Punch Drunk Wonderland

Fantasy Analysis: The Fantasy Running Back of 2013 (RB vs. WR Comparison)

Jamaal CharlesIt’s a passing league, right? The tried and true fantasy running back is becoming a thing of the past, right? Ok, maybe it’s not so cut and dried. Through nine games in the 2013 season running backs are actually still dominating the numbers when compared to wide receivers. Let’s take a look into the numbers and what they mean. Below is a table with the top 25 running backs and wide receivers along with their total fantasy points (standard format) and points-per-opportunity (PPO). (Table after the jump)

Table is sortable.

Rank Player (RB) Fpts. PPO PPO Fpts. Player (WR)
1 Jamaal Charles 157.7 0.37 0.43 123.6 Calvin Johnson
2 Matt Forte 138.4 0.40 0.32 118.1 Dez Bryant
3 Adrian Peterson 133.7 0.42 0.36 117.8 DeSean Jackson
4 LeSean McCoy 133.3 0.32 0.32 115.7 A.J. Green
5 Marshawn Lynch 133.1 0.43 0.37 113.6 Jordy Nelson
6 Knowson Moreno 127.8 0.45 0.37 109.5 Wes Welker
7 Frank Gore 112.4 0.43 0.31 104.0 Demaryius Thomas
8 Fred Jackson 109.2 0.38 0.34 100.7 Brandon Marshall
9 Reggie Bush 108.3 0.38 0.35 99.3 Andrew Johnson
10 Alfred Morris 99.8 0.46 0.29 91.7 Victor Cruz
11 Giovani Bernard 98.8 0.41 0.27 90.0 Antonio Brown
12 Chris Johnson 94.3 0.28 0.29 88.5 Alshon Jeffery
13 Eddie Lacy 90.4 0.38 0.28 86.9 Vincent Jackson
14 Arian Foster 84.5 0.30 0.26 83.9 Eric Decker
15 DeMarco Murray 81.2 0.31 0.35 83.9 T.Y. Hilton
16 DeAngelo Williams 70.2 0.32 0.28 83.8 Josh Gordon
17 Pierre Thomas 68.2 0.27 0.27 81.4 Pierre Garcon
18 Darren McFadden 67.2 0.34 0.25 77.1 Riley Cooper
19 Mike Tolbert 64.9 0.45 0.26 76.9 Larry Fitzgerald
20 Jacquizz Rodgers 64.5 0.30 0.23 76.7 Torrey Smith
21 Lamar Miller 63.5 0.30 0.31 75.9 Eddie Royal
22 Bilal Powell 62.6 0.23 0.30 75.3 Denarius Moore
23 Maurice Jones-Drew 62.1 0.25 0.25 71.6 Terrance Williams
24 BenJarvus Green-Ellis 60.8 0.26 0.28 71.4 Keenan Allen
25 Doug Martin 57.7 0.25 0.29 68.9 Aaron Dobson


The biggest thing that jumps off is that the numbers aren’t as slanted toward the receivers as conjecture would lead us to suspect. In fact, they don’t lean that way at all until you get to the 15th ranked RB/WR.  So, what’s the deal?

First, it’s easy to see that the relevance of the fantasy running back is still alive and well despite the slant in the direction of the passing game for today’s NFL. The big difference is that the deciding factor nowadays when it comes to running backs is how viable of a receiving threat they are out of the backfield. For example, Jamaal Charles has 47 receptions on 65 targets. That puts him on pace for 115 targets. In 2012 the most targeted running back was Ray Rice with 97, and he was targeted over 20 more times than the RB second behind him. Last season saw 2 running backs targeted more than 70 times while 2013 is on pace to see at least 5 reach the 70 target mark.

How about production on the ground? In 2012 there were 5 running backs who had 350 or more carries on the season.  The pace for 2013 is looking like there may only be 2 backs to potentially break 300 carries, and 250 could only be reached by a few others. This is a product of both the rise of the passing game and the shift to seeing more running back committees.  There are very few bell cow backs that see the lion’s share of carries in today’s NFL.

Knowshon MorenoOnce you get beyond the top 15 you see the numbers start to swing in favor of the wide receivers.  This is the product of the prominence of the passing game that we’ve been looking for. The running backs that are more deeply platooned in committees and those that aren’t as involved in the passing games start to become overshadowed by their wide receiver counterparts in the top 25 list.

Take heart, fantasy owners.  The running back’s role on your fantasy team is still vital. The only trick going into this fantasy football future in which the passing game is king is to realize the importance of finding running backs with potential to be successful receivers out of the backfield.  The fantasy elite among backs will be those top five to ten players who are greatly involved in the passing game and can produce with reliable accuracy.  It’s best we start focusing our fantasy research on this new flex RB of the future.


K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...