Updated Fantasy Equity Scores: Running Backs September 4, 2015  |  Chet





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Draft day equity has been drained from some running backs, while others have seen a marked uptick in fantasy equity thanks to a quiet — or bad — preseason.

No position changes like running back in the weeks leading up to Opening Day, and this year is no different. What we perceive with our eyeballs matters more than almost anything in fantasy football decision making, for better or worse (it’s worse). I sometimes wonder if I contaminate my decision making process by sitting down on Sunday afternoons and, you know, actually watching NFL games.

I don’t think the theory is as ludicrous as it may seem. One example: Ameer Abdullah’s ADP skyrocketed in August not because his role on the Lions changed or because Joique Bell was lost for the season, but because fantasy footballers finally saw him in action. They liked what they saw, so Abdullah’s equity score changed dramatically over a three-week span.

I count about half a dozen runners who make it more than viable to spend your first two (or three) picks on wide receivers. My favorite teams, without the horrors of the regular season upon us, are stocked with top-end pass catchers. Trios like Julio Jones, Randall Cobb and Jordan Matthews will dominate the flex position, which, in case you missed it, is a key to long-term fantasy success.

Here’s how I calculate fantasy equity scores, for those interested in the process.


Player ADP Median equity score High equity score Target?
Adrian Peterson RB1 -8 (RB9) -3 (RB4)
Le’Veon Bell RB2 -5 (RB7) 0 (RB2) Yes
Eddie Lacy RB3 0 (RB3) 2 (RB1) Yes
Marshawn Lynch RB4 -4 (RB8) 0 (RB4)
Jamaal Charles RB5 -3 (RB8) -1 (RB4)
C.J. Anderson RB6 1 (RB5) 5 (RB1) Yes
Jeremy Hill RB7 -2 (RB9) 2 (RB5)
Matt Forte RB8 0 (RB8) 5 (RB3)
DeMarco Murray RB9 2 (RB7) 7 (RB2) Yes
LeSean McCoy RB10 -8 (RB18) -3 (RB13)
Justin Forsett RB11 0 (RB11) 2 (RB9)
Lamar Miller RB12 0 (RB12) 5 (RB7) Yes


*  Not much to see in this tier. I would take Lacy over every running back right now. I see good reason Lacy could post eye-popping numbers in Green Bay’s offense, especially after the loss of Jordy Nelson. He’ll catch passes, he’ll get goal line work, and godspeed to the defense that decides to focus on stopping the run and stacking the box against Aaron Rodgers.


*  Miller’s slight ADP rise (from RB14 to RB12) is little reason to fade him in re-draft leagues. You’re not just chasing his high score — something we see a lot in running backs — because he has such a solid median equity score. 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 sim score comps for Miller. 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.


Player ADP Median equity score High equity score Target?
Frank Gore RB13 -3 (RB16) 2 (RB11)
Mark Ingram RB14 1 (RB13) 3 (RB10) Yes
Latavius Murray RB15 -13 (RB28) 0 (RB15)
Alfred Morris RB16 -8 (RB24) 0 (RB16)
Carlos Hyde RB17 -10 (RB27) -1 (RB18)
Melvin Gordon RB18 -8 (RB26) -1 (RB19)
Doug Martin RB19 -4 (RB23) 5 (RB14) Yes
Joseph Randle RB20 -4 (RB24) 3 (RB17)
Ameer Abdullah RB21 3 (RB18) 11 (RB10) Yes
Arian Foster RB22 -1(RB23) 7 (RB15) Yes
Chris Ivory RB23 -6 (RB29) 2 (RB21)
Jonathan Stewart RB24 10 (RB14) 16 (RB8) Yes


* Ingram says he’s an every-down running back and New Orleans coaches don’t seem to disagree. With C.J. Spiller injured — as per usual — this preseason, Ingram has looked the part of a three-down back in a Saints’ offense that vows to run the ball more than they ever have. I’ll believe that when I see it. Ingram, who score just .01 fantasy points per touch less than Lacy in 2014, has almost identical upside as Justin Forsett, who is going a full round earlier than the Saints’ runner.


* Stewart, thanks to being kept in bubble wrap for the entire preseason, has seen a marked ADP plunge, giving the Carolina running back even more equity than he had three weeks ago. He’s a must-target back for me at RB24, just as he was at RB20. 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. Some touchdown regressions would put JStew’s high equity score very much in play.

* Abdullah’s once-astronomical equity scores has come back to earth over the past month as fantasy owners understand that he will (and should) have a locked-in role in a not-horrible offense. Part of the reason for Abdullah’s high median projection is Joique Bell’s prospects: the Rotoviz sim score app, which I use as a baseline tool for these scores, shows that Bell’s best-case scenario is Fred Jackson’s 2011 season. This is the case for nearly ever old running back. The rest of his sim score comps are ugly: a bunch of plodders (Shonn Greene, Cadillac Williams, Cedric Benson, Michael Bush) with mostly limited roles. Abdullah is a good — not great — target at RB21.

* Foster’s median and high projections assume a 12-game season, as reports seem to point to the Houston back missing the first four games of 2015. Foster is old for a running back, has a long history of soft tissue injuries and will be the centerpiece of a total garbage dump of an offense. I think volume is what we’re chasing here. Foster’s splits in Houston wins and losses are fairly encouraging, in case you were wondering. He’s notched 17.6 fantasy points in Texans losses since his breakout 2010 campaign, while averaging 20.8 points in Houston wins. You’ll see Foster drop well below his RB22 ADP in drafts. I see him as an absolute cold-blooded steal around the RB30 mark.


