Sunday, August 09, 2009

PV's Fantasy RBs: Top Ten

My rankings are idiosyncratic. There are three statistics in particular that shaped my attitude toward this year's very deep pool or running backs.

A. Number of games with 100+ yards from scrimmage.
This shows a player's positive consistency.

B. Yards from scrimmage per game.
More than any statistic, I feel this shows a player's overall productivity.

C. Receptions
I really like pass-catching running backs. In my view, participation in the passing game keeps a RB more consistent, and gives a RB a better opportunity for monster games.

For quacky reasons, in the numbers I list here, the 100+ games includes playoffs, while the other two statistics do not. For anybody interested, I'll stick an asterisk by the players I actually drafted in the HW league. And just to be clear, I'm not forgetting anybody.

1. Adrian Peterson

100+: 11/17 YPG: 117.9 REC: 21

Peterson was very consistent last season, netting 75+ rushing yards in all but one game he played in. With the Vikings’ easy schedule, he also has the most proverbial upside to go bananas. I don't like Peterson's lack of involvement in the receiving game, however.

2. Steven Jackson*

100+: 8/12 YPG: 118.4 REC: 40

Consensus #1 pick Adrian Peterson averaged 117.9 yards from scrimmage per game. Steven Jackson was just as good, averaging 118.4. People are scared of Jackson’s durability (he missed four games in each of the past two seasons). I’m not worried for two reasons.

a. RB is a demanding position; all RBs run a high injury risk. Whether or not an elite RB played 16 games last year or not, if he’s getting the ball a lot, there’s a fair chance he’ll get injured. As Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Stats points out, "The top RBs from one year (regardless of the number of carries) tend to play in only 13 out of 16 games the following year." I don’t think Steven Jackson’s previous injuries are terribly relevant to whether he’ll get injured this season.

b. I’d rather have a dominant RB on a per game basis that misses a few games, than a lesser RB that plays every game. If Steven Jackson misses a few games, it’s not like I take a zero those weeks: I’ll have a backup earning some points. And during the games he plays, he’s going to outscore most RBs (I admit I can afford to think this way because of the Hazelweird’s cross country scoring). He's also incredibly consistent on a per game basis, as Tristan Cockcroft at ESPN points out.

3. Frank Gore*

100+: 8/14 YPG: 100.6 REC: 43

Gore's numbers are comparable to the sophomore triumvirate of Steve Slaton, Matt Forte, and Chris Johnson. I like Gore better because he's established productivity over multiple seasons, not just one. Gore was fairly productive the past two seasons, but I expect a return to his 2006 productivity (plus touchdowns). This ranking may be irrational.

4. Steve Slaton

100+: 9/16 YPG:103.7 REC: 50

I think in a comparison with Matt Forte, Slaton comes out on top. Their numbers were similar, but Slaton as much as Forte plays on an offense poised to score a lot of points, and I think Slaton is simply a better RB on his own merit than Forte (4.8 ypa versus 3.9 ypa).

5. Matt Forte

100+: 11/16 YPG:107.2 REC: 63

But I do like Matt Forte, partly because he’s in an offense that will demand a lot from him, and partly because the Bears, like the Vikings, have an easyish schedule. I think he might be a little overvalued, though.

6. Maurice Jones-Drew

100+: 4/16 YPG:86.8 REC: 62

MJD gets a lot of TDs, but his yardage concerns me. I don’t know how many more yards he’s going to get even without Fred Taylor, but I like the potential. At the very least, you’re getting a major TD producer that also catches a lot of passes.

7. LaDanian Tomlinson

100+: 8/17 YPG: 96 REC: 52

Worst-case scenario: the Chargers are an elite offense because of the passing game, and Tomlinson gets loads of red zone opportunities.

8. Chris Johnson

100+: 7/16 YPG: 99.2 REC: 43

Another of those very exciting sophomores. I like his speed (he can make plays on his own) and his role as a pass catcher.

9. Marion Barber

100+: 8/15 YPG: 86.8 REC: 52

Before his injury, he was averaging over 100 total yards per game, with 100 plus yards in eight of 12 games. As I’ve established above, I’m not overly concerned about last year’s injuries.

10. DeAngelo Williams

100+: 8/17 YPG: 102.3 REC: 22

We all know that if you call a player underrated long enough, he becomes overrated. With Williams, the opposite is occurring. So many fantasy football experts slag Williams off for the legitimate reasons (likelihood of fewer touches, unlikelihood of matching '08 TD total) that I think people are overly diminishing his talent and productivity. In his career he has averaged 5.1 yards per attempt; he's a good player, and I still see him as a top-ten fantasy back.

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