Over the last couple of days, I’ve done a fair amount of research relating to running back points per opportunity. In a previous post, we used the metric as a way to identify running backs that are likely to experience negative regression in the coming season. For our purposes, opportunity refers to the total of rushing attempts and passing targets that a back accrues over the course of a season. As we all know, opportunity is everything for fantasy running backs. Check out just how strong the relationship has been between opportunity and point totals, over the last three seasons, for the top 50 fantasy RBs.
No surprise there, but keeping this relationship in mind we can assign an expected workload to running backs based on averages and ranks. For example, between 2013 and 2015, the PPR RB10 saw an average opportunity of 271. As of June 8th, Mark Ingram is the 10th running back drafted. As such, the market is assuming that Ingram will merit approximately 271 total opportunities to earn fantasy points in 2016.
In the below table, I have included the average opportunity for each RB rank and the player currently belonging to the corresponding ADP. Additionally, I have included the 2015 opportunity that each player earned, normalized for a 16 game season. Let’s review the list and then identify players with projected opportunity vastly different from what is currently being assumed by drafters.
|Rank||Player Based on ADP||Team||AVG OPP||Normalized ’15|
I recognize that as we make our way down the list, drafters are not necessarily selecting players based on expected workloads, but rather, potential workloads. Nonetheless, I still believe this to be a useful exercise for identifying over or under valued rushers. Here are some of the names that stood out to me:
In 2015, Martin accounted for 72% of Tampa Bay’s 401 rushing attempts. Even if Charles Sims were to see an increase in rushing workload, bringing down Martin’s share to 65%, Martin could still see over 260 carries. He was targeted 44 times in the passing game last season, so he could definitely outpace the opportunity tied to where he is being drafted. Assuming his passing targets remain stagnant, Martin could lose a full 14% of his 2015 rushing opportunity and still finish at levels commensurate to where he is being drafted.
Chip Kelly’s Eagles ran the ball 411 times in 2015 and 418 times in 2014. During the 2014 campaign, Lesean McCoy alone recorded 315 rushing attempts. Let’s make things easy and assume that Kelly uses the rush in a similar capacity in San Francisco, calling 400 rushing plays in 2016. Carlos Hyde would only need to control 56% of these carries in order to justify his ADP and that’s without even factoring in passing targets. Hyde is clearly the RB1 in the Niners’ backfield and it’s more than fair to assume that he could see well over 60% of the team’s carries. Add in a little cushion for a conservative 30 or so targets and it’s clear that he’s being undervalued at an ADP of RB18.
Latavius Murray, Jonathan Stewart and Frank Gore
All three of these backs are being drafted as if something happened to their situation that will radically change their opportunity or output in the coming season. Yet, as far as I can tell, not much has changed. Latavius Murray’s talent has been questioned by some, but who cares that has no impact on his fantasy prospects. The Raiders’ front office doesn’t seem overly concerned either. Stewart and Gore are a year older, but both are the lead back for their respective teams and will see workloads well beyond the levels that their ADP’s would lead you to believe.