I’m making use of a new metric in assessing the relative value of running backs on a weekly basis/as part of my own rankings and I think it’s a frame of mind that is worth sharing with our readers.
[Skip the data and rationale and go straight to what it tells us about Week 11 RB values]
The statistic, fantasy points per touch, is borne out of simple rationale. Sure, the Dolphins give up over 23 points per game to RBs but noting that teams divide their running back carries differently than one another and in increasingly complex ways we need to break that statistic down further for it to have meaning. If we can believe with a reasonable assurance that RB-A will see 23-27 touches against the team that gives up the 3rd fewest points to backs, but RB-B will see a workload closer to 14-17 touches against the 12th highest unit we can compare the players more accurately side by side when knowing how many points a team gives up, on average, every time an opposing back touches the ball. The tool shouldn’t be used as a projection for fantasy scoring – at least, not on it’s own – but it does help to paint a picture of relative value. I share more details on the rationale here - I think stat heads will appreciate the discussion.
After ten weeks (not including the Week 11 Colts/Titans game) this is how it looks across the league – in terms of standard scoring – and how it impacts our week 11 RB projections.
Fantasy Points Per Touch To Date
Opp Fan Pt Per Touch
Opp Ru Att
Week 11 RB Projections
More than anything, I read this as good news for Knowshon Moreno. Don’t get me wrong, the Chiefs defense has impressed this year, holding all but three opposing backs under 10 fantasy points. Of the three, LeSean McCoy was the highest scorer and he did his damage on 20 carries. With Kansas City winning all of their games to date and being in control of most of them throughout, opponents haven’t had the opportunity to run the ball against them throughout four quarters. Moreno, meanwhile, plays for a Broncos team that has had the luxury of running the ball for four quarters each time out and should be expected to do the same this week. If we can project 19-22 touches for Moreno (he’s averaging 21.2 over his last five games), then the average numbers tell us he should come in around 12.26 fantasy points. Again, these numbers aren’t to be used as predictors in a vacuum (for one thing, they don’t allow for a 20 point game from an RB without a minimum of 30 touches and we saw four (if counting Adrian Peterson‘s 19.7) backs hit this number in Week 10.
Moreno should find himself in a game context different than typical running backs against Kansas City. As a result, the per touch average is relevant as – while the defense has been strong – they are allowing a fair number of points on a per touch basis, it’s just that we don’t often see backs get a wealth of touches against them. If we accept that Moreno will be in a different game situation than most, the matchup isn’t as daunting. To back that up: KC gives up a whopping 5.0 YPC to opposing backs.
Still, we do have a sense of the relative value of Moreno’s 20 projected touches. Meanwhile, the Steelers represent a top 10 matchup in the typical sense this week. However, it takes a lot more work for backs to get there against them, yielding just over half a point per touch and a full .1 fantasy points less than Kansas City every time an opponent touches the ball. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are giving up the 5th most points league-wide to opposing RBs and draw a matchup with Arizona this week. Andre Ellington‘s workload has been a topic of discussion over the last month or so but it hasn’t really increased despite suggestions otherwise from coach Bruce Arians. With 13 touches last week and just 17 in a game he played without Rashard Mendenhall in the picture, we don’t have reason to believe that Ellington will see any more than 14-16 touches. Even on the high end, the data is telling us to expect under 10 points from Ellington based on a FPPT number of .569. Again, that is a low end point projection for Ellington, but, it shows us that this specific metric sees him as three points less valuable than Moreno.
Taking the touches into account allows us to strip away the stark contrast between a defense that gives up the 6th fewest fantasy points to RBs in the league and the team that gives up the 5th most. I know, you were already on Moreno over Ellington anyway – but, again, the example underscores a need not to underestimate Moreno given his game context and matchup and not to overestimate Ellington’s likely contribution just because he’s drawn the Jags. In this game, and with these backs, a single play can change everything – of course – but without knowing that Ellington is going to knock one out of the park, the numbers tell us to temper our expectations.
- I’m learning that perhaps Ryan Mathews is too high in my initial ranks. He draws Miami, a team that gives up the 2nd most fantasy points in the league to RBs. Still, with Woodhead in the mix and his workload more likely to come in closer to 15 than 25, the Dolphins give up .578 FPPT to opponents, which falls outside of the top 10. It’s still an exploitable matchup, but, not as strong as a cumulative 23.07 FPPG allowed would suggest.
- While we can’t guarantee a workload against New Orleans, particularly at home where they could get up early on the fast track, most reasonably expect the San Francisco defense to keep the game close – closer than last week, anyhow – while leaning on the run early to keep Drew Brees off the field. With that being the case, we should expect Gore to come within range of his 22.25 touch workload that he has averaged over the past month. 20 touches against a Saints D that ranks 5th in the league on a per touch basis is a more appealing matchup than we’d typically think given that New Orleans ranks in the middle of the league in terms of overall fantasy points allowed to RBs. Three backs have scored more than 15 points against New Orleans this season (Ridley, Ivory, and DeMarco Murray last week) and none of them have done so without at least 16 touches.
- We’ve talked in a number of different pieces about how Le’Veon Bell‘s high workload is his redeeming fantasy quality and there are good odds of that being the case this week against Detroit. He comes in as my 11th ranked back despite a matchup against a Detroit team that gives up just the 20th most points to opposing RBs. The reasoning is simple, Detroit has seen the fewest RB touches against them this season. While that fact needs to be considered when assessing Bell’s projected workload this week, we know that the Steelers are going to get him involved to the tune of 18-20 touches. He’s come in at that number all season, regardless of the opponent. 18 opportunities against a defense that is the 7th most generous in the league on a per touch basis paints a more complete picture than does “the Lions don’t give up a lot of fantasy points, it’s a bad matchup”.
And that quotation is the moral of our story. In full and open recognition that this data only presents a limited insight into a player’s likely production, it’s another tool I’m using to valuate players on a weekly basis and in sharing it, it’s now yours to do with as you please.
Thoughts, insights, interpretations? Share them in the comments below.