News & Analysis

Who are the most and least consistent fantasy running backs?

By Dan Clasgens
Aug 19, 2017

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KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 18: Running back DeMarco Murray #29 of the Tennessee Titans rushes up field against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half on December 18, 2016 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Scoring a ton of fantasy points during the season is nice, but when it comes in bunches and is unpredictable it becomes less valuable.

The NFL features fewer bell-cow running backs than ever, but there are still a decent handful of guys that crank out backfield production for fantasy owners on a pretty consistent basis. Having consistent performers in your lineup each week will give your fantasy team a nice baseline of production to count on.

We already examined the most consistent fantasy performers at quarterback in recent seasons. Now, we will continue the series by finding out which running backs are steady and which ones are not.

Let’s take a look at the top 36 PPR running backs in the latest PFF fantasy rankings and see how steady they have been over the past three seasons.

We’ve gone week by week to tally the total fantasy points scored at the position and calculated how frequently each player had a “plus” effort, meaning finished above the average total points for quarterbacks for that given week.

Here are some observations from this research:

DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans

Murray has been as steady of they have come at the position in recent years. He’s done well to shake his durability concerns too, as he’s only missed three games over his past four seasons.

He’s finished as top-five back twice in three seasons (overall RB1 in 2014) and inside the top-seven fantasy scorers at the position in each of the last four years aside from the his season playing in Philadelphia in Chip Kelly’s offense in 2015.

The veteran did show signs of wearing down in 2016, when he only averaged 60 yards per game with two rushing touchdowns in the final six weeks. His early second-round price tag is inflated two rounds since last year at this time, making him a much riskier proposition.

Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders

Everyone knows that Lynch was out of the league last year, but some may need a reminder that it has been a few years since he produced as a fantasy starter.

Before missing all of 2016, Lynch only managed three plus starts in his seven games a year earlier. You have to go back to the 2014 season to find his last stint of fantasy relevance.

Lynch landed in a great situation, but there are definitely a wide range of outcomes and with his current RB15/3.06 ADP it’s hard to see too much of a return on value. The temptation is there that Beast Mode will return to form. Will you give in to it? I haven’t yet in any of my drafts that matter.

Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

Despite all the indicators that New Orleans gave us to stay away from Ingram this offseason, it’s hard to argue with the body of work he’s had the past few seasons. Only seven running backs have been more consistent than Ingram since the start of the 2014 season.

Even with the likelihood the Saints will roll with three running backs in the mix most weeks, Ingram is still very relevant. New Orleans throws to running backs more than any other team in the league and it is the extra 26 receiving yards per game he’s averaged over the last two years to go along with 61 rushing yards per contest that has bolstered his value.

He only scored six times on the ground, but he caught four touchdowns last season. He has made his way in the end zone 14 times in his last 27 starts. In the sixth round, there’s not much to lose adding Ingram to your fantasy roster.

Lamar Miller, Houston Texans

Miller averaged 19.1 carries per game last year during his Texans debut, but couldn’t translate the workload in elite production, finishing with just 4.0 YPC after a 4.6 YPC clip in 2016 and only five touchdowns.

The team drafted D’Onta Foreman and they appear to be putting Miller on a shorter leash, but he still should see enough volume to deliver a decent floor this season. The ceiling just isn’t that high, which has led to Miller being one of the most overrated fantasy running backs this draft season.

The Texans’ running game is one that owners may not want to invest too heavily in this season.

Paul Perkins, New York Giants

The four rookie running backs currently in the top 36 players at the position in the PFF ranks have as many plus starts under their belts as the Giants’ second-year running back despite the fact Perkins appeared in 13 games a year ago.

In Perkins’ defense he didn’t get much of a chance as a rookie until the final four weeks. During that span, he averaged 4.4 yards per carry, including 101-yard performance in Week 17. Perkins is not built for goal-line duty though and is still seeking his first NFL TD.

His stock has continued to plummet during training camp and the preseason and now there is talk of the team mixing Shane Vereen in even more.

Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts

How many years can Gore continue to defy Father Time? In PPR leagues he finished as the R11 in 2016. In the previous years in that format the veteran finished as the RB14, RB21, and as the RB18.

However, when you look at his consistency you start to see that much of his production have come across fewer games. His skills and workload are declining and he hasn’t scored more than eight times in a season since 2013.

Terrance West, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are in a pinch at running back following the season-ending knee injury to Kenneth Dixon. Currently West is the favorite to handle the early-down work. However, he’s been less than impressive during the preseason.

The team could make a move to go after a running back once final roster cuts are made, but if they don’t West will likely approach 200 carries. That puts him squarely on the RB3 radar, even with his lackluster skill set.

Final take

There is a huge dropoff at running back after the first two rounds, making it a wise move to ensure you have a RB1 in the fold during that timeframe. When in the later rounds. it’s OK to shy away from consistency and lean more toward upside. Having a nice mix of those elements in your fantasy backfields is still the best approach to take.

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