Looking Back at RB Value in Fantasy Football

Looking Back at RB Value in Fantasy Football

Success in Fantasy Football is based on several factors. First, you need to understand the rules of your particular league. Second, you need to understand how deep or scarce talent is at the position in question. Heading into the 2021 Fantasy Football season there appears to be more, “Running Backs by Committee,” and fewer true, “Bell Cows,” in the NFL. This will make the top RB more valuable than ever before, but also adds risk since this is the most frequent position to sustain major injuries each season. More so than ever before, it will be important to, “Buy the Position,” for the offenses you like that load up the touches on one primary back. It will also make those, “Point Per Reception,” superstars at RB even more valuable to add to your rosters. Let’s take a look at RB Value in Fantasy Football from a weekly value perspective.

Methodology is Important

Austin Ekeler finished RB26 in PPR leagues last season, while David Montgomery finished as RB4. Ekeler’s weekly value to your Fantasy team in games he played was on average 2.5 points ahead of Montgomery. When it comes to the RB position the year end rankings tell us who was healthy more than they tell us who had the best weekly value on our Fantasy teams.

Two statistical tools have been developed that give us a look at how a player did on a weekly basis for Fantasy Football. A complete game for a RB is defined as taking 20 snaps. A “Consistent Game” is considered to be 10 points in standard PPR leagues. The weekly value of a player is determined by the Best Ten Rating which is a statistical tool that combines consistency with big game ability. We want players that can win weeks for us often in Fantasy Football, since Fantasy Football is a weekly game!

An additional statistical tool has been added for 2021 after five years of research. This is the Position Scarcity Value and incorporates the strength of the Best Ten tool with the rules in your league. Let’s look at one example to see how important your league rules are to the value of a player at any particular position. Christian McCaffrey is the undisputed top RB with a Best Ten score of 337. If you play in a league that starts 2RBs, his Position Scarcity Score is 139, but in a 3RB league it would be 171. 139 compares to QB8 in Superflex leagues and is 73 points higher than the top QB in 1QB Fantasy games. 171 compares to QB3 in Superflex and is 104 points higher than the top QB in 1QB Fantasy games.

Why Best 10?

The absolute WORST statistical tool used by analysts today is year end statistics. All this does is show who stayed healthy during the previous season. Even when comparing players of equal health it doesn’t tell us much about what that player did to our Fantasy Football team’s success on any given week. Let’s consider the following example to show you what I mean.

Player X- Scored 300 Points in 2020

Player Z- Scored 280 Points in 2020

Which player was more valuable to your Fantasy team in 2020?

If your answer was, “You didn’t give me enough data,” then you are on your way to having an understanding that it is HOW a player scored the points each week that matters! Now let me add some data and then you can decide which guy you want.

Player X Scored from game 1-16: 50, 50, 50, 50, 40, 35, 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1

Player Z Scored from game 1-6: DNP, DNP, DNP, DNP, 20, 20, 20, 20, 25, 25, 25, 25, 25, 25, 25, 25

Yes, this is an extreme comparison, but similar comparisons can be made that occur every season. Comparing the Top 12 RBs in year end points last season the Consistency Ratings varied from 53.3% of the time scoring at least 10 points in PPR to 100% of the time. This is too much variance to put ANY faith in year end finishing positions when it comes to determining weekly value.

Best Ten All Stars

The beauty of Best Ten is that it eliminates the need to figure out how partial seasons compare to other players that had full seasons. Because it used a statistical factor to account for rookies and injured players who have fewer games to compare in the two year sample, it does a good job of forecasting a player’s weekly value to your team. Two years is used as a data sample to remove that “Everything Went Right” or “Everything Went Wrong” year. Any longer than two seasons is hard to compare because in football three years is a lifetime! This combines a RB consistency rating with his big game ability giving us a unique look at weekly value in Fantasy Football. Let’s take a look at the Best Ten All Stars from the last two seasons combined:

Christian McCaffrey 337

Derrick Henry 313

Alvin Kamara 297

Aaron Jones 284

Dalvin Cook 283

Austin Ekeler 251

Nick Chubb 237

Jeff Wilson 236

Ezekiel Elliott 234

Saquon Barkley 234

James Robinson 228

David Montgomery 226

RB1 McCaffrey 337

RB5 Dalvin Cook 283

RB10 Saquon Barkley 234

RB15 Josh Jacobs 216

RB20 Melvin Gordon 204

RB25 Joe Mixon 195

RB30 Kareem Hunt 172

RB35 Myles Gaskin 167

RB40 Darrell Henderson 162

Since the Best Ten indicates a point difference per game for a player’s weekly value, it shows how few super elite RB are available right now due to how the position is used in real NFL games. The difference between RB and RB3 is 40 points. The difference between RB13 and RB28 is also 40 points. The difference between RB28 and RB49 is also 40 points.This data can be used in Fantasy Football drafts for determining when the difference between two different RB is small enough to wait on the position and load up at WR or grab a TE instead.

Just a Snap Shot of What Happened

Even the best look at past performances whether it’s in Fantasy Football or Horse Racing, it just tells us what happened, we need to forecast what will happen in the future. In horse racing strategy decisions, expected pace of the race, racing style and race track conditions have to be taken into account. When it comes to Fantasy Football we need to look at what changes happened positive or negative on the offense and the defense. Why the defense when we are concerned with points scored by the offense? A QB who has been forced to throw the ball 50 times a game when his own team’s defense was lousy might see a big reduction in passing attempts if the defense gets better. Thankfully, when it comes to the Best Ten Rating, the numbers have shown that well over 90% of the players who are of Fantasy Football importance have their Best Ten score for any given year finish within 10% of their Best Ten Rating from the year before. If we don’t have a strong opinion on how a player might improve or regress in the year ahead, we still have a solid base number to make decisions based on already. But the more accurate assumptions we can make for the future the better Best Ten will perform as a tool.

Conclusion

Fantasy Football is a weekly game that needs weekly tools to make accurate predictions for future outcomes. Simply looking at who scored the most points at the end of the season or who had the most points per game is only the first step towards deciding how valuable a player will be to your team. Consistency and Big Play ability are the two most important factors when deciding which players to start on any given week. Best Ten is the best tool I have found that combines those two abilities into one easy to compute number. Applying statistical tools to equate partial seasons to a Best Ten number helps us rate rookies, injured player or other players who only started a handful of games over the past 2 seasons. In future articles we will look at the other positions and the brand new Position Scarcity Rating which will allow us to compare the value of one position against another using your unique league rules to develop the best guide.

Repeat after me, “Fantasy Football is a Weekly game and I need weekly statistical tools!”

Class dismissed  

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