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Two Year Points Distribution Study – Top 15 Fantasy RBs
Byron Lambert, Rosterwatch.com

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Average Fantasy Points Per Game. A fantasy statistic referenced ad nauseum. It is a quick and useful metric but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The averages mask quite a few differences among players. Fantasy football is a week to week proposition. I want to know how a player’s points are distributed and what to expect.

Here, I have charted the distribution of fantasy points for the pre-season top 15 RBs over the last two seasons. 20 NFL games played was the minimum requirement. The players included must also have played the majority of the last two seasons on the same team so we aren’t speculating and projecting.

Due to devastating knee injuries in 2011 that required reconstructive surgery, Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson are not included in the distribution analysis, although they are still covered in this evaluation. Their major injuries make their previous production less meaningful when evaluating fantasy prospects for 2012.

* Green = #1 in the category
* Blue = Top 5 in the category
* Red = Bottom 5 in the category
** % Points represents the percentage of a player’s total games over the last two season where that player has generated at least that many fantasy points in a single game. Crazy example, Arian Foster has scored 30 or more fantasy points in 20% of his games over the last two seasons.

*Based on Standard Scoring

Arian Foster
No doubt, the #1 overall pick in fantasy drafts, unless you are in a QB-heavy league. His numbers are so far ahead of anyone else that it’s not even close. The fact that he scores 30+ points four times more often than average is disgusting. He scores 20+ points more than half the time and 10+ points almost 9/10 times. Foster does lay a few more eggs than some of his elite peers, possibly due to the emergence of Ben Tate, but his boom/bust ratio is off the charts.

Ray Rice
He is top 5 in every category of this analysis, and has played all 32 games the last two seasons. A joy to own, and you will love him. Rice is on the front end of his prime and still on the uptick. Expect to see more improvement this year as the Ravens offense continues to evolve. GM Ozzie Newsome did tell us how much the Ravens like back up Anthony Allen and they did draft RB Bernard Pierce, but chalk those up as very mild concerns.

LeSean McCoy
The gap narrows here. It’s pretty close with Ray Rice. I like McCoy as the #2 RB in the draft. He has been stronger at both ends of the spectrum. Showing better reliability, scoring at least 7 points over 93% of the time, and better high end production registering 20+ points almost 37% of the time. His boom/bust ratio is superior to Rice and he has the highest reliability rating of the group. There is currently a bit of training camp buzz about a couple of UDFA backs Philly brought in, Chris Polk and Bryce Brown, but it’s way too early expect them to cut in to McCoy’s value.

MJD
Safe and durable. He scores 7+ fantasy points an incredible 96.7% of the time. Surprisingly, he also scores 15+ points at a 57% clip, which is over 10% more often than Ray Rice. I currently like him as the clear cut #4 RB in this draft. Do keep an eye on his holdout, that could reshuffle the deck a bit. Especially with rumors that Blaine Gabbert still looks awful.

Michael Turner
This list is sorted by total fantasy points over the last two seasons. When you see his name up so high, you wonder why in the heck is Michael Turner so Criminally Undervalued?. Turner is a steal in the middle rounds of drafts right now. Not a top-end guy but there aren’t many of those. I wouldn’t be too concerned about the Jacquizz Rodgers speculation. I’m not sold on ‘Quizz and Turner has been a two down back for a while now. A solid rock on your fantasy squad.

Chris Johnson
Don’t confuse hope for a plan. We think Chris Johnson will return to form this season. We saw the flashes down the stretch last year. The facts are, he has shown poor high end production the last two seasons and a lot of low end production. He doesn’t miss games so if he does return to form there is some upside. Back-up Javon Ringer was only getting about 5 carries/game last season.

Matt Forte
A solid pick and I expect the Bears offense to be better. His numbers are very average though, and I believe he is currently overvalued. I’m not that worried about Michael Bush but it has to be mentioned. Forte has missed some games so that is a mild concern.

Steven Jackson
Surprisingly durable having played 31 of the last 32 games. Sneaky reliable scoring 7+ points almost 84% of the time. Limited upside over the last two season. Many are projecting a resurgence in St. Louis this year which could provide a boost to Jackson’s value. The Rams drafted RB Isaiah Pead in the second round of the NFL Draft. The rookie is talented but is slight of build. He will be a complimentary back to Jackson. Expect Pead to cut more in to Jackson’s production in year 2. Don’t overpay, but Steven Jackson is a solid middle round selection.

Ahmad Bradshaw
Similar to Jackson with a little more upside and a little less durability. A better value though if you can draft him later than Jackson. The rookie, David Wilson, is a concern but most of Bradshaw’s production has already come from a split backfield.

