesn’t bolster their backfield in the offseason, Mendenhall is guy to own. Dwyer and Redman each had ample opportunity to take over as the featured back and failed. With Mendy another year removed from knee surgery, he is the favorite to lead the Steelers’ rushing attack next season.
• Michael Turner remained relevant in 2012 thanks to 10 rushing TDs, but his usage trended down after the Falcon’s bye, while the usage of Jaquizz Rodgers increased. This was a changing of the guard season at RB in Atlanta, but Turner could reinvent himself in a late-in-his-career-Jerome-Bettis role if he’s still on the team. Meanwhile, before you go crazy for Rodgers and draft him in the second round, note that he only averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Here are the other RBs who averaged 3.9 YPC in 2012: Vick Ballard, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Shonn Greene, Donald Brown, and Ronnie Hillman. Elite company, that is not (#Yoda).
• Coming in at 3.8 yards per carry, Ryan Mathews! I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the most over-hyped
running back player of 2012 drafts. Like many fake footballers, I bought into the ballyhoo and got burned as Mathews doddered his way to an ACR of 30. These first-round RB busts happen every year and each instance puts more and more fantasy managers on the first-round-WR bandwagon. We can’t all draft Calvin Johnson, so unless we’re willing to reach for Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, or Dez Bryant, many of us picking in the 4-10 range are doomed suffer the Mathews curse again next season.
As a bonus, if you’re in a league that uses kick and punt return yardage as a stat category, you can mine a small amount of extra knowledge from the spreadsheet. On the “Data” tab, the players are ranked for a 0.5-PPR league that also awards 1 point for every 30 return yards. I’ve pasted the generic 0.5-PPR total-points rankings to the right of the data grid and highlighted the players that gain value when using return yardage. Here’s a brief breakdown:
• With the return yardage bonus, Darren Sproles moves up four spots in the total points rankings for 0.5-PPR, from #16 to #12. If we average out his 666 return yards over 16 games, it translates to an extra 1.386 fantasy points per game. Adding that to his 0.5-PPR average of 13.738 bumps his points per game up to 15.124, which moves him from #11 in the 0.5-PPR average points rankings up to #8, ahead of C.J. Spiller and right behind Trent Richardson. In the average rankings for PPR, Sproles jumps from #7 to #4 with his extra return yardage points, landing him right between Arian Foster at #3 and Ray Rice at #5. Sproles was already a borderline first-rounder in PPR leagues, but if your PPR league also counts return yards, Sproles is a potential top-5 pick.
• Only 4 other RBs in the top-50 gained any value with the addition of return yardage points. Danny Woodhead only moves up one spot in the total points rankings, while Jacquizz Rodgers and LaRod Stephens-Howling only move up six spots. David Wilson, on the other hand, climbs 20 spots in the total points rankings, thanks to 1533 return yards. Wilson should have an expanded role in the Giants’ offense next season, so it’s possible his kick returning duties will be scaled back. If he continues to work special teams while earning more playing time with the offense, Wilson will be a major asset in return yardage leagues in 2013.
• The other running backs who make big jumps in the rankings for return yardage leagues are Shaun Draughn, Chris Rainey, Darius Reynaud, Joe McKnight, Leon Washington, Marcus Thigpen, and Stefan Logan. Reynaud and Draughn both cracked the top-50 and Rainey came close (#58). Washington, McKnight, and Thigpen all finished in the top 75, but in the end, their production simply isn’t consistent enough to rely upon, even if your league uses return yards. Ultimately, most of the relevant return men are wide receivers (including Reynaud & Logan, who are dual-eligible) or DBs if you play in an IDP league with return yards.
That’s all for this installment of Scoring Settings Analysis. Tune in next time for the same analytics applied to wide receivers. Thanks for reading and feel free to post any questions or feedback for me in the comments or on Twitter @gregsauce.