Punch Drunk Wonderland

Backup Running Backs worth watching in 2015

As we get closer to the beginning of the 2015 fantasy football season we have been focusing on potential fantasy values. Injury, performance lulls, and committee approaches can greatly affect the fantasy value of running backs and many times that means there is hidden value in backup RBs. And, in terms of value, snatching a solid backup RB at a late round value could be exactly what your fantasy roster needs.

One predictor used by numberFire is Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP indicates how well a player performs relative to expectation level. In other words, it measures how many points above or below average a player secures for his team.

With NEP in mind we can start looking for value running backs for the upcoming 2015 season. Some of the best values can be found in backup running backs poised to find a larger role. Our friends at nF have taken a look at backup running backs worth watching for 2015.

Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last year was rough for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ run game.

The team finished ranked 30th in schedule-adjusted Rushing NEP per play, losing 0.09 points per play relative to expectation. Frankly, no running back was free of blame.

Bobby Rainey and Doug Martin both earned Rushing NEP per play scores of -0.06. Rainey did so on 94 carries, and Martin did it on 135.

But in terms of moving the ball forward, Rainey was the better option. His Success Rate — the percentage of carries that led to positive NEP gains — of 37.23% led the team. Martin’s was 34.81%, second best.

Charles Sims, though, is probably the second back on the depth chart after Martin. Sims managed to lose 16.03 points on 66 carries, a -0.24 points per carry rate. His Success Rate (28.79%) was significantly worse than either Rainey or Martin.

Rainey isn’t the clear-cut top option in Tampa Bay, but based on last season, he was the best back, securing the only positive Total NEP (combined Rushing and Reception NEP), though it was just 4.74 points.

Reggie Bush, San Francisco 49ers

Reggie Bush and Carlos Hyde played on different teams last season, but Bush might be the better back in San Francisco this year.

Bush ran the ball 76 times last year and secured a Rushing NEP of -3.92. Hyde saw 83 carries and managed to lose 7.27 points. Bush lacked the Success Rate (36.84%) that Hyde showed (44.58%), but the positive plays Hyde made didn’t lead to much success for the 49ers.

There’s a big discrepancy in receiving, of course. Hyde caught just 12 passes last year but actually managed to lose points with them (his Reception NEP was -0.68). Negative Rushing NEP scores are understandable because rushing is an inefficient way to add points, but among the 82 backs who caught at least 10 passes last season, only Hyde and Mark Ingram (-2.77) secured negative Reception NEP scores.

Bush earned a Reception NEP of 13.57 on 40 receptions.

It’s not that Bush is certainly the best runner, but given Hyde’s Total NEP (-7.94), he might not be the sure thing that can keep Bush second on the depth chart all season.

Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons

Tevin Coleman is the only rookie to make this particular list because we’re only looking at NEP scores, but that should be telling.

Devonta Freeman was so inefficient last year that I’d be doing this list a disservice not to include the rookie running back.

Last season, Freeman racked up a dismal Rushing NEP of -18.80 despite running the ball only 65 times. Since and including 2000, only two running backs have lost more points on 75 or fewer carries: Lamar Gordon (-19.42 on 65 carries in 2002) and Correll Buckhalter (-20.09 on 59 carries in 2010).

Freeman’s Success Rate (24.62%) is the absolute worst mark among 776 seasons since and including 2000 during which a running back carried the ball at least 65 times.

We can’t rule out Freeman just yet, of course, but his 2014 season was one of the worst in the past 15 seasons.

Continue reading at numberFire.com… (@numberfire)


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...