Marshawn Lynch
After all the hype from last year, his two-year numbers are surprisingly bad. A guy that already had a bunch of questions marks now faces a looming suspension possibility. Until we know more I can’t justify more than a mid-round pick.

Frank Gore
Average to unimpressive numbers the last few years. It seems like he’s lost his top end burst. Gore will always have durability issues, and now there’s a pretty crowded backfield in San Francisco. If you need a RB, I don’t mind a 5th round selection, but it’s unlikely he’ll fall there.

Darren McFadden
One of the least reliable backs of the bunch. He’s missed more games than any other player in this study. When he plays, his points distribution most resembles the elite group, though. He is top five in every distribution category. He is second to only Arian Foster in 30+ point games. Blowing away the average by hitting 30+ 15% of the time. Injury prone until proven otherwise. It’s still difficult to forecast injuries. Consider McFadden a medium risk-high reward fantasy prospect. He has little competition in OAK and a huge ceiling.

Fred Jackson
It’s hard to know exactly what to expect out of Jackson. He is 31 and returning from a severe leg injury. You’ve got to think C.J. Spiller will be more involved after his performance down the stretch last year. Jackson’s average of 12.5 PPG is enticing. Jackson is a bit hit or miss, registering just about as many <7pt. eggs as he does 20+ point monsters.

Ryan Mathews
Is being way over hyped as a top 10 pick. I see the possibility of upside and if you hit great. There is a large chance he doesn’t though. Mathews has way too much red in his chart for me to use such an important pick on.

Beanie Wells
The worst of the worst by these measures. I think he is so talented, and keep waiting for the breakout. It never happens though. Another offseason of injury coming into training camp and Ryan Williams could set up for another disappointing season. On talent alone he is worth a flier. Too many questions to be anything higher than a 7th round pick this year.

*The Knee Injury Guys

Adrian Peterson
He looks amazing. The one guy that makes me question my “2nd year ACL rule”. I just can’t believe he can truly be 100% this year. I’ve spoken directly with Vikings officials who have re-iterated not only that they will take it slow with AP. But they will also be getting Toby Gerhart more involved.

Gerhart was pretty good last year. The interesting part is that AP’s numbers that last two seasons haven’t been quite what you might think. He’s averaged 15.9 PPG which would only be good for 5th place on the distribution chart above. Narrowly edging out MJD, which might come as shock to some.

He’s also missed 5 games over that span, showing some durability issues. Now he is coming off of a destructive and severe late-season knee injury. Realistically, if he comes back at 80-85% , you can project him for 13 ppg with limited upside. Also, consider the increased probability of missing games. Peterson is currently overvalued. I see him in Steven Jackson territory and he should be drafted accordingly.

Jamaal Charles
A player whose game is based on explosive speed and cutting ability. Reconstructive knee surgeries aren’t good for either of the aforementioned. Neither is Peyton Hillis. The good news is his injury occurred very early in the 2011 season. He’s had almost a year to recover. With nothing to draw on from last year, Charles’ PPG over ‘09 and ‘10 was 13.85. If we apply the 85% rule(which feels like a semi-conservative estimate with upside) you get 12 PPG. From a draft perspective, put him in the Peterson category. Some might justify selecting him in the 3rd round, I’d feel more comfortable in the 4th or 5th.

*The Star Rookie

Trent Richardson
I gave you guys some good bonus material here. Richardson has upside to be a better version of Ray Rice. I don’t think that will happen this year, but he will definitely be the focal point of the Browns offense. Richardson will get 25 touches per game, even if the Browns fall behind. The AFC North is a tough division to be a runner in, and it’s hard to expect the Browns offense to generate that many scoring opportunities. I can envision a scenario where he generates 1500 total yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s probably on the bright side but it would represent about 13 fantasy ppg. Those expectations correlate more with a 3rd or 4th round pick than the 2nd round grade he has right now. I do expect it to be “Checkdown City” in Cleveland. So, if you love Richardson and don’t mind the risk, roll the dice in the 2nd round and see what happens.


12 Comments

12 Responses to “Two Year Points Distribution Study – Top 15 Fantasy RBs”

  1. Simpwn says:

    Awesome analysis. Can you do something for QB/WR/TE as well?

  2. byron says:

    We are working on that now :)

  3. Jason P Vizsla says:

    Love the article, just put you guys on stumble upon, enjoy the traffic!

  4. Dan says:

    Thank you! Finally somebody who not only looks at numbers but the ones that actually count.

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