Cleat Geeks

Dynasty Fantasy Football – “Deception is Reality” Part II

In part 2 of our series, we will be taking a further look at a couple 2nd year running backs that offer a high floor with a consistent weekly output, as well as one who once again might deceive with his end of season ranking. Much like the wide receiver portion in this series, we will be looking at which high end running backs present the opportunity to minimize weekly point swings in your starting lineup and are accompanied by a high floor. If we are investing draft capital in a player, particularly in dynasty formats, we need to ensure that this player will be contributing each and every week. This level of predictability is what owners are looking for and I can think of nothing worse than sitting there just minutes before kickoff, tinkering with my lineup simply because I cannot count on a certain player in a given week.

One metric that is going to be discussed throughout this article is coefficient of variation (CV) in terms of weekly touches. In a nutshell, coefficient of variation is the ratio of the standard deviation compared to the average. Ideally, we want the ratio to be as low as possible, as this would indicate that a running back is getting the exact same number of touches each week, which in the end, minimizes the weekly variance and risk associated with starting a running back on a weekly basis. While we cannot predict a player’s output week in and week out, we can have a better understanding of which players will receive consistent usage throughout the season.

 

 

*Please note, these numbers are based on production after an impactful change occurred on a team’s roster, ie. trade or injury.

 

 

While not even playing 4 full games in 2017, much of Dalvin Cook’s 2018 projection is based on the output and production we saw from the tandem of Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon in 2017. When looking specifically at the 12 games after Dalvin Cook’s season ending injury, Latavius Murray ranked 1st among the top 36 PPR running backs with a touch per week coefficient of variation of 17.42. For reference, the average weekly touch coefficient of variation among the top 36 PPR RBs in 2017 was 37.9. Murray averaged 17.92 touches per game with a standard deviation of only 3.12. With this information, we can feel confident that in any given week, Murray received anywhere from approximately 15 to 21 touches. This level of consistency was even achieved with Jerrick McKinnon being a vital part of the Vikings’ offense. Going back to the weekly touch coefficient of variation, in the same 12 game sample, Jerrick McKinnon ranked 10th out of the top 36 running backs. With that type of consistency dedicated to the run game, we can feel comfortable with Dalvin Cook’s anticipated usage any given week heading into 2018. In 2017, Minnesota’s backfield combined for 10 weeks of at least one RB1 performance, as well as 3 weeks of at least one RB2 production. One telling statistic that had helped Murray and McKinnon have such consistency in 2017 is the team’s defensive performance. The Vikings’ defense finished the season ranked 1st with only 252 points against. A strong defense will not only generate more offensive possessions for the Vikings (66.3 offensive plays/game, ranked 6th), but it will also create more positive game scripts, which is beneficial for any running game. Provided he can stay healthy, Dalvin Cook is in line for a strong and consistent 2018.

Similarly to Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette rolls into the 2018 season on a Jaguars team that displays a strong defense and consistently shows a commitment to the run. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense ranked 2nd with only 268 points against, just behind the Minnesota Vikings. Again, a strong defense allows for a more positive game script, as well as more consistency in rushing attempts on a weekly basis (66.8 offensive plays/game, ranked 4th). Fournette finished the 2017 season with a weekly touch coefficient of variation of 20.92, which ranked 3rd among the top 36 PPR RBs. The only 2 running backs with a stronger CV in 2017 were Latavius Murray, as previously mentioned, and Ezekiel Elliott. With this weekly consistency, despite a mediocre 3.8 yards per carry, Fournette is poised to be a RB1 on a weekly basis once again. We can also expect an increased weekly usage in 2018 with Fournette dropping some weight, which will allow him to be on the field for extended drives. Leonard Fournette produced 11 RB1/2 performances in only 13 games played in 2017, which comes out to 84.62% and ranked 4th among the top 36 running backs. This number seems like it will only improve in 2018 with the addition of highly touted guard Andrew Norwell, who received the 3rd highest grade among guards in 2017, according to PFF. With a strong defense leading to more running back friendly game scripts, a team committed to the run, and an improved offensive line, Leonard Fournette has the recipe for yet another successful and consistent season in 2018.

 

While Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette were both seen as starting running backs from the start, Kareem Hunt’s NFL career was off to a slightly different journey. However, Hunt quickly found himself in a great situation as the Chiefs’ lead back once Spencer Ware was lost for the season as a result of a preseason injury in 2017. With this opportunity, Kareem Hunt finished 2017 as RB4 and by most measures was a seen as a huge success. Despite an end of the season ranking of RB4, when we dive into the numbers a bit more, we can see that this number is slightly misleading. I am sure that most of you have heard at nauseum about the lack of production from Kareem Hunt throughout the middle of 2017. What I find much more alarming is the inconsistency of touches on a weekly basis. Out of the top 36 running backs, Kareem Hunt had a weekly touch coefficient of variation of 32.77, which ranked 15th out of the top 36 running backs, which can be seen in the chart above. While this ranking is not scraping the bottom of the barrel, it does show Hunt’s RB4 status to be  slightly skewed. These inconsistencies resulted in a RB1/2 performance in only 67% of the games he played in 2017 (excluding week 17 when he was pulled from the game after just 1 carry). With Spencer Ware returning from injury and Andy Reid taking back play calling duties, this percentage is in danger of decreasing in 2018, resulting in even greater weekly inconsistencies than we saw in 2017.

With all three running backs in line for a heavy workload in 2018, are we satisfied with a only a strong end of season ranking or are we looking for more week to week consistency? While a boom or bust player might win you a few games, he is also just as likely to cost you a few games as well. In any situation, I personally would prefer to have the running back that is going to have a more predictable workload on a weekly basis, thus more likely to produce a more consistent output and fewer bust weeks. Which would you prefer?

 

Find me on Twitter: @TheBauerClub

Data Sources:
www.ffstatistics.com
www.profootballfocus.com
www.teamrankings.com
www.pro-football-reference.com

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