Todd Gurley is Not the Best RB, how the RBs Scored, Brian Anderson Worth a Look

Knowledge Drop May 17, 2018 – Austin Ekeler Edition (#23)

Thanks for reading Big Mac. Tom McFeeley and his team drop Fantasy Knowledge at least 3x a week, online and straight to your inbox. Please send us your comments and say hello, at bigmacfantasysports@gmail.com

*Today is LA Chargers Running Back Austin Ekeler’s 23rd birthday.  Happy Birthday. Also, birthday wishes for QBs Matt Cassell and Matt Ryan, who turn 36 and 33 today, respectively. 

TOP KNOWLEDGE — WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

How the RBs Scored Their Fantasy Points: Why Todd Gurley is not the best

By Tom McFeeley 

Todd Gurley is not the best running back in football.  Let someone else draft him first overall.

Blasphemy?

Hardly.  Big Mac will always tell you to go against conventional wisdom.  Well, you should at least always be suspicious of conventional wisdom and always ask why.

Todd Gurley scored 19 touchdowns last year. That is why he is the consensus top pick. Gurley collected 318 points in a standard, non-PPR league. If Gurley had say, only 9 touchdowns, the same amount as Le’Veon Bell, the two would have tied for the top spot among RBs with 258 Fantasy points.

You can argue that Gurley is the best back in football, and you might actually be right. He’s certainly in the discussion.  But we’re playing Fantasy football here and we want to figure out what is going to happen THIS year, and most Fantasy players (and experts) most often base that guess on what happened last year.

Not to belabor the Gurley point, but he was the first RB drafted on average in 2016 after he rushed for 1106 yards and 10 TDs in 13 games his rookie season. When 1106 yards became 885 yards and 10 TDs became 6 TDs on more carries, the same Todd Gurley was the 10th RB off the board in 2017 drafts.

Every summer we look not only at RB stats and Fantasy points scored, but we like to examine HOW a RB scored those points. Gurley scored 35.9 percent of his Fantasy points (standard leagues) on TDs, 2nd among those with at least 100 points.  Here are the top 10:

Top 10 RBs: Percentage of Fantasy points from TDs (min. 100 fantasy points)

Player Total TD

(TD points)

Total Fantasy

Pts

TD% of Total Points
Jonathan Stewart 7 (42) 112 37.5
Todd Gurley 19 (114) 318 35.9
Tevin Coleman 8 (48) 140 34.3
Latavius Murray 8(48) 142 33.8
Alvin Kamara 13 (78) 232 33.6
Dion Lewis 9 (54) 165 32.7
Mark Ingram 12 (72) 223 32.3
Chris Thompson 6 (36) 114 31.6
Melvin Gordon 12 (72) 229 31.4
DeMarco Murray 7 (42) 134 31.3

 

Ah, Melvin Gordon, the 21st running back off the board in 2016 after he scored a grand total of 0 zero touchdowns in his rookie year.  By the way, he was the 20th RB off the board in 2015, before he ever played an NFL snap.

So what we see here are many runners (Coleman, Murray-squared, Lewis, Thompson) who got a boost in scoring from above average TD production. Unless their workloads increase this year, we would avoid most of these names. Again, we don’t think Gurley sniffs 300 points or 19 TDs again. 

On the other end, the running backs with the smallest percentage of “TD points,” notable names are LeSean McCoy (23.5 percent), Kenyan Drake (21.8), Frank Gore (16.9), CJ Anderson (16.9) and Isaiah Crowell (10.4)

 

Looking at backs who received the largest percentage of points from rushing yards, here are the top 10 (with at least 100 rushes). For simplicity sake, we divided rushing yards by 10 to arrive at points scored, even though they weren’t always nicely distributed that way:

Top 10 RBs: Percentage of Total Points from Rushing Yards (min. 100 carries)

Player Rushing Yards (Pts.) Total Points,

non-PPR

Rushing Yard %

 of Total Points

Jay Ajayi 465 (46) 52 88.5
LeGarrette Blount 766 (76) 99 76.8
Isaiah Crowell 853 (85) 115 73.9
Adrian Peterson 448 (44) 60 73.3
Kerwynn Williams 426 (42) 58 72.4
CJ Anderson 1007 (100) 146 68.4
Frank Gore 961 (96) 142 67.6
Samaje Perine 603 (60) 89 67.4
Wayne Gallman 476 (47) 70 67.1
Alex Collins 973 (97) 148 65.5

 

Names like Crowell, Ajayi, Anderson, Gore – they frustrated Fantasy owners due to some combination of injury, lack of production, and absence of TDs.  Blount, of course, famously scored 18 TD with New England in 2017, but tallied just 3 in Philadelphia, so he averaged 10.5 TDs over the last two years.  (See how we can spin the numbers, and how TD trends tend to reverse?)

Let’s talk receptions. Sticking with the standard (non-PPR) format, let’s ask the question: Who is receiving the most (and fewest) points from receiving among RBs; these are points collected for receiving yards as a percentage of total Fantasy scoring.  Again we divided receiving yards by 10 to calculate the points.

The list of the top backs who accumulate the highest percentage of points through receiving yards is mostly obvious, with names like Duke Johnson (48.4 percent), James White, (55.0 percent), Chris Thompson (45 percent; 510 receiving yards to 294 rushing yards), Theo Riddick (43.5) and Tarik Cohen (40.0 percent).  Two prominent names, Christian McCaffrey, (43.4 percent) and Alvin Kamara (35.6), relied on receiving yards for a high share of points. These receivers are obviously great PPR league targets and offer few surprises on this list.

