One of the most challenging aspects of assembling your fantasy football squad is deciding between talent and opportunity. Mark Ingram is a far more talented running back than Isaac Redman, for example, but Redman is getting drafted higher in nearly every fantasy league because he figures to see more opportunities in 2012. And while possessing talented players can pay off, it is generally a heavy workload which leads to an abundance of fantasy points.
Nonetheless, there are a few situations when drafting the most athletic players can pay off. One of those is in dynasty leagues. Whereas redraft owners are concerned only with short-term production, dynasty owners need a more far-reaching draft philosophy. Player evaluation is thus vital; eventually the most talented players find their way onto the field. Dynasty owners can acquire great value by drafting talented players who, for whatever reason, may not see many touches in the upcoming season. In addition to Ingram, C.J. Spiller and Rashard Mendenhall are backs who probably have more long-term than immediate value.
Another time when it is useful to possess knowledge of talent is when deciding between two players. When players’ average draft positions (ADP) and workload are relatively equal, it’s obviously preferable to choose the more efficient back.
To determine efficiency at the running back position, I created a measure called Efficiency Rating. Shown in the graph below, Efficiency Rating is calculated as follows: (Overall PFF Grade/Snaps)*100. By dividing a player’s overall production by his snaps, we can get a better sense of how efficient he was while on the field. I multiplied by 100 simply for the sake of obtaining more usable ratings. Below are the results of the top 30 running backs in terms of overall PFF grades. All ADP figures are courtesy of My Fantasy League.
Player Efficiency Rating Rank ADP
- Aging backs Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, and Marshawn Lynch made up three of the bottom five running backs in terms of efficiency. All figure to still receive significant workloads in 2012, but it may be suitable to opt for running backs with greater efficiency. Turner in particular has some competition and is in line for what could be a potentially horrific season.
- The efficiency of backup running backs Pierre Thomas, Isaac Redman, Toby Gerhart, and Ben Tate was outstanding in 2011. Redman and perhaps Gerhart are set up for much larger workloads in 2012.
- In general, running backs with higher snap counts figure to fall lower in the ratings simply because of a larger sample size. When you see a high-carry running back near the top of the list or a low-carry guy near the bottom, it stands out. Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, and Matt Forte’s presence near the top is great to see, although Peterson obviously carries a lot of risk this year. Maurice Jones-Drew’s efficiency rating, as seems to be the case every year, was again top-notch, especially for a back who received the third-most snaps in the NFL.
- You should be looking to draft running backs who have both high efficiency ratings and probable heavy workloads. I’m not a huge fan of Redman, but he falls under that category, as do Forte, Foster, Jones-Drew, and potentially DeMarco Murray.
- Further, you can use the ratings to make decisions on closely-rated players. Deciding between Fred Jackson and Michael Turner? Even with Spiller nipping at his heels, Jackson is probably your guy. Ahmad Bradshaw and Steven Jackson? With similar ADPs, surprisingly, you might want to go with the New York Giants runner.
- For dynasty owners, the efficiency ratings can be quite valuable. Ben Tate, DeMarco Murray, and C.J. Spiller are all players whose long-term value exceeds their 2012 worth, and are thus likely great “buy low” candidates in dynasty leagues.
Jonathan Bales is the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft. He also writes for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Times.