Punch Drunk Wonderland

2014 Fantasy Football in Review: Running Back Consistency

The days of the bell cow running back that carry their NFL teams and our fantasy teams on their back are long gone. There are very few elite lone backs. Today’s NFL (and our fantasy rosters) are scattered with running back options and committees. Consistency of production is the currency of fantasy success, and find that consistency with today’s running backs is paramount and challenging. Our friends at numberFire.com have taken a look at the running backs of 2014 with a focus on consistency. Enjoy.

If you missed the first article in this series, then I really recommend checking it out, at least so you get familiar with what my goals are with this series. I go over the basis of what this series aims to do and spell out what I’m aiming to examine in this series. I’ll provide a brief explanation below, but if you want to see the results for quarterbacks, click here.

If you’re torn on running backs — take them early or pluck the breakout guys from the wire? — this article will come in handy.

I “feel” like it’s the hardest position to replace and that the elite guys at this position offer the best value over replacement players of any of the four main positions, but I’m willing to change my tune if the numbers show me otherwise. Let’s delve into them and see what they are.

Defining the Process

I’m going to try to summate my process, which I’ve already explained fairly fully. Any justifications I needed to make, I made there, too, such as why I chose a certain sample size or cut off.

The short version is that I gathered up weekly gamelogs from 2014 (excluding the always-wonky Week 17) for the top-48 running backs (in standard, point-per-reception [PPR], and half-PPR) scoring and did some math with them.

By finding the standard deviation for each player’s fantasy output, we can then find a confidence interval which expresses where he’ll fall 68% of the time. We can also use this to find a coefficient of variance, which is basically a number that stands for volatility.

For example, Lamar Miller and Matt Asiata had fairly similar fantasy seasons, per the year-end data. Miller averaged 13.31 PPR points per game. Asiata averaged 12.96. But those points weren’t earned equally.

PPR Scoring Total FP FP/G Variance St. Dev 68% CI Low 68% CI High
Lamar Miller 199.6 (9) 13.31 (17) 0.44 (7) 5.87 7.43 19.18
Matt Asiata 181.4 (13) 12.96 (20) 0.79 (42) 10.21 2.75 23.17

Year-end data tells us that they were pretty similar, but Asiata relied on big games to boost his averages. Miller offered a steady floor each week. Examining this weekly trustworthiness is something we’ll delve into.

Running Backs

Running backs are a tricky bunch. Riddled throughout the game logs of even the biggest breakouts are games with a fantasy point here or there. If you were forced to start them during those down weeks, then things probably didn’t shake out in your favor.

Did you really start Asiata in the right weeks? Did you figure out the Shane Vereen puzzle? The running back conundrum is much more difficult to pin down than the quarterback one — especially when factoring in the floors these players can provide and the fact that running backs are less readily available on your waiver wires because of the whole supply and demand thing.

Elusive Floors

One of the main reasons why quarterbacks, according to my interpretation of the numbers at least, are streamable is because a lot of guys possess a realistic ceiling of at least 20 points. Also, picking up guys who can hit 20 points in the right matchup is easy, as there’s only so much room for quarterbacks to be rostered. This past year, 20 quarterbacks had a realistic ceiling of at least 21.00 points, so odds were, there was an enticing play somewhere to be had on the waiver wire.

Continue reading at numberFire.com… (@numbefire)


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...