Jeremy Langford among taller backs unlikely to repeat in 2016
For quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends, height has its inherent advantages and has been analyzed many times. Not so with running backs. Because of methodology differences and different times of various studies, the average height of an NFL running back is up for debate, but here’s one study from two years ago that said the position averaged 5’11.
That was two years ago, though, and it was looking at the whole position, not just the fantasy contributors. That’s where I’m looking, to see if much has changed in the two years, and what fantasy owners can take away from the information.
To get an idea of how tall successful running backs are, I looked at the top 24 at the position in standard scoring for the previous five years (2011-2015), plus historical data from 10 and 15 years ago for a frame of reference. I set a height of six feet tall as a baseline, much like PFF’s Mike Castiglione did with receivers.
For evidence, see the following, which is a breakdown of those top 24 in the years studied by height above and below six feet.
|72″ and under||58%||79%||79%||83%||71%||79%||75%|
The study from two years ago looks like it was accurate, at the time. Up until last season, there was a definite trend of shorter running backs turning in top fantasy seasons, even dating back to 2001. You could bank on only 20-25 percent of running backs measuring taller than six feet. But 2015 produced a huge influx of taller running backs, with the percentage of tall guys in the top 24 doubling from 2014. From veterans who are perennial fantasy studs (Adrian Peterson) to veterans boasting a breakout season (Latavius Murray) to rookies (Todd Gurley), taller running backs accounted for nearly half of fantasy’s top seasons.
So how do you decide between which tall running back to target this year? One place to look is in their elusiveness rating. This shows how good of a runner they are independent of blocking. The stigma around the taller backs is that defenses can more easily spot them, making them easier to bring down, so a tall back who also has a high elusiveness rating is basically the best of both worlds.