Draft Theory: “You can draft running backs late, because they’re so easy to find and the position translates to easily from college to the NFL.”
Because of how the NFL has changed, we can no longer simply consider the first man on the depth chart to be a starting running back, and refer to the players behind him merely as “Depth”. As the platooning method becomes more and more common, we need to look at more than one running back playing a major role in a team’s success.
As a result, for the purpose of this study, if a team’s leading rusher accumulated fewer than 62.5% of the team’s total yards on the ground, then the top two rushers on the team will be considered.
Felix Jones – 685 Yards, 5.9 Average
Chris Johnson* – 2006 Yards, 5.6 Average
DeAngelo Williams – 1117 Yards, 5.2 Average
Jonathan Stewart – 1133 Yards, 5.1 Average
Jason Campbell*** – 236 Yards, 5.1 Average
Willis McGahee – 544 Yards, 5.0 Average
Ricky Williams – 1121 Yards, 4.7 Average
Rashard Mendenhall – 1108 Yards, 4.6 Average
Beanie Wells – 793 Yards, 4.5 Average
Steven Jackson* – 1416 Yards, 4.4 Average
Adrian Peterson* – 1383 Yards, 4.4 Average
Ronnie Brown – 648 Yards, 4.4 Average
Thomas Jones – 1402 Yards, 4.2 Average
Cedric Benson – 1251 Yards, 4.2 Average
Cadillac Williams – 823 Yards, 3.9 Average
Laurence Maroney – 757 Yards, 3.9 Average
Knowshon Moreno – 947 Yards, 3.8 Average
Joseph Addai* – 828 Yards, 3.8 Average
Marshawn Lynch – 450 Yards, 3.8 Average
Julius Jones – 663 Yards, 3.7 Average
Jamal Lewis – 500 Yards, 3.5 Average
LaDanian Tomlinson – 730 Yards, 3.3 Average
Larry Johnson – 581 Yards, 3.3 Average
23 1st round picks
Kevin Faulk – 335 Yards, 5.4 Average
Ray Rice – 1339 Yards, 5.3 Average
Maurice Jones-Drew* – 1391 Yards, 4.5 Average
LeSean McCoy – 637 Yards, 4.1 Average
Maurice Morris – 384 Yards, 4.1 Average
Clinton Portis – 494 Yards, 4.0 Average
Matt Forte – 929 Yards, 3.6 Average
7 2nd round picks
Jamaal Charles – 1120 Yards, 5.9 Average
Shonn Greene – 540 Yards, 5.0 Average
Frank Gore* – 1120 Yards, 4.9 Average
Ryan Moats – 390 Yards, 3.9 Average
Justin Fargas – 491 Yards, 3.8 Average
Kevin Smith – 747 Yards, 3.4 Average
Steve Slaton – 437 Yards, 3.3 Average
6 3rd round picks
Corell Buckhalter – 642 Yards, 5.4 Average
Michael Turner – 871 Yards, 4.9 Average
Michael Bush – 589 Yards, 4.8 Average
Marion Barber – 932 Yards, 4.4 Average
Brandon Jacobs – 835 yards, 3.7 Average
Darren Sproles – 343 Yards, 3.7 Average
7 4th round picks
Jerome Harrison – 862 Yards, 4.4 Average
Tim Hightower – 598 Yards, 4.2 Average
2 5th round picks
Bernard Scott – 321 Yards, 4.3 Average
1 6th round pick
Justin Forsett – 619 Yards, 5.4 Average
Ahmad Bradshaw – 778 Yards, 4.8 Average
Jason Snelling – 613 Yards, 4.3 Average
Derrick Ward – 409 Yards, 3.6 Average
4 7th round picks
Kahlil Bell – 220 Yards, 5.5 Average
Pierre Thomas – 793 Yards, 5.4 Average
Fred Jackson – 1062 Yards, 4.5 Average
Leonard Weaver** – 323 Yards, 4.6 Average
Ryan Grant* – 1253 Yards, 4.4 Average
Willie Parker – 389 Yards, 4.0 Average
Mike Bell – 654 Yards, 3.8 Average
* – Met the team criteria for being the sole main runner
** – Leonard Weaver is in fact, a fullback
*** – Jason Campbell is in fact, a quarterback.
55 Qualifying players
- Leonard Weaver and Jason Campbell are not counted due to not being true runningbacks.
22 out of 55 players are 1st round draft picks (40%)
7 out of 55 players are 2nd round draft picks (12.7%)
7 out of 55 players are 3rd round draft picks (12.7%)
6 out of 55 players are 4th round draft picks (10.9%)
2 out of 55 players are 5th round draft picks (3.6%)
1 out of 55 players are 6th round draft picks (1.8%)
4 out of 55 players are 7th round draft picks (7.2%)
6 out of 55 players are undrafted (10.9%)
These numbers alone though, don’t show the whole story. Wouldn’t it matter if more running backs overall are drafted in the first round or not? For the purposes of this, we’ll look at the 2002-2009 drafts.
