Fantasy Equity Scores: The Red Flag Running Back Tier
August 17, 2015 | Chet
Here’s the comprehensive list of backs taken in the RB13-24 range who exceeded their 2014 average draft positions: Frank Gore, Le’Veon Bell, and Joique Bell.
And here’s the list of RB13-24 runners who outperformed their 2013 ADPs: Reggie Bush, Gio Bernard, and Chris Johnson.
Hence, I see this tier of running backs as something of a wasteland, where value is hard to come by as we choose from backs with somewhat fluid roles and possibly limited opportunity in an offense that might be less than great.
I’m not charging that runners from the top tier — or lower tiers — always meet or exceed their draft day costs. Knowing that the RB13-24 range hasn’t been a well of fantasy equity is a good reminder that these guys are hardly cheaper versions of their first and second round counterparts.
Equity scores in last year’s RB13-24 range pointed to Toby Gerhart and Rashad Jennings as guys who could deliver massive equity. Neither delivered. Gerhart was horrendous, then injured, whereas Jennings was constantly dinged up, though effective when he got touches in the Giants’ offense.
Both Jennings and Gerhart sported enticing high equity scores, but low median projections, showing once again that the early rounds of a draft are no place to take home run swings. Median equity scores should still be our guiding light with this tier, as it is with the first 12 running backs off the draft board.
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.
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.
|Player||ADP||Median equity score||High equity score|
|Lamar Miller||RB13||1 (RB12)||6 (RB7)|
|Melvin Gordon||RB14||-9 (RB23)||-2 (RB16)|
|Alfred Morris||RB15||-8 (RB23)||0 (RB15)|
|Joseph Randle||RB16||-5 (RB21)||4 (RB12)|
|Mark Ingram||RB17||2 (RB15)||4 (RB13)|
|Latavius Murray||RB18||-10 (RB28)||3 (RB15)|
|Carlos Hyde||RB19||-9 (RB28)||0 (RB19)|
|Jonathan Stewart||RB20||6 (RB14)||12 (RB8)|
|Andre Ellington||RB21||1 (RB20)||8 (RB13)|
|Todd Gurley||RB22||-13 (RB35)||1 (RB21)|
|C.J. Spiller||RB23||2 (RB21)||6 (RB17)|
|T.J. Yeldon||RB24||4 (RB20)||7 (RB17)|
* Lamar Miller is the clear target here — a guy who should reap the benefits of an efficient offense captained by an improving quarterback and a bolstered surrounding cast. It was a tad concerning that Miami’s backup running back, Damien Williams, got almost all of the red zone work in last week’s preseason tilt against Chicago, though it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from exhibition games. Miller wasn’t yanked from the lineup last year when the Dolphins crossed the 20. Miller’s splits in Miami wins and losses are also on the concerning side: he notched five fewer fantasy points in Dolphins losses last season. The split is almost entirely related to touchdowns. Miller averaged .75 scores in Miami eight wins and .25 touchdowns in eight losses. He saw an almost identical workload in wins and losses. Miller’s median equity score is what I like here, and his sim score comps include a few eye-catching players. Ryan Mathews’ 2011 campaign (1,546 total yards on just 272 touches) and Jamaal Charles’ 2010 season (1,935 total yards on just 275 touches) are among the more intriguing comps. There’s also Knowshon Moreno’s 2010, which saw him crack 1,100 yards on a measly 218 touches. These were incredibly efficient fantasy seasons, and Miller does not profile as a runner who’s going to get 350 touches. Using Rotoviz’s Projection Machine and increasing the Dolphins’ offensive pace — something coaches have stressed this summer — and giving Miller a meager 60 percent of the team’s carries creates a 1,484-yard campaign in 2015. I’m bullish on the entire Miami offense, including Miller.
* Here’s Carlos Hyde‘s best case scenario for 2015: The Niners are able to compete most weeks, Colin Kaepernick shows no improvement, and the team does everything it can to pound away on the ground behind a shaky offensive line. The worst case: Hyde falls into a timeshare, gets no piece of passing downs and is removed from the offensive picture when the 49ers face massive deficits thanks to their potentially terrible defense. I see Hyde as Alfred Morris, but in a much more precarious situation. His median projection should be enough for you to let someone — anyone — take him at his current ADP.
* We got a glimpse of what Andre Ellington could do in last week’s preseason game against the Chiefs. Ellington is a fantastic asset in the passing game and it’s pretty clear that Carson Palmer knows as much. While Ellington doesn’t profile as a 250-carry running back, he doesn’t need a massive workload on the ground to prove useful for fantasy owners. Remove Ellington’s injury-shortened Week 13 performance last season and you get a handful of intriguing sim score comps, including Edgerrin James in 2003, when he went for more than 1,500 yards in 13 games. Most of Ellington’s closest 2015 comps were involved in their team’s aerial game. If you can stomach the potential for injuries, I think Ellington can return some nice value as the 21st runner off the board.
* I find myself with Jonathan Stewart in nearly every draft this summer. It was clear late last season that the Panthers had found some sort of offensive identity with Stewart as their primary runner after months of flailing about as a pass-first team. Stewart averaged 96.9 rushing yards on 18.2 carries per game over the season’s final four weeks (not including his 124-yard playoff performance), when the Carolina offense took on an entirely different look. He wasn’t scoring touchdowns by the bushel full, of course, but he was being fed and fed consistently. Stewart has proven effective when he hasn’t had to share the Panthers backfield with DeAngelo Williams. In 20 games with Williams on the shelf, Stewart managed 93.1 total yards on an average of 18 touches — almost a carbon copy of his late-season 2014 stats. You’re not going to find a much better median equity score in this range of running backs.