Top 20 rookie fantasy RBs of the last decade: Nos. 11-20

There were a pair of huge 2016 rookie RBs for fantasy. Mike Castiglione looks at the best rookie showings since 2006.

| 2 months ago
(Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

(Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images)

Top 20 rookie fantasy RBs of the last decade: Nos. 11-20

Continuing our series of the top rookie fantasy seasons in the past decade, this week we cover the running back position, beginning with Nos. 11-20. If you’d like to catch up, last week we kicked things off with the top 20 rookie wide receivers of the last 10 years.

Why 10 years? Because that’s how long we now have continuous PFF data. You know, the industry-leading metrics you come here for, like yards per route run, average depth of target and countless others. Before we get into it, here is a quick glossary of some of the unique PFF terms and acronyms specific to the running back position that you’ll see below.

Season rank: Where each player ranked among all RBs in PPR scoring during his rookie season
Draft: where each player was selected. Ex. Sterling Shepard: 2.40 = Round 2, Overall pick 40
FPPG: fantasy scoring per-game average
FPPO: fantasy points per opportunity, defined as carries + pass routes
Elusive Rating: breaks down a runner’s success beyond help from blockers
YAC: yards after contact per attempt
MT rate: touches / missed tackles forced (the lower the better)

20. Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo Bills (2007)

280 rush, 1,115 yards (3.98), 7 TD; 18 rec. 184 yds, 0 TD

Season Rank Draft G GS Fantasy Points FPPG FPPO Elusive Rating YAC MT Rate
16 1.12 13 13 189 14.54 0.46 47.4 2.31 3.2

Lynch missed a few games during his rookie year yet still ran for 1,115 yards and was a solid RB2 for fantasy owners. Lynch’s per-game average of 14.54 fantasy points would place him five spots higher on this list of 20, and the frequency with which he caused a missed tackle (once every 3.2 touches) is the best of any rookie RB in the last decade. Lynch had a fine follow-up campaign the next season (RB13), but he eventually fell behind Fred Jackson in Buffalo and was traded to Seattle in the middle of the 2010 season. Between 2011 and 2014, Lynch became one of fantasy’s most reliable RB1s, averaging 1,339 yards and 12 TDs on the ground.

19. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (2015)

229 rush, 1,106 yards (4.83), 10 TD; 21 rec. 188 yds, 0 TD

Season Rank Draft G GS Fantasy Points FPPG FPPO Elusive Rating YAC MT Rate
9 1.10 13 12 209 16.08 0.56 54.0 2.87 5.3

Like Lynch, Gurley also missed three games as a rookie but still delivered for fantasy owners, as he finished 2015 as a RB1. Frankly, all of the metrics backed up Gurley’s first-round draft pedigree and showed a player with the ability to dominate for years to come. Of the top-20 rookie RB seasons from the last decade, Gurley ranks fourth in fantasy points per opportunity (0.56), sixth in elusive rating (54.0), seventh in missed tackle rate, and ninth in average yards after contact. But a funny thing happens when a team all but neglects the downfield passing game. Despite playing a full 16-game slate this past season, Gurley ran for 221 fewer yards, scored four fewer touchdowns, and saw his YPC dip from 4.8 to 3.2. Unfortunately, barring a dramatic improvement from Jared Goff, Gurley will continue to face eight-man fronts.

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Mike is a member of the FSWA and a staff writer for PFF Fantasy who focuses on both redraft and dynasty content, having spent several years covering FBS for a number of publications.

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