Chet Gresham

Offseason Low Down

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Perception vs. Reality: RBs

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Each offseason and preseason we watch the news reports and slowly start to piece together our rankings and draft strategies. Across the fantasy football landscape, mock drafts accumulate into an Average Draft Position for each player. Of course, these vary list to list, but for the most part, the fake football world comes to some sort of a consensus that becomes enshrined into the acronym ADP. 


I’m going to take a look at the 2011 ADP and compare it to what happened in the real world.


The first two columns are self-explanatory but the third is less so. I’ve taken the statistics from each running back’s starts and extrapolated them to 16 games. It’s not an exact science by any means, but it allows us a different perspective when looking back at the season. The asterisk denotes players with less than eight starts, so their numbers are even more skewed than the others.


Top 20 ADP Actual Top 20 Extrapolated Top 20
1. Adrian Peterson 1. Ray Rice 1. Arian Foster
2. Ray Rice 2. LeSean McCoy 2. LeSean McCoy
3. Arian Foster 3. Maurice Jones-Drew 3. Ray Rice
4. Chris Johnson 4. Arian Foster 4. Darren McFadden
5. Jamaal Charles 5. Michael Turner 5. Fred Jackson
6. LeSean McCoy 6. Marshawn Lynch 6. Maurice Jones-Drew
7. Rashard Mendenhall 7. Adrian Peterson 7. Adrian Peterson
8. Maurice Jones-Drew 8. Darren Sproles 8. C.J. Spiller*
9. Darren McFadden 9. Ryan Mathews 9. Marshawn Lynch
10. Michael Turner 10. Steven Jackson 10. Jahvid Best*
11. Frank Gore 11. Michael Bush 11. Michael Bush
12. Steven Jackson 12. Reggie Bush 12. Matt Forte
13. Matt Forte 13. Frank Gore 13. Michael Turner
14. Peyton Hillis 14. Fred Jackson 14. Kevin Smith*
15. LeGarrette Blount 15. Beanie Wells 15. Ryan Mathews
16. Felix Jones 16. Chris Johnson 16. Ahmad Bradshaw
17. Shonn Greene 17. Matt Forte 17. Toby Gerhart*
18. Ahmad Bradshaw 18. Rashard Mendenhall 18. DeMarco Murray*
19. Jahvid Best 19. Shonn Greene 19. Beanie Wells
20. Ryan Mathews 20. Ahmad Bradshaw 20. Steven Jackson

Adrian Peterson:
All Day didn’t last all season but still managed to finish 7th overall after missing four games and change due to injury.  He was No. 1 on most ADP charts, but even with a full season, he would have finished out of the top-5. The pass- catching backs dominated this year, and AP didn’t get many receiving looks this season. But whether he’ll get receptions or not next season won’t be fantasy players' major concern. The concern will be how long it takes before he’s healthy enough to play again.


Ray Rice: Mr. Rice averaged out over the three lists the highest, and he was No. 1 in that all important real fake points list. He gained over 700 yards receiving, 1300 yards rushing, and without any goal line vultures hovering around, he finished with a career high 15 touchdowns. He was the complete package this season, and that plus a completely healthy year is how you become the champion fantasy back.


Arian Foster: Foster would have been the No. 1 ADP player if it wasn’t for a preseason hamstring injury. I mean really, why do people leave those hamstrings lying around for people to trip right over? He ended up missing three games total and left another early but still managed to finish fourth overall. If you took a risk on him after his injury, it very much paid off. He also averaged the most fantasy points per game which would have trumped even our man Mr. Rice in a perfect world. He is my frontrunner for the No. 1 pick next season.


Chris Johnson: His holdout dropped his ADP to No. 4 overall, and those who drafted him wished they’d gone ahead and waited until never to draft him.  His season was about as pitiful as they come from someone who was healthy for the most part. He finished as the No. 16 fantasy running back, but on a per game basis, he was around No. 25, not even hitting double digit fantasy points per game in a standard format. His ADP will plummet next season, but will it fall far enough?


Jamaal Charles: He had 12 carries for 83 yards and five receptions for nine yards and a touchdown. What else do you want!? A full season? Well, you didn’t get it, but at least you didn’t have to watch him tentatively tiptoe up to the line and then fall down with the flick of a linebacker’s pinky like Chris Johnson owners were forced to endure every Sunday. Will JC be back at full force? I have no clue, but he did get his injury out of the way early, and he’s too talented not to take a risk on next season.


LeSean McCoy: Holy capitalized letters, this dude had a year. He only missed getting into the end zone in two of his starts, and he also missed Week 17 so in 13 games he scored 20 touchdowns. Here, let me figure this, carry the four, that’s 13 touchdowns a game! Wow! Oh wait, no, just 1.5. After he totaled 14 in his first two seasons, 20 wasn’t exactly on many people’s radars. And frankly, it won’t be again. He’s an unbelievably talented running back, but don’t ink 20 in for him next season.


