The fantasy impact of the changing RB landscape

NFL teams are using their running backs differently than they did even a decade ago. Dan Clasgens investigates what that means for fantasy.

| 2 weeks ago
David Johnson

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The fantasy impact of the changing RB landscape

Workhorse running backs of the 1990s and early 2000s — the early days of fantasy football — were a valuable commodity. Landing a couple of them on your fantasy team and having them stay healthy to deliver, most often led to fantasy championships or at least very solid runs at a league title.

Both pro football and the fantasy football have changed so much since then though. Adapting to that change is a must for success. There have been so many variables that have impacted the evolution of fantasy football running backs and ultimately the value of the position.

The NFL rule changes have boosted the passing game in recent years unquestionably. That in turn has hurt running backs from a fantasy perspective.

Durability is always a concern and the rate of running back injuries have increased over time, especially with bigger and stronger defenders lining up to stop them. That has led to wide receivers becoming safer and more consistent producers over time.

The two factors to have the biggest impact, though, have been PPR scoring and RB-by-committee situations.

PPR scoring

There are still many different scoring systems used in fantasy football, but PPR has become the most popular, at least according to my Twitter users:

The transition to PPR came around the same time leagues started going online with live, automated scoring. Technology wasn’t the only factor though. PPR scoring also was introduced as a way to offset the production workhorse running backs were putting up and help make receivers equally valuable.

In 12-team leagues there simply were not enough frontline guys to compete with those owners that grabbed one of the studs at the beginning of drafts. In an attempt to level the playing field, leagues started giving points for every single catch.

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Dan Clasgens is a ranker/writer at Pro Football Focus. He will also return to airwaves in 2017 for sixth season as a host on SiriusXM Fantasy. Dan has been publishing his fantasy rankings online since 2003 and has been ranked among the top analysts in the industry by Fantasy Pros over the past few seasons for both his weekly and season-long rankings.