Fantasy RB risers, fallers based on late-game flow
Late-game scripts are often the difference between mediocre and exceptional statistical production. Winning teams are typically better-positioned to dictate those scripts and are where fantasy players want to invest. The 2014 and 2015 Cowboys teams illustrate this well.
Dallas ran 172 more plays, piled up 1,026 more yards, and scored 11 additional touchdowns while winning or tied in the second halves of games in 2014 than they did last season. On those 2014 snaps, their 63-percent run rate ranked fourth-highest, and DeMarco Murray’s 121 carries led the league. Heading into 2016, Las Vegas odds makers peg the Cowboys for a 5.5-win bump over last year – the largest differential of any team. After facing a first-place schedule in 2015, they project to have the NFL’s easiest this time.
For a team that still ranked 19th in second-half run rate despite trailing on 66.5 percent of second-half snaps (sixth-highest) last year, even a little