Rashard Mendenhall: This was an odd season for Mendenhall. His rare every down back status led him to be ADP’d all the way at No. 7 overall, but he didn’t end up being used all that much as the Steelers relied on their real weapons – Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. The troubling news is this wasn’t an oversight by Tomlin and his staff because Mendenhall just hasn’t shown that he has the stuff and now will be coming off ACL surgery.


Maurice Jones-Drew: What can you say about MJD? The guy had one of the most amazing seasons I’ve ever seen.  His numbers weren’t earth-shattering, but when you think of the offense he had to strap to his back, they certainly were. Blaine Gabbert averaged 6.7 fantasy points per game. That is by far the worst in the league. Really, if you want to check the bottom of the passing stats, you’re going to find the Jaguars firmly entrenched. With that kind of support, you’ll usually see any running back falter, but Jones-Drew finished first in rushing yards and third in fantasy points. Many doubted his knee coming into the season, including myself, but he was one of the few backs to play all 16 games. He’ll be 27 and still has some risk, but he proved a lot to me this season.


Darren McFadden: When you hear the term “upside” the person speaking is probably speaking of McFadden because he’s got a ton of it and sometimes it gets smacked upside his fantasy owner’s collective heads. If Run DMC had played all 16 games which is about as hypothetical as hypothetical gets he would have been a top 5 back. But we know that he did not play in those 16 games and that he rode a lot of teams’ benches for much of the season because he was going to be back any day now!  And just like this season, next season I’ll draft him early again because I love getting hit over the head with upside.


Michael Turner: The Burner somehow continues to stay lit, and after dropping all the way to the No. 10 running back taken this season, he told y’all (and me too) that he still had some fuel left in the tank and finished as the fifth best fantasy back. That was largely due to the fact that he played all 16 games because his average per start drops him to No. 12 overall.  He’ll be 30 next month, and even though in his first four seasons with San Diego he didn’t get much use, he does have three 300-carry seasons with the Falcons, and the eye test wasn’t too kind to him toward the end of this season.


Fred Jackson: We’ve looked at the top 10 ADPers from this season and how they fared, so I’m going to move on to Mr. Jackson. He was the No. 29 running back taken on average in drafts, and even with six games missed, he finished as the No.14 fantasy running back. He just keeps getting better with age. In only 10 games, he topped his numbers from last season on 52 less carries! With a full season, he would have been a top-5 fantasy back and been poised to continue into next season, but now he has a broken leg, is turning 31 next month and will be splitting time with C.J. Spiller who finally showed he can play after Jackson went down. That isn’t the best turn of events.


Marshawn Lynch: Lynch was taken just behind Fred Jackson in most drafts as the No. 30 running back. If you grabbed both of them in the middle rounds, you are probably smiling smugly right about now. Lynch scored a touchdown in 11 straight games and finished with 13 overall to go along with more than 1200 rushing yards and 200 receiving. This was a contract year for Lynch, and it showed Beast Mode style. Will his mode be less beastly after getting paid? Hard to say, but he’s only turning 26 this spring and looks to still have some anger to take out on defenders.


Darren Sproles: I’m really not sure how a Saints running back can finish as the No. 9 fantasy back in non-PPR leagues. Let me take another look. It says here he rushed 87 times for 603 yards and two touchdowns. Pfft! I could do that! (Not really, Darren. Nobody tell him I said that). Hmm, it does show this wide receiver that is also named Darren Sproles had 86 receptions for 710 yards and seven touchdowns. You know, if you put those two guys together, you’d have a lot of fantasy points. Both of the Sproles went off the fantasy boards as the No. 44 running back. Yes, No. 44.


Ryan Mathews: The often injured Mathews was able to cobble together a nice fantasy season. His preseason status was hotly debated. Could he stay healthy? How many TDs would Mike Tolbert steal from him? Can he live up to his potential if he does stay healthy? His ADP of 20 shows that the doubters outnumbered the believers. His week-to-week stats were all over the place due to nagging injuries and being Tolbertized, but when you add them all up, he finished with 1546 total yards and six TDs. If he can stay healthy enough to permanently relegate Mike Tolbert to backup status, he has the skills to be a top-5 back, which isn’t all that big a leap from his No. 9 finish this year.


Jahvid Best: This one was the hardest for me. I loved Best and all the Lions coming into this season, and he started out on fire, averaging more 13 fantasy points a game in standard leagues, but unfortunately, his multiple concussions caught up with him. With Mikel LeShoure and Kevin Smith in the mix, plus the concussion issues, it’s very difficult to project how he’ll do next season. As long as it looks like he’ll play, he’ll be worth a grab in PPR leagues, but I’ll be wary.


Michael Bush: Bush was selected mainly as McFadden insurance, and those that did so have hurt themselves by the non-stop back-patting. He was the No. 40 running back taken, which was just ahead of Ben Tate, Willis McGahee, C.J. Spiller, Darren Sproles and Roy Helu. Bush finished the season as the No. 11 fantasy back, and if he goes to a team that looks like they’ll give him 300 looks, he’ll be flying off draft boards much earlier next season.

Chet Gresham writes Target Watch and The Morning After for and is the founder of The Fake Football. Chet can be found on Twitter .
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