Tomlinson, Lewis, Ricky Williams, Thomas Jones all are removed from this part of the study, as all four were drafted before 2002, and thus have outlived the “Typical” expectations of a running back. Thus, there are only 18 1st round picks that will be considered.
18/24 1st round picks are contributors (66.7%)
7/16 2nd round picks are contributors (43.75%)
7/17 3rd round picks are contributors (41.2%)
6/25 4th round picks are contributors (24%)
2/10 5th round picks are contributors (20%)
1/20 6th round picks are contributors (5%)
4/30 7th round picks are contributors (13%)
Conclusions: While it seems obvious, the data here suggests that like most positions, the best players are all first round picks, and it rapidly goes downhill from there. GM’s should expect to run into difficulty trying to find starting caliber running backs later in the draft. However, a good deal of first round running backs are still making meaningful contributions in the NFL, even though this is looking at up to 8 drafts ago, towards the tail end of a RB’s career. While I do not have the data, it seems like a running back might actually be a “Safe” pick.
Additionally, I would also suspect that a disproportionate percentage of second and third round running backs are making contributions compared to other positions in the league. It is worth noting however, that there overwhelming majority of late round running backs drafted flamed out of the NFL. So while you may wish to address other needs and draft a running back in the second or third round, also realize that one can’t simply say that RB’s are unimportant and only invest low draft picks. Additionally, my gut reaction tells me that a disproportionately high percentage of first round running backs make positive NFL contributions, making them overall safe draft choices.
Breaking this into two categories. The “Reach” and “Should not be owned by anyone” categories.
Players People are Drafting Too Early
1. Jahvid Best (ADP: 5.05) - I loved Best’s talent in college. He was one of two players I saw in person who made me crap my pants whenever he touched the football (Jeremiah Masoli being the other). However, Best is made out of glass. He’s had numerous surgeries and has several concussions already in his career. How’s he going to hold up with stronger, faster, tougher linebackers in the NFL? Prognosis isn’t very good.
2. Darren McFadden (ADP: 8.10) - McFadden hasn’t done anything in two NFL seasons so far. Hard to think he’s suddenly going to turn that around. Michael Bush is going five picks later, he’s the Raiders RB you want on your roster. McFadden has late round value in a PPR league, but that’s about all.
3. Austin Collie (ADP: 11.12) - Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Dallas Clark, Donald Brown. Six guys who can do damage with Peyton Manning throwing to them. Not all of them will be fantasy relevant this year, and I suspect the odd man out is Austin Collie, a slot WR who will have to share targets with Anthony Gonzalez, who’s more athletic and more experienced.
4. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams (ADP: 4.10 and 6.11) - Considering Ronnie Brown is made out of glass and Ricky Williams is 33 and has a ton of mileage on his body, it’s hard to recommend drafting either of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if both of them are on IR by the playoffs. That being said, if they’re healthy, they’re going to get carries. But I don’t think they’ll be around during the end of the year.
5. Thomas Jones (ADP: 7.12) - Jones is probably the #2 option in Kansas City behind Jamaal Charles. That being said, Todd Haley’s basically an idiot. You never know. Jones is old and is running behind a terrible offensive line in Kansas City. I wouldn’t touch him.
Players No One Should be Drafting, but Are
1. Vincent Jackson (ADP: 3.12) - He might play half a season. Maybe. He’s gotta show up for at least six games to have a year count towards Free Agency. That’s probably what to expect out of him. Until he blinks, assume that he won’t play until Week 10, and he will be rusty.
2. Donald Driver (ADP: 6.04) - Old, crowded WR spot, multiple surgeries. What’s there to like?
3. Wes Welker (ADP: 5.03) - Serious injury, won’t be playing until October, may not be 100% until 2011. Not an Avoid at All Costs, but I wouldn’t touch him earlier than Round 10.
4. Terrell Owens (ADP: 11.06) - I don’t know if it’s an old algorithim of a CPU that keeps drafting Owens, but it should be incredibly obvious that he has no relevance in fantasy football anymore, and probably no relevance in the NFL.
Got a NFL, College, or Fantasy Football question? Email the Football Clod at email@example.com
One of several postings I’ll have regarding fantasy football. This article is about players who in my mind, present good bang for the buck relative to where they’re being drafted at this point in time. All data is provided by http://www.fantasyfootballcalculator.com ‘s ADP charts.
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