To us, the more interesting list is those who derive the smallest percentage of points from receiving yards.  We always prefer running backs who can catch the ball, because they spread out their points, and don’t rely on rushing yardage and/or touchdowns to repeat their past performances.  (Do you think Gurley runs for 1305 yards and collects 19 TDs again?)

Bottom 10 RBs: Percentage of Fantasy Points from Receiving Yards, min 100 total points

Player Receiving

Yards

Total Points

(non-PPR)

Receiving Yards %

of Total Scoring

Jordan Howard 125 178* 7.0
Marshawn Lynch 151 145 10.4
Alex Collins 187 148 12.6
Dion Lewis 214 165 12.9
Bilal Powell 170 123 13.8
Ezekiel Elliott 249 176* 14.1
CJ Anderson 224 146 15.3
Leonard Fournette 302 192* 15.7
Isaiah Crowell 182 115 15.8
Frank Gore 245 142 17.2

*denotes Top 10 RB point total

The list contains three top 10 Fantasy scorers among running backs: Howard, Elliott and Fournette. We’re not concerned by these percentages, but clearly the presence of pass catching Tarik Cohen in Chicago limits Howard’s touches. The TDs and yard totals of Fournette (10, 1040) and Elliott (9, 983) are easily repeatable and we expect them to increase over a full season of games.

We really like Alex Collins as a quiet contributor, though not being a pass-catching threat tempers our enthusiasm a bit.

Jets fans might worry.  Crowell and Powell are both on this list. With Matt Forte gone, they might see more passes (particularly with a weak WR corps), but we question their ability to be great pass catchers.

Let’s talk about PPR leagues. Obviously, some running backs get a huge boost from being pass catchers in the PPR format.  When we evaluate the percentage of total PPR points that come from the number of receptions, we generally get a list of RB2 and RB3 in the PPR format.  Let’s look at the top 10 in percentage of total points from catches (min. 100 points, PPR format):

 

Player Receptions Total Points

(PPR)

Rec. Point %

Of Total Points

James White 56 134 41.8
Tarik Cohen 53 142 37.3
Christian McCaffrey 80 230* 34.8
Theo Riddick 53 155 34.2
Duke Johnson 74 217 34.1
Wayne Gallman 34 104 32.7
Matt Forte 37 121 30.6
Jerick McKinnon 51 178 28.7
Giovani Bernard 43 151 28.5
Javorius Allen 46 166 27.7
Alvin Kamara 81 313* 25.9

 

We listed 11 players since Forte is retired, and we were able to include Kamara in our analysis. Just missing this list were Carlos Hyde and Le’Veon Bell.  McCaffrey and Hyde, we should note, were top 10 RBs in PPR formats but not in standard scoring, where they were replaced by Ezekiel Elliott and Jordan Howard.

Not many surprises on this list, though we are intrigued by Gallman and will study him more this summer. None of these names are 1,000 yard rushers; in fact only Kamara (728), J. Allen (591) and McKinnon (570) were even 500 yard rushers.  But it’s a good list of names that provide additional RB value in PPR formats to help round out your roster.

WHAT DID WE LEARN?

Knowledge is like a jigsaw puzzle.  You may not recognize a piece of knowledge as useful, until you can put it in context, or connect it to another piece.  We’ll lay off Todd Gurley (who IS a top five RB, but won’t be the top scoring one) and make these observations:

  • All things being equal (they rarely are, but let’s assume), we’re a little more excited about McCoy, Drake, and to a lesser extent CJ Anderson, Gore, and Crowell due to their lack of TD production. A boost in TDs will increase their 2018 value, so keep that in mind.
  • This exercise gave us some names to explore more (and we will): Gallman, Alex Collins, Javorius Allen. Jigsaw pieces.
  • We’re seeing not only RB tandems but teammates who score differently (Cohen and Howard in Chicago, Perine and Thompson in Washington). Assessing depth charts, news/noise from the summer and pre-season usage might help us get a clearer picture as to who might emerge.

We’ll connect some dots throughout the summer.  We have about three months of knowledge to drop and together we can make judgments, guesses, theories, strategies and of course arguments about NFL players.

A THOUSAND WORDS

Today @BatFlipCrazy is takes notice of Brian Andersonr:

Brian Anderson jumped out on a list of hitters w/ batted balls 100+ MPH & > 0° over the last 2 weeks. He’s worht a look in deeper leagues. Improved plate discipline (23.2% o-swing), contact (77.6% contact) and hard hit rate (36.5%).

 

Follow @BatFlipCrazy on Twitter and read more in-depth data analysis at batflipcrazy.com

RIDDLE ME THIS

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Pandora, who wanted a bright groom so she made up a few logic problems for the wannabe. This is one of them.
Based upon the inscriptions on the boxes (none or just one of them is true), choose one box where the wedding ring is hidden.

Golden box
The ring is in this box.
Silver box
The ring is not in this box.
Lead box
The ring is not in the golden box.

 Email your guess to BigMacFantasySports@gmail.com

Will Flamme of Connecticut correctly guessed that the man is not tall enough to reach the button for the 10th floor and must exit at the 7th floor if nobody else rides with him, or if he doesn’t have his umbrella.

 

DAD JOKE OF THE DAY

Why doesn’t dad buy and products with Velcro?

 

He says it’s a rip-off

WHAT WE ARE WATCHING:

We are going to see Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats later this month. Here’s the group performing their biggest hit, S.O.B:  

 

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