Player ADP Median equity score High equity score Target?
Andre Ellington RB25 5 (RB20) 12 (RB13)
Todd Gurley RB26 -9 (RB35) 4 (RB22)
TJ Yeldon RB27 6 (RB21) 8 (RB19)
LeGarrette Blount RB28 2 (RB26) 8 (RB20)
C.J. Spiller RB29 7 (RB22) 11 (RB18)
Rashad Jennings RB30 1 (RB29) 8 (RB22)
Ryan Mathews RB31 4 (RB27) 8 (RB23) Yes
Joique Bell RB32 0 (RB32) 6 (RB26)
Alfred Blue RB33 -8 (RB41) 3 (RB30)
Giovani Bernard RB34 6 (RB28) 12 (RB22) Yes
Tevin Coleman RB35 -3 (RB38) 3 (RB32)
Darren McFadden RB36 -12 (RB48) 6 (RB30)
Tre Mason RB37 7 (RB30) 16 (RB21) Yes
Isaiah Crowell RB38 -2 (RB40) 3 (RB35)
Shane Vereen RB39 10 (RB29) 14 (RB25) Yes
Bishop Sankey RB40 3 (RB37) 6 (RB34)


* Mathews’ high equity score doesn’t have his best-case scenario built into it. A hobbled DeMarco Murray would make Mathews — in my humble estimation — a plugged-in top-10 running back. And I think that’s conservative. The Eagles were interested in bringing Mathews to Philly long before Murray became available in free agency and there are reasons to believe Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense could run the ball more than 500 times, as they did in 2013. Reaching that 500-carry mark would give Mathews 150 totes behind an elite offensive line, if beat writers’ belief that Mathews will see 30 percent of the team’s carries holds true. Forty percent of the team’s carries would give Mathews 200 carries. I have Mathews on every re-draft team. You’re getting the ever-present hate discount on Mathews in 2015.


* Ellington’s projections are contingent on the oft-injured, ineffective, inefficient running back maintaining some semblance of a workhorse role in Bruce Arians’ offense. Probably that’s a lofty assumption considering the team invested a third round pick in David Johnson, who has drawn his fair share of praise from Cardinals teammates and coaches this preseason. My Living The Stream co-host, JJ Zachariason, has made a compelling argument that Johnson — available in the 10th round — is the Arizona running back to own in 2015. I would wholeheartedly agree if Ellington’s 16-game median and high scores weren’t so tasty. I tend not to target Ellington because there are usually two or three receivers I’d rather have at that point in the draft, but I couldn’t blame you for being swept away with Ellington’s best-case scenario.


Player ADP Median equity score High equity score Target?
Danny Woodhead RB41 10 (RB31) 17 (RB24) Yes
Devonta Freeman RB42 10 (RB32) 14 (RB28) Yes
Duke Johnson RB43 3 (RB43) 7 (RB36)
David Cobb RB44 -1 (RB45) 12 (RB32)
Ronnie Hillman RB45 0 (RB45) 4 (RB41)
Darren Sproles RB46 4 (RB42) 10 (RB36)
Knile Davis RB47 4 (RB43) 8 (RB39)
David Johnson RB48 4 (RB44) 12 (RB36)
DeAngelo Williams RB49 -11 (RB60) -2 (RB51)
Jonas Gray RB50 0 (RB50) 6 (RB44)
Reggie Bush RB51 11 (RB40) 13 (RB38)
Matt Jones RB52 3 (RB49) 9 (RB43)
Cameron Artis-Payne RB53 -20 (RB73) -14 (RB67)
Andre Williams RB54 -2 (RB56) 6 (RB48)
Charles Sims RB55 10 (RB45) 15 (RB40)
Denard Robinson RB56 2 (RB54) 13 (RB43) Yes
Roy Helu RB57 15 (RB42) 30 (RB27) Yes
James Starks RB58 -4 (RB62) 3 (RB55)
Khiry Robinson RB59 -10 (RB69) -8 (RB51)
Montee Ball RB60 -16 (RB76) -10 (RB70)


* Helu, who flashed when healthy and given opportunity in Washington, is widely expected to take on passing down duties in Oakland behind the lumbering beast, Murray. Helu’s fantasy utility lies in the Raiders’ likely ineptitude. Oakland, projected by Vegas to be bad once again in 2015, will face plenty of deficits this season. You know what they did when facing deficits in 2014? They passed, and passed a lot. Oakland’s offense threw the ball 72 percent of the time when they fell behind. Only seven teams passes more when trailing.

* Denard Robinson was shockingly good in a horrid offense last year, and at least one Jacksonville beat reporter says the former University of Michigan quarterback could begin 2015 as the team’s starting runner. Probably that won’t happen, but Jaguars coaches have said for months that Robinson will maintain a role in their offense. That’s likely going to be a passing down role — not a bad thing to have on a team that will face plenty of deficits, if Vegas win totals are to be believed. I’m a bit of a Denard truther, as seen here, and I think you could do a whole lot worse with a 14th round pick in a 12-team or 14-team league.




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