Fantasy Equity Scores: Eddie Lacy, Frank Gore and More
August 14, 2015 | Chet
The running back market has, once again, adjusted itself, bucking a trend in 2014 that saw fewer and fewer runners taken in the very early rounds of fantasy drafts.
I’m not sure if this correction (over correction?) is tied to the injuries of 2014 early-round receivers like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green, but the pendulum has certainly swung once again — this time in the direction of the get-two-backs-in-the-first-two-rounds-or-die strategy.
The below data is from Fantasy Football Calculator, which I believe reflects accurate information about what normal fantasy drafts will be like.
|Year||RBs in Round 1||RBs in Round 2||RBs in Round 3||RBs in Round 4|
The adjustment has come mostly in the first round, and though it’s not a huge swing, it’s noteworthy for anyone looking to cut against the early-round grain and snatch value out of the jaws of a first-round running back run.
On to our fantasy equity scores for the top-tier running backs: the first 12 off the draft board. These players span the first, second, and third rounds. As a reminder, I’ve once again used the Rotoviz similarity score app as a baseline for these median and high projections. Adjustments have been made, as always, especially for players who have switched teams of offensive schemes.
Median equity scores of zero (or around zero) aren’t exactly disconcerting for guys going this high in drafts. It’s when high scores are at or below zero that we might hesitate to go all in on a running back. Players with the widest gaps between their median and high scores are usually dependent on big plays and touchdowns rather than a steady stream of yards and receptions.
Most running backs with yawning gaps between median and high prospects are highly dependent on game flow too. A runner who isn’t involved in his team’s passing attack is going to struggle mightily if his team stinks and is subsequently forced to the air in flailing, panicked catchup mode.
These equity scores, along with scores for tight ends, quarterbacks, and receivers, will be updated during the final week of August. Average draft positions will certainly change by then, injuries will wreak havoc and players’ roles won’t be as muddy as they are in the middle of August.
|Player||ADP||Median equity score||High equity score|
|Adrian Peterson||RB1||-8 (RB9)||-3 (RB4)|
|Le’Veon Bell||RB2||-4 (RB6)||1 (RB1)|
|Jamaal Charles||RB3||-5 (RB8)||-1 (RB4)|
|Eddie Lacy||RB4||1 (RB3)||3 (RB1)|
|Marshawn Lynch||RB5||-2 (RB7)||2 (RB3)|
|C.J. Anderson||RB6||1 (RB5)||4 (RB1)|
|Matt Forte||RB7||-1 (RB8)||4 (RB3)|
|LeSean McCoy||RB8||-10 (RB18)||-4 (RB12)|
|Jeremy Hill||RB9||0 (RB9)||4 (RB5)|
|DeMarco Murray||RB10||3 (RB7)||8 (RB2)|
|Justin Forsett||RB11||0 (RB11)||3 (RB8)|
|Frank Gore||RB12||-4 (RB16)||2 (RB10)|
* It’s not lost on me that investing in the running back for the league’s most potent offensive attack is what we in the industry call a “good idea.” That’s why I’ve always been head over heels for Peyton Manning’s running backs, sometimes to my detriment. Frank Gore is 32 years old. He’s among the least elusive runners in the league. He was as efficient as Andre Williams and Alfred Blue on a per-touch basis in 2014, per Pro Football Focus. He’s had a grand total of 28 runs of more than 15 yards over the past two seasons, despite the volume he saw as the Niners’ main ball carrier. Perhaps the Colts’ opened-up attack and weaker competition in the AFC South will make all the difference for the wily veteran who would be great in point-per-leadership fantasy formats. I’m betting it won’t, though a top-10 season is in the equity score cards for Gore. His median prospects aren’t a disaster either — just uninspiring considering the runners you can get in his ADP range. And then there’s this from Fake Football colleague Rich Hribar: “There have been only 29 different top-24 fantasy seasons from backs 32 years or older over the past 45 seasons of football.” I’m fading Gore barring a drop in ADP and drafting backup Dan Herron just in case the elderly runner falls off the proverbial cliff. Gore’s similarity scores are a case study in aged backs who found out that there is an end to their run.
* It’s been remarkable to see LeSean McCoy go from one of fantasy’s most vaunted players to a guy who is truly un-draftable at his current ADP. Shady’s sim scores are truly ugly — hideous, one might say — after he struggled mightily behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines in 2014. Now he’s set to run behind a Buffalo offensive line that ranked among the bottom-half units in 2014, according to PFF metrics. His best-case scenario would make him a top-12 back, sure, but wouldn’t come all that close to meeting his August asking price. I don’t care how much Buffalo coaches talk up McCoy’s role this summer: a high-level look at his 2015 prospects includes going from an offense that tried to score as many points as possible to one run by guys who have never seemed overly interested in points. Shady didn’t even excel against opponents’ base defenses in 2014, notching a meager 3.2 yards per tote against those fronts. He’s likely to face plenty of eight-man fronts and negative game scripts in the Bills’ (probably) horrid, one-dimensional offense. I wouldn’t take McCoy if he were available in the RB15-16 range.
* Eddie Lacy doesn’t offer much in the way of draft day equity, but he’s as safe as they come this early in the proceedings — safer than Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. Anyone taking handoffs from Aaron Rodgers is a tremendous asset; even better when that player has proven to be a pretty good all-around back. It was a nice little bump last year to see Lacy reel in 42 catches, doing quite a bit with those grabs: he tallied 428 yards and four scores through the air. His high equity score is scary high, with best-case comps that include Steven Jackson’s 2006 campaign (2,334 total yards and 16 touchdowns) and Ronnie Brown’s 2007 season (992 total yards and five touchdowns in seven games). Green Bay beat writers say the Packers want to step up the offensive tempo in 2015, as only eight teams ran fewer plays per game than the Pack in 2014. More plays, more runs, more passes: it’s all good news for a central piece of what could be fantasy’s most important offense. I think there’s a decent chance Lacy is on the verge of a statistically ludicrous season.
* And back to my possibly irrational obsession with Peyton Manning’s running backs. I have good reason, for whatever that’s worth. Peyton’s ball carries, headed into 2014, averaged — averaged! — 1,518 total yards and 10.5 touchdowns. The list of runners who have excelled in Peyton’s backfield include the incredibly talented and the not-so-talented alike. It never seemed to matter until Montee Ball struggled to start the 2014 season, got nicked up and lost his starting gig to Ronnie Hillman, who subsequently choked away the job to C.J. Anderson. There’s been talk of a time share in the Denver backfield, I know, but that doesn’t make me hedge too hard on Anderson. Removing Weeks 1-9 from Anderson’s sim scores — it wasn’t until Week 10 that he was given a starter’s workload — puts the shifty runner’s high score off the charts. LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2006 campaign — fantasy football’s Holy Grail — shows up in Anderson’s sim score comps. So does Larry Johnson’s 2005, when the big back cracked 2,000 total yards and scored 21 times. Only Le’Veon Bell could keep pace with Anderson during the season’s final eight weeks, with every other running back falling well behind the fantasy point bonanza hosted by Anderson and Bell. Anderson, during that run, scored .54 fantasy points per touch, or an incredible .17 more than Matt Forte. He did a lot with a little, and with the Denver coaching staff talking up the running game as a late-career crutch for the elderly Peyton, I think it’s fairly clear that Anderson will get more than enough carries and receptions to be a consistent, possibly dominant, fantasy producer. “I believe in the bell cow,” head coach Gary Kubiak said in a recent interview with the Denver Post. Kubiak is begging you to consider Anderson at his reasonable ADP. So am I.