In episode 14 I discussed the Quarterback position and specifically the hit rate of those quarterbacks drafted between 2010-2018. Today we are going to talk about the Running Back position. First just a quick reminder for how I determine who is a hit. The results are based on a 12 team league with PPR scoring, 4 points per passing TDs. I identified the hit rate as any player that has achieved a top 12 QB, top 24 RB, top 36 WR, or top 12 TE at any point in their career.
The data I have compiled allows us to identify how many players have accomplished this feat, how many have done it in multiple seasons and those who achieved hit status in their rookie seasons. In addition, the data identifies the importance of draft capital.
Since 2010 there have been a total of 703 skill positional players drafted; 107 QB, 191 RB, 278 WR, and 127 TE.
Typically, the best players go off the board early in the NFL draft, but does that translate to fantasy success? In a heavy defensive and lineman filled early round draft like we recently witnessed, the offensive skill position players are pushed down the board into later rounds.
Some years the top RB’s are drafted in the first round, some they are not drafted until the 2nd or 3rd. How do RB’s drafted in the first round measure up vs, RB’s drafted in the later rounds? This data will help us determine that.
54 of the 191 drafted Running Backs record at least 1 hit season, 28% of all QB’s drafted. 21 of those 54 have done it in more than one season and 20 running backs achieved a hit season in their rookie season.
Nine of the 191 have averaged a RB1 season over the course of their careers. These numbers support my start-up draft strategy of being heavy on the WR and then use rookie drafts to go heavy RB to round out my rosters. When we break down these players by the round in which they were drafted, we see the odds of hit RB’s become a little clearer similar to the QB position.
Since 2010, 14 of the 191 drafted running backs have been 1st round selections. A whopping 11 of them have recorded at least 1 hit season (79%). Six of those 11 have done it on more than one occasion and seven recorded a hit season in their rookie season (50%).
Of the seven rookies that had hit seasons; Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffery, and Saquon Barkley, they have all had multiple hit seasons except for Trent Richardson and Saquon. I’d say its safe to say that Barkley accomplishes this again in his second season. These 7 RB’s all recorded RB1 rookie seasons.
The data also shows that of all the RB’s drafted in the 1st round, only Mark Ingram recorded a hit season after his 4th season in the league. Ingram had a nice little run in his 5th, 6th, and 7th seasons. Gurley and Melvin Gordon have the opportunity to add themselves to Mark Ingram this season, and I believe that both have the opportunity to deliver a top 24 RB season with ease. Regardless the data proves what I have been saying since joining RotoHeat.com, running backs have a very short shelf life in this league.
It makes sense that the highly drafted RB’s have an impact early in their careers, teams draft these players base on need and the RB position is the easiest position of the skilled position to acclimatize to the pro game vs. college. Ingram, TRich, Gurley, Gordon, Zeke, Fournette, McCaffery and Saquon have all averaged a hit season over their career. Take that for what it is worth in the case of Trent Richardson who had a monster rookie season and followed it up with two RB3 seasons before sailing off into the sunset.
Fournette, McCaffery, and Saquon are still early in their careers and it remains to be seen if they can continue this level of production. For what it is worth I absolutely believe that they will.
Of the drafted running backs evaluated, 26 were second-round selections. The hit rates start to fall off here. Of those 26, 10 recorded a minimum of 1 hit season (38%), compared to the 79% seen in round 1. Four have recorded multiple-hit seasons (15%), compared to 43% in Round 1, and five of the 26 accomplished the feat in their rookie season (19%) compared to 50% from the first rounders.
The five 2nd round backs that achieved a hit season in round 2 are; Giovani Bernard, Le’Veon Bell, Eddy Lacy, Jeremy Hill, and Nick Chubb. Lacy and Hill were the only two to record a RB1 rookie season and the only back to achieve a hit season after their 4th season is Le’Veon Bell.
The busts start to show themselves in round 2; Ben Tate, Montario Hardesty, Ryan Williams, Isiah Pead, LaMichael James, Christian Michael, and Dalvin Cook all have averaged a career at RB5 or worse. I certainly expect Cook to produce at a hit level going forward but at this stage of his career, he is in the group of busts with guys I can’t remember and maybe never heard of in the first place.
The value bounces back a little in Round 3. 13 of 21 selected have recorded a hit season (61.9%). Seven have recorded multiple-hit seasons, (33%) and four (19%) recorded a hit season during their rookie campaign.
Those 4 rookies that accomplished hit status are; Duke Johnson, David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, and Kareem Hunt. DJ, Kamara, and Hunt all hit RB1 in their rookie season and have all hit this mark in multiple seasons.
Only one 3rd round selection achieved hit status after his 4th season and that back is DeMarco Murray. Murray achieved hit status in his 3rd season all the way thru his 7th and final season. Murray hit RB1 for the final time in his 6th campaign.
The success rate starts to thin dramatically after the 3rd round. There were 39 running backs selected between 2010-2018 in the 4th round. Eight of the 39 have recorded a hit season, (21%), two have done it on multiple occasions, and one accomplished this in his rookie season.
The two backs that have multiple hit seasons, are Lamar Miller and Devonta Freeman. Tarek Cohen and Marlon Mack should join them at the conclusion of 2019. The lone rookie to achieve hit status in his rookie season was Roy Helu in 2011.
Bilal Powell achieved his only hit season in his 6th season and Lamar Miller has had hit seasons from years 3 through 7. Miller, Freeman, and Cohen are the only 4th round backs between 2010-2018 to have multiple RB1 seasons both have accomplished that feat twice.
The remaining 92 running backs drafted between 2010-2018 were selected in rounds 5 through 7. 9 of those 92 or 9% have had a hit season. Three of those have had multiple hit seasons; Alfred Morris, Latavius Murray, and Jordan Howard.
Jordan Howard, Zac Stacy, and Alfred Morris reached hit status in their rookie season. Morris, Murray, Jay Ajayi, and Howard are the only 4 to record RB1 seasons. 76 of the 92 running backs drafted in these rounds during the measured time frame have averaged RB5 or lower in their careers. 83% of them are a complete bust.
When we look at the 2019 draft there were 25 running backs selected;
We had one drafted in rounds 1 &2
5 in round 3
4 in round 4
And an additional 14 selected in rounds 5-7.
Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders the round 1 and round 2 selections provide you with the most likely hit seasons. Nothing ground-breaking or earth-shattering with that statement they were drafted that high for a reason. These two backs should be the first two RB off the board in rookie drafts.
The 5 backs selected in round 3 are very interesting to me. We have 2 backs that the team that selected them traded up for in Darryl Henderson and David Montgomery. Both backs appear to be backs that will deliver. I will say that Henderson’s recent rise up the ADP list amazes me, and I fear a lot of his owners are not going to get the return on their draft capital. Henderson is currently going in round one of rookie drafts and that to me is insane.
The other back, however, David Montgomery, in my opinion, is the 3rd round back that you should all be the most excited about. He assumes the Jordan Howard role in the Chicago offense, and he possesses the ability to catch the football.
If Monty is not the third RB to come off the board in rookie drafts, then something is seriously wrong.
The remaining three third-round picks; Devin Singletary, Damian Harris, and Alexander Mattison have potential. Of the three I would consider Harris the most likely to deliver hit seasons.
Singletary may one day if the Bills rid themselves of the senior citizens currently crowding the running backs room. As for Alexander Mattison, I don’t see it and I honestly don’t understand how he is going in the mid second round in rookie drafts. I am a Vikings fan and if you are going to run behind that offensive line you better be an elite talent. Mattison is not. He may deliver you goal-line value every once in a while, but he will be ridiculously inconsistent.
Of the 4 backs taken in round 4; Bryce Love, Justice Hill, Benny Snell Jr., and Tony Pollard, there is not a lot to get too excited about. Love and Snell have upside, Hill may or may not be relevant where he is, and Pollard could be a nice 3rd down back. The reality is they are 4th round selections and likely to be those backs that have a 21% chance of delivering you a hit season. As a lover of Benny Snell, this pains me to say!
There is not a single back of the 14 selected in rounds 5 through 7 that excites me at all. We tend to get amped up to grab these guys in the later rounds of rookie drafts and start-ups and they typically will be the first guys axed next season when its time to draft again. There is a decent amount of hype surrounding Darwin Thompson who the Kansas City Chiefs selected in the 6th round out of Utah State. In a word, I just don’t see it. Ok, so that was 4 words. Regardless of the words required I fail to see a scenario in which Thompson is relevant.
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