Fast fantasy facts on the running backs of 2016

Brandon Marianne Lee looks back on some notable RB numbers from the 2016 season.

| 4 months ago
(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Fast fantasy facts on the running backs of 2016

Beware of group think.

It’s easy to look back now and condemn the “Zero RB” theory. This year, almost every championship team rostered David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell. But at the beginning of the season, you were considered a genius if you went WR-heavy and started your team with Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins. Full disclosure: I started a team with those exact three players. I wasn’t last place in that league, but I was close.

It happens to the best of us. We try something and it doesn’t work. Eh, it’s a game.

But suffice to say, we can learn a lot from the 2016 season. Here are five fantasy facts that will get you started with your running back research.

Antonio Brown was the highest-scoring wide receiver in PPR leagues, and yet, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott and Le’Veon Bell all scored more PPR points than Brown on the season.

In 2015, Brown also led the league and scored 382 fantasy points in PPR settings, and the highest-scoring PPR running back was Devonta Freeman with 319 points. It wasn’t even close. In standard scoring, last year Freeman and Brown tied with 246 fantasy points. Again, it was a weird year. This year, Brown still led the league in PPR settings, but he only scored 307 total points. His decline in production was partly due to sitting out in Week 17, which doesn’t affect most season-long fantasy players, and the team often leaned on Bell rather than Ben Roethlisberger, especially during away games. Johnson simply played on another level, and scored 410 PPR points (even with his Week 17 injury), while Elliott scored 325 points and Bell scored 315. In standard leagues, Jordy Nelson was the top wide receiver, with 209 fantasy points. There were eight running backs who scored more points than Nelson in standard scoring. It’s hard to know if 2017 will look more like the 2016 or the 2015 season, but the fantasy studs at both positions should be given equal weight in your rankings and on draft day.

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Brandon Marianne Lee is a PFF Fantasy contributor, a SiriusXM host, co-founder of Her Fantasy Football and was a finalist for FSWA's Newcomer of the Year in 2014.

  • Daniel

    Jalen Richard was impressive in a small sample this season and is good in the passing game, but it’s really hard to see him beating out DeAndre Washington for a lead back role when you look at the stark differences in their college production. Washington is a better athlete by every metric and was a more impressive college producer in every aspect of the game.

    • Brandon Marianne Lee

      Sorry I didn’t see this before. I hear you, and certainly, Washington is one to watch. But the Raiders were pleasantly surprised with Richard’s output and I do genuinely believe he’ll have a substantial role in 2017, all while having a modest ADP. There’s a lot of time between now and September, but Richard’s stat lines were no joke and for whatever reason, he quickly adapted to the NFL pace. Should be interesting. Thanks for reading.