Fantasy Football: Touchdowns, First Downs Key RB Success 2.0

Packers Ty Montgomery

After releasing an introduction to the metric “Percentage of Touchdowns or First Downs Per Touch” (TDFD%) in the article “Fantasy Football: Touchdowns And First Downs Key RB Success”, many of my colleagues challenged me to better explain this metric and why it is important. I did that in earlier versions I wrote of that previous article, but didn’t want to get a bunch of TL;DR responses. So those were some of the parts I cut out. And unfortunately, I didn’t save those versions either. Fool of Took, sorry Gandalf. I welcome the challenge and actually this is great for me, because now I get the opportunity to give it another shot and re-articulate my feelings toward this simply beautiful stat (see Al Green reference from 1st article). Like getting to fall for my lover all over again in a different dimension or alternate universe.

The percentage of touchdowns or first downs per touch (TDFD%) is an important metric in my opinion because if gives us another view into how successful a player was with their given opportunity. First downs fuel a drive, keeping it going and continuing the possibility to achieve a touchdown. Touchdowns are the ultimate goal of basically every drive other than circumstances like late in games when the teams often desire to use up the clock and hold the lead. When a player proves on the field that they can consistently be successful in attaining first downs and touchdowns, they become more trustworthy to their team and coaching staff. Therefore earning themselves more touches. Hence, it is a key to their success.

There is a maxim in the fantasy football universe, “Volume is king.” This is to say, the more snaps a player is involved in and the opportunities he has with the ball, the higher the probability is that he will be a valuable player on your fantasy football team. There is no guarantees that any player will do well on any given Sunday (or Monday…or Thursday), but the more they touch the ball, the more likely they are to produce. For an extreme example, David Johnson had the most touches in the NFL last year and he also produced the most fantasy points. Ryan Mathews on the other hand had the lowest amount of touches out of the RBs with at least 150 carries and he had the 4th lowest amount of fantasy points. It’s not a one to one correlation, but it does matter. And it matters more than most things do for us as fantasy footballers.

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As stated, last time we looked at RBs with 150 or more carries, but now we will be looking at RBs who had less. I felt it was important to follow the wisdom of Offspring and keep them separated, because sample size is important. Also, some of these RBs TDFD% may be skewed due to the nature of their usage, primarily being used on 3rd downs or in the passing game. Still worth looking into however. And a good thing to consider here is that with players who do not get as much volume, what becomes even more important is how effective and efficient they are with the fewer touches they get. TDFD% can give us a glimpse into that.

We can get a good look here into RBs who are younger and unproven, guys who are considered satellite backs and also RBs who have been workhorses in the past only to be held under 150 carries because of injuries last season.

Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

Timothy T. Ludwig – USA TODAY Sports

The very 1st thought I had after compiling this data was, “Bill Belichick is a genius… but man does this suck for fantasy purposes.” Three of the top four players on this list are members of the New England Patriots. Two of them, Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, were offseason acquisitions for them. It’s almost like they plan on using a supreme RB by committee, and get the best players at the position who are uber efficient and effective with limited touches. This way they can keep all of them fresh, taking advantage of tired defenses and probably maintaining their health better as well. I was surprised to see how successful James White has been, even in 2015 when Dion Lewis was all the hype. Though both had elite level TDFD%, White’s was actually better.

If you look right in the middle of those Patriot RBs you’ll find Bilal Powell. This guy is an absolutely under appreciated stud and I would be shocked if the Jets did not realize that and give him the opportunity to be the lead guy over Matt Forte this season. Then again, it is the Jets, so maybe not. But with 23% of his teams first downs last season, he was a shining light in an otherwise abysmal offense. Perhaps he can duplicate that performance again this year. I’ve seen him go as early as in the 6th round in some drafts. While that’s a little to rich for my blood, I’d definitely consider him in the 8th round or later.

Brad Penner - Associated Press

Brad Penner – Associated Press

One other guy I’d really like to highlight is someone I wasn’t very high on prior to collecting this data to be honest. After collecting it all and analyzing it for a while however, I’m becoming a believer that Ty Montgomery can hold his role as the primary guy and possibly even be an every down type back. I concede the possibility, he could end up in a confounding committee with one or even two of the rookie RBs the Packers drafted. But with the news that he has bulked up this offseason and has had a year of training as an RB instead of just being thrown into that role in the middle of the season, we could be looking at the next David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell. Sounds crazy. I know. Ok, maybe not that high, but if he can improve his pass blocking he could find himself on the field a great deal. In a high scoring offense with lots of opportunity. He just might be one of the absolute steals in drafts this year, ending up as a top 12 RB. I encourage you to have no fear taking him at his current ADP in the late 4th/5th round if you like swinging for the fence like I do.

Many of these guys have smaller sample sizes or are young and the verdict is still out on them. So I don’t put quite as much weight here as I would with the RBs who’ve had 150 plus carries. Yet the numbers are there and they can help us tell ourselves stories of what could be. The only real regret I have coming into this 2017 season is we won’t get another year of the Awakening that is Christine Michael as he was put on IR by the Colts. Alas, the show must go on… c’est la vie. Pardon my french. Stay woke my friends.

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