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Raymond Summerlin

By the Numbers

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Good Backs on 'Bad' Teams

Friday, August 10, 2018


There are many football pundits who believe #QBWINZ is a stat worthy of consideration. That idea is about as ridiculous as they come, but there is a viable fantasy reason to pay attention to team wins, especially at the running back position. The graph below shows the relationship between team wins on the x-axis and total team fantasy points from the running back position on the y-axis.

RBWinz

The graph shows team wins are not the most important factor in running back scoring, but there is a clear correlation between the two. More importantly, the correlation between team wins and fantasy points becomes more pronounced as we look at the top of the position. Teams of running backs who finished in the top-12 at the position averaged a little more than nine wins over the last five years. Of those 60 performances, only 11 played on teams with fewer than seven wins, and only six came from teams with five wins or fewer.

None of this should come as a surprise. Over the last two seasons, teams have on average called a run play on 34 percent of their snaps while trailing and 50 percent while leading. The difference is even greater in the second half when trailing teams have called up a run on just 30 percent of their plays against 57 percent for the leading team. In short, runners on teams who routinely hold leads are going to get more rushing opportunities on average.

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It seems intuitive, but good teams also tend to score more touchdowns than bad teams. Every 10-win team except the Falcons finished in the top half of offensive touchdowns last season. Every team which finished in the top-five of offensive touchdowns won at least 11 games, and the Packers were the only team in the top-14 to finish with fewer than nine wins. It is not always the case, but playing on a good team usually leads to more touchdown opportunities.

All of this information suggests projected team wins is an important factor to consider when selecting a running back in the early rounds, but that does not mean all backs on low total teams should be ignored. Teams come out of nowhere to smash their pre-season expectations every year, and even players stuck on “bad” teams can produce.

Last year, Todd Gurley finished as the top back on a team which had a 5.5 over-under entering the season, and Jordan Howard managed a top-10 performance despite playing for the five-win Bears. There are several early-round backs who could follow in Gurley’s and Howard’s footsteps this season as a quality fantasy option on a “bad” real-life team, and each one has a slightly different story to tell.

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David Johnson – ADP RB4 – O/U 5.5 wins
While a likely bad offense and even worse offensive line are big concerns, Johnson is actually the kind of back who could benefit from negative game scripts. Of the 11 top-12 finishers on teams with fewer than seven wins, seven finished with at least 40 catches. Perhaps he will not get many carries in the second half, but his three-down pedigree should keep him on the field regardless of the scoreline.

Another big check mark in his favor is the lack of talent around him on offense. Larry Fitzgerald is going to get his, but there are nothing but questions behind him in the receiver room. Fourth-round rookie Chase Edmonds might be talented, but there are no proven options behind Johnson at running back. It also helps that new OC Mike McCoy has a history of using workhorse backs – both Melvin Gordon and Ryan Mathews had seasons with around a 60 percent carry share while with the Chargers, and Willis McGahee has a similar season in Denver – and he oversaw 76- and 80-catch seasons by Danny Woodhead.

While the team concerns are enough to keep Johnson out of the elite group of Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell in my rankings, his almost guaranteed workload makes it tough to see him as anything but a top-five option at the position.


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Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.
Email :Raymond Summerlin



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