Sophomore Slump: Eddie Lacy, Other Sophomores to Regress?

Eddie Lacy

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

When I started college five years ago, I heard all about the dreaded “Freshman 15.” For those unfamiliar with the phrase, it’s a phenomenon where college freshman gain 15 pounds over the course of their first year of college. The theory behind it is that when you’re in college, there are a lot more distractions around you that keep you from going to the gym as well as from eating healthy. It’s a lot harder to get a healthy amount of greens when Mom and Dad aren’t in charge of dinner every night.

Determined not to succumb to this weight gaining phenomenon, I did my best to not fall prey to the status quo. As college began, I was religious when it came to going to the gym and eating healthy. By the end of the year, I still wound up gaining about five pounds, but it was five pounds of muscle, and I started summer break a happy man who conquered the “Freshman 15.”

The title of this article likely gives away what happened my sophomore year. I didn’t have the same mental toughness that I did the previous year, and I experienced a slight setback in my quest to stay fit. In addition, I joined a fraternity which took up a big portion of my time, and I also met my girlfriend that year. Now this is nothing against my girlfriend, whom I care deeply about, but my old high school gym coach told us that three things decrease when you get into a relationship: the weight of your wallet, your GPA, and your bench press. Needless to say, my waist expanded a few inches that year, and I’ve been working to bring it back down ever since.

So what does my waist size have to do with you and your fantasy teams? A lot more than you might think.

In 2013, there was a multitude of rookie running backs that made their presence felt in the fantasy world. Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell, Giovani Bernard and Zac Stacy all finished in the top 20 among running backs, and as a result, are each being drafted as top 15 guys. In fact Lacy has the highest ADP at 1.06 per our friends at ffcalculator.com. Because these guys are such high picks, owners are investing a great deal in these soon-to-be sophomore running backs. The fact that there’s between a 20-50% chance that a running back drafted in first 12 spots finishes up the season as an RB3 or worse, owners need to do their homework before using a high draft pick on a running back.

I’ve dug back ten years to see what the trend was regarding rookie running back sensations and how they wound up doing the following year. What I found was pretty alarming: 

SophomoreRookies                 The definition of a “breakout” rookie as far as this article is concerned is any rookie running back that finished in the top 24 among running backs their first season. 

While the average decrease in production was not very significant, only one point per game, the percentage of those that wound up regressing the following year was pretty shocking. Out of the 17 rookies that finished as an RB2 their rookie year, 11 of them wound up finishing with fewer fantasy points per game the following season. Of those 11, five players finished the following season ranked 12 or more spots worse than the previous year.

That’s a whole round of value that they lost just one season later.

How do we explain what happens to sophomore running backs? There’s really not much that can explain this phenomenon. Since the regression seems more pronounced with players who finished in the top 10 their rookie year, perhaps it’s just a simple matter of regression to the mean. Put simply, that just means that since the players exceeded all expectations in year one, they’re bound to go back to a more “normal” season. Will that happen again in 2014?

By no means is this article meant to dissuade you from selecting guys like Lacy in the first round. When you look at picture as whole, there’s a legitimate reason why these sophomore rookies are going as early as they are. They proved last year that they belonged in the league and have gained the trust of the fantasy community. 

All I’m saying is remember what happened to me during my sophomore year. Don’t let the freshman year get to your head and allow your fantasy teams, the figurative waistline, suffer because of it. 

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