Separating Names from Numbers: RB Edition

The 2017 season will undoubtedly be remembered as the year of the running back – and with good reason.

When you have a star-studded list of veterans like Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell balling out combined with a new infusion of rookie talent consisting of Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette, Alvin Kamara, and Christian McCafferey, there’s really no reason to wonder that running backs dominated the fantasy world this year.

Think about this for a second – in a full PPR league, the difference between the RB1 and RB12 was 180.1 points. Compare that to the difference between WR1 and WR12 of 85.8 points, you can see that there was a significant advantage to be had if you happened to fall into some of these studs out of the backfield.

Sure you’ll get your mix of household names when you look at production, but what happens when you take the names away from the numbers? You’ll be surprised at some of the backs who produced numbers right up there with the household names.

Disclaimer: By no means whatsoever am I saying to draft one of these guys instead of the other one next year or saying that the two running backs should even be in the same conversation, just like when I did the same thing for QBs – all I’m saying is when you pull the names away from the numbers and look at everything in a vacuum, sometimes the results are surprising.

That being said, buckle up.

———–

Running Back A:

  • 245 rush attempts
  • 15.3 rushes per game
  • 1,007 rushing yards
  • 4.1 YPC
  • 7 20+ yard rushes
  • 62.9 rush yards per game
  • 28 receptions
  • 224 receiving yards
  • 7 rushing touchdowns

Running Back B:

  • 268 rush attempts
  • 20.6 rushes per game
  • 1,040 rushing yards
  • 3.9 YPC
  • 4 20+ yard rushes
  • 80 rush yards per game
  • 36 receptions
  • 302 receiving yards
  • 4 rushing touchdowns

 

So when crunching the numbers, these two sort of surprised me because one of these RBs is heralded as a bonafide RB1 for the rest of his career, and the other supposedly had a second year player breathing down his neck.

Running back A is CJ Anderson, and running back B is Leonard Fournette.

I know Lenny had three less games than CJ and is only a rookie, and I know that CJ was playing in an anemic pass-first offense where they wanted to give Jamaal Charles a look and see what Devontae Booker could do, but you can’t overlook that CJ had a better YPC and only 53 less rushing yards on 23 less carries than Fournette.

———-

Running Back A:

  • 176 rush attempts
  • 11 rushes per game
  • 744 rushing yards
  • 4.2 YPC
  • 5 20+ yard rushes
  • 46.5 rush yards per game
  • 11 receptions
  • 136 receiving yards
  • 46.5 rushing touchdowns

Running Back B:

  • 171 rush attempts
  • 11.4 rushes per game
  • 751 rushing yards
  • 4.4 YPC
  • 6 20+ yard rushes
  • 50.1 rush yards per game
  • 19 receptions
  • 116 receiving yards
  • 5 rushing touchdowns

Running back A is a name you’ll hear probably being drafted within the first 15-18 RBs next year, and running back B is probably someone who will be taken as a late round guy (if drafted at all).

If you know your numbers, you’ll know that running back A here is Derrick Henry, and running back B is Orleans Darkwa.

Listen – I’m not coming out and saying that Orleans Darkwa is anywhere near the type of RB Henry can be when he gets the entire backfield to himself as early as next season, but the fact of the matter is that numbers don’t lie, and if you’re looking at this year in a vacuum, Darkwa’s numbers don’t look so bad when all is said and done.

———-

Running Back A:

  • 198 rush attempts
  • 13.2 rushes per game
  • 680 rushing yards
  • 3.4 YPC
  • 1 20+ yard rushes
  • 45.3 rush yards per game
  • 8 receptions
  • 52 receiving yards
  • 6 rushing touchdowns

Running Back B:

  • 184 rush attempts
  • 12.3 rushes per game
  • 659 rushing yards
  • 3.6 YPC
  • 3 20+ yard rushes
  • 43.9 rush yards per game
  • 39 receptions
  • 226 receiving yards
  • 6 rushing touchdowns

What’s most interesting about these numbers is the debate that can be had from them – does it say that Jonathon Stewart (running back A) had a quietly good season or that DeMarco Murray (running back B) had that mediocre of a season?

It’s hard to choose the right argument here – both shared backfields with younger RBs that have potential to be their respective team’s bell cows, but Murray’s fall from grace as 2016’s RB5 in a full PPR league to 2017’s RB20 makes it seem like the baton has been passed in Tennessee.

I’ve always felt that Jonathon Stewart was an underrated fantasy commodity – you could be worse off starting him in a pinch considering his floor is somewhere between 6-10 points and he has goal line carry duties. But to see his numbers so close to DeMarco’s was definitely a shock to me.

—–

There you have it! Any of these player comparisons surprise you?

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