RB Consistency: An Analysis

This past week, Pat Donnelly and myself have put our heads together in an attempt to breakdown the consistency of the top RBs being drafted this year based on their stats from last year. Considering the top group of RBs are bunched so tightly together, we hope to offer you a reason to see them apart and identify those RBs who are consistently good and those who offer a boom or bust week whenever they take to the field.



As we were using stats from last season, we went through www.fantasyfootballcalculator.com ‘s ADP data and found the top 24 RBs being drafted in this years draft who had relevant stats to monitor – of course this discounts rookies and players like Lamar Miller and Chris Ivory who haven’t got enough stats to analyse from last year. However, the first 14 RBs off the board are all included, plus more top names.

In terms of stats, we’ve took out the two highest and lowest scoring weeks of the players and found a new average based on the new figures. This aims to discount outliers like Doug Martin’s 2 week period of over 80 points, and the two weeks Matt Forte scored under 5 points. Players whose “Outlier Average” is significantly different to their ordinary average indicates a lack of consistency. We also included the number of weeks where RBs scored under 5, under 10, over 10, over 15 and over 20 points, along with their top 5, top 12 and top 24 finishes at RB. Finally we put together a percentage of points collected through TDs, Rushing yards and Receiving Yards, to illustrate which RBs were reliant on touchdowns and those who are better receiving RBs.

You can find the full statistics document here for both PPR and Standard league scoring. 

Without further ado, here are my takeaways on the stats I found on standard scoring:

Minus Outlier Average:

Doug Martin saw a big difference in his ‘-Outlier Average’ (-OA), a drop from 16.2 to 13.9. Other notable drops include Jamaal Charles (12.5 to 11.1), Alfred Morris (14.8 to 13.6), Reggie Bush (10.4 to 8.8) and DeAngelo Williams (8.2 to 6.7). A big difference here indicates their total points relies more on big weeks where they score 20 or 30+ points, despite scoring significantly less in most other weeks. It also suggests that they have some weeks where they score very few points, and thus are slightly inconsistent. The differences here are not huge, besides in Martin’s case – though Martin fares better in other areas of this study.

Most other players saw a very similar -OA compared to their real average, and some even saw a slight rise. Arian Foster rose from 16.3 to 17, Ray Rice from 14.7 to 14.9, Stevan Ridley from 12.1 to 12.6 and Frank Gore from 11.9 to 12.6. These players are less likely to rely on big week scores to pump up their average, and their lowest scores are more likely to be closer to the average.

Stevan Ridley ‘s -OA actually rose slightly. – photo from FantasyFootballCounselor.com

Weekly Points Scored

Danny Woodhead and Pierre Thomas both had 12 weeks of scoring less than 10 points. This is likely because Woodhead was used mainly in the passing game and in the latter part of the season. Pierre Thomas was not the lead back in many games for the Saints either so that may explain his high score here. Looking further down the list, some names appear that you may not expect. Reggie Bush had 9 games of less than 10 points, Charles, Johnson and Jackson all had 8 games, Ridley and Lynch had 6. At the other end of the scale, Peterson, Spiller, Foster and Morris only had 3 games of less than 10 points, whilst McCoy only had 2.

Adrian Peterson leads the pack in terms of 20+ points games with a staggering 8. The next highest were Lynch, Rice and Foster on 4. These players have the potential to burst out with huge games on occasion. At the other side, some big names didn’t have any games of 20+ points, including Steven Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore (though it should be noted McCoy missed 4 games last year). Despite this, Jackson had 9 games of over 10 points, McCoy 11 and Gore 12. This indicates that whilst they aren’t likely to explode, they can be relied on for a steady 10-15 points haul most weeks.

Weekly RB Ranking

Arian Foster is the surprise leader with 12 top 12 finishes last year, Peterson and Morris were just behind on 10 and all of the top 10 drafted RBs this year have 8 top 12 finishes or more (Aside from the injury plagued McCoy who had just 2 weeks of top 12 scoring). Steven Jackson managed just 2 weeks of top 12 RB scoring along with Ryan Matthews and Pierre Thomas. Reggie Bush had just 3 weeks. To put this in perspective, BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 4.

Steven Jackson was surprisingly poor in terms of top 12 scoring efforts, only managing 2 all season. – photo from utsandiego.com

In terms of a top 24 finish, Peterson returns to the top with 15 of his 16 games appearing in the top 24 for RBs that week. A notable stat here is that Jamaal Charles had just 9 of his 16 games inside the top 24 for RB. This is a striking stat considering his high ADP this year (RB4). Matt Forte and Chris Johnson fans may want to look away here too as they only managed 9 (of 15 games played) and 7 respectively. This is behind the likes of Ridley, Gore, Jackson and McCoy (11). To get a better understanding of what this means, the 24th RB each week usually scored around 8-9 points.

Scoring Percentages

Jamaal Charles had 75% of his total points come in rushing yards, closely followed by Vick Ballard (74%), Green-Ellis (73%) and Ryan Matthews (72%). CJ Spiller sat at just 59%, ahead of Arian Foster on 55% and Ray Rice on 52%. These low scores indicate either that the player is a feature in the passing game or is overly reliant on TDs. Unsurprisingly the lowest two scores came from Danny Woodhead (26%) and Darren Sproles (17%).

Players who had a high percentage of points scored through TDs (rushing and receiving) were Arian Foster (39%), Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Trent Richardson (all 36%), Darren Sproles (34%) and Alfred Morris (33%). Players who relied very little on TDs to boost their score include Ryan Matthews (6%), Pierre Thomas (12%), Steven Jackson (15%), Vick Ballard (16%) and Jamaal Charles (18%).

Unsurprisingly, Darren Sproles relied the most on receiving yards with 47%. Following him were Danny Woodhead (38%), Pierre Thomas (37%), LeSean McCoy (26%), Ryan Matthews (25%), Ray Rice (22%) and CJ Spiller (22%). At the bottom of this list sits Stevan Ridley on just 2% with the likes of Alfred Morris (3%), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (6%), Adrian Peterson (7%) and Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster (both 8%). This grouping shows you which players benefit from a PPR scoring system.


Matt’s Overall Analysis (Standard Scoring)

I think this research has shown me that some players have been very consistent, like Ridley, Gore and McCoy. All three often scored between 10 and 15 points, even if the latter two did not blow the top off defences very often. Other players like Jamaal Charles show a completely inconsistent picture. For a guy who is being drafted as the 2nd overall pick in many leagues he has a scary number of games where he isn’t even startable as your second RB in 12 team leagues. Whilst his situation is different this year, it does cause me to tread lightly and use caution as to whether he really is that top RB who can challenge Peterson. Steven Jackson is another important player this year and his lack of TDs combined with an Atlanta team who gave Michael Turner so many chances should give owners a good feeling. Percentage wise I think the best breakdown of points comes in players like Frank Gore who had 63% of his points come from rushing, 27% in TDs and 12% in receiving (I realise these don’t add up to 100%, this is due to fumbles and other negative plays which can’t be accounted for in a players total in this way). A good PPR RB should still offer you rushing yards, unlike Woodhead and Sproles. Spiller or Rice would be my ideal PPR RB, both with 22% of their points coming from receiving yards, and Spiller having slightly more (59%) rushing yards percentage than Rice (52%).

I hope these stats have helped you make tough decisions when arranging your RBs this year, and depending on whether you value the consistency of Frank Gore or the fluctuations of Reggie Bush (being drafted right after each other in standard scoring).

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Points Per Reception (PPR) Stats:

Minus Outlier Average

There were a few players that saw some significant drops in their average after adjusting for their 2 biggest and 2 smallest point scoring games. Doug Martin was a notable drop in PPR, going from 19.57 to 17.90, He was however, still 4th best among the RBs that we looked at. Jamaal Charles had a massive drop since he had a couple of huge games, going from 15.19 all the way down to 11.68. Reggie Bush also had a notable drop from 13.05 per game down to 11.08 per game after adjusting. Ryan Mathews dropped from 12.72 to 11.03 and Ahmad Bradshaw dropped from 14.12 to 12.44 as well. As most know, these players had a few big games that inflated their stats, but looking at this adjusted average we can see what the players actually did on a consistent basis.

A few players actually increased their averages, which surprised me a bit, but it makes sense because these players are more consistent and their outlier games don’t swing their point totals as much. Adrian Peterson, who dominated last year, after adjustments increased his average from 21.71 to 21.84 (not a huge change but an upward changes nonetheless). Foster (19.04 to 19.32) and Trent Richardson (16.88 to 17.24) moved up slightly as well, showing their consistency regardless of outlier games. Matt Forte was another notable upward change, going from 14.83 to 15.19.

Weekly Points Scored

First looking at games under 10 and 5 points in a given week, Jamaal Charles was a player who stuck out, with 7 games with less than 10 points. Two more standout players with games under 10 points were Ridley (6 games) and Reggie Bush (7 games).  Going down the ADP list a bit, DeAngelo had 11 such games, Vick Ballard had 9 such games, and Pierre Thomas had 10 games of under 10 points. Looking at games under 5 points, DeAngelo lead the way with 7 games. In the top 14, CJ2K and Ridley both had 3 games of under 5 points, with the other 12 having no more than 1 game under 5 points.

Going towards the positive end of the scale looking at 10+, 15+ and 20+ point games, Adrian Peterson lead the way with 16 games of 10 or more points, placing 2nd with 12 games of 15+, and leading in 20+ point games with 8 such games, which shouldn’t be that surprising given his play last season. Ray Rice was very consistent last year with 14/11/7 in terms of those games. Charles was the only RB in the top 14 who didn’t have at least 10 games of 10+ points, with 8 games over 15 and only 4 over 20 points. LeSean McCoy in the 12 games he played, put up 12 games of 10 or more, with 10 games of 15 or more, showing that you can rely on him for 15+ points a week most of the time. CJ Spiller managed 13 games of 10+, 11 games of 15+ and 5 games of 20+ points despite his somewhat lesser role compared to other RBs in the top 14. Morris and Ridley although very solid RBs, didn’t blow anyone away in PPR as they each had only 3 games of 20+ points, but had 12/7 and 10/7 for 10+/15+ games last year.

Weekly RB Ranking

First looking at top 5 finishes, AP lead the way with a crazy 8 top 5 finishing games which easily lead the way. Richardson and Rice had 6 each, showing their potential to be a top 5 back while also being a consistent back week to week. Foster (5), Lynch (4) and Martin (4) were the next in line. These guys showed that they can also break out for huge games; one of the reasons why they are highly regarded as top 10 backs. Jamaal Charles showed his volatility with 3 top 5 finishes, but also finishing outside the top 24 in 7 games.

Looking at RB1 finishes or top 12 weekly rankings, Foster lead the way with 11, with AP/Spiller/Richardson coming right behind with 10 top 12 finishes each. These are the types of stats you want from your likely RB1 for this coming season. Lynch and Rice had 9 each, with Martin coming in next with half of his games (8) finishing as RB1s. Some notable poor top 12 stats were CJ2K (4), Steven Jackson (3), Reggie Bush (3), and Ryan Mathews (1). Some under the radar guys with solid top 12 stats were Forte (6), Gore (7), Sproles (7) and Bradshaw (6). These are guys that can perform for you that you can spend less on perhaps in drafts.

In terms of top 24 finishes each week (or RB2 in a week), Jamaal Charles, CJ2K, and Ridley were the lowest of the top 24 with only 9 finishes inside the top 24 through the year. The leaders were Foster (15), AP (14), Lynch (14) and Rice (14) showing you can rely on these guys week to week to give you at the worst, RB2 numbers. For the majority of the time,  you were able to start them and have them perform solidly for you.

Looking last to finishes outside the top 24, Jamaal Charles, CJ2K and Ridley had 7 games of outside the top 24, which is a bit of a surprise given their final point totals for last year. LeSean McCoy was the only player in the top 14 who had 0 games outside the top 24 in a week. Gore (6) and Mathews (6) were next in line on this negative list, although you can expect these guys to have a few games that are poor. Some guys from the top 14 who had 4 games outside the top 24 were: Martin, Spiller, Richardson, Morris and Forte. Its good that these guys only had a few games that were poor, as they are the ones you want to rely on heavily week to week. The best guys in this category were McCoy as mentioned earlier, Foster (1), Rice (1), AP (2) and Lynch (2) who you would expect to be finishing inside the top 24 most often.

Scoring Percentages

Alfred Morris had 63% of his points in PPR come from rushing yards, which shouldn’t surprise anybody. Other notables who had more than 60% of their points come from rush yards were AP (60.40%), Ridley (60.90%), BenJarvus Green Ellis (62.05%), Jamaal Charles (62.10%), and Ballard (62.57%). The two lowest percentages for rushing yards again should surprise nobody, as it is consistent with standard scoring, were Danny Woodhead (19.27%) and Darren Sproles (11.40%).

63% of Alfred Morris’ fantasy points in PPR came from hard yards on the ground – photo from fauowlaccess.com

The leader of receiving point percentage was surprising (just kidding) Darren Sproles, with 66.18% of his points coming from receptions and receiving yards. Danny Woodhead (54.16%) and Pierre Thomas (55.65%) were the next highest. This makes sense as they were both specific role RBs with a lot of their work coming in the passing game. McCoy (44.91%), Mathews (45.89%) and Ray Rice (38.50) were other notables, who are more balanced backs in terms of rushing and receiving point break downs.

Going to backs who relied on TDs for their points, there were only 2 running backs (Foster with 32.99% and Ridley with 33.75%) who broke the 30% TD point percentage. Now these backs were solid last year and had solid production in other ways, but TDs are tough to predict so its important to note how much came from TDs. Other notables with large percentages were Lynch (25.64), Morris (29.69), DeAngelo (28.01) and Danny Woodhead (26.57). Some of the players that had lower end percentages but were still in the higher ranks were Spiller (17.90), Charles (13.78), McCoy (13.77) Forte (15.74), and Steven Jackson (12.08).

Pat’s Overall Analysis (PPR Scoring)

Jamaal Charles, Stevan Ridley and Reggie Bush stick out from the pack as guys that are being drafted fairly high but have had almost half of their games last year scoring under 10 points. This is something to be wary of, although each of the three have reasons to get excited about. Who knows, they may be even better and more consistent than last year. Take these stats and make your own decisions, looking at factors that were in play then and factors in play now. These only show part of the story, but a lot of the stats are somewhat surprising. There was only 3 times in which Charles ranked inside the top 5 last year and is basically a consensus top 5 pick this year. Some things have changed, but it’s something that should give you pause. It is important to look at the stats in depth and see how many times guys were worthy of an RB1 spot, an RB2 spot, or not in the top 24 at all. For example, a lot of people were let down by LeSean McCoy last season, but of his 12 games last season, all 12 were inside the top 24 and he never scored less than 10 points in PPR. Looking last at scoring percentages, your best PPR backs are guys that are getting a good chunk of yards from receiving – such as Sproles, Woodhead, McCoy and Rice. It is also important to try and avoid guys who relied on TDs a lot as they are somewhat less predictable than rushing and receiving yards. Foster, Morris, Ridley Ric,hardson and Lynch lead this department. The main idea is to see which players put up solid games and how often, how often they were playable, and their breakdown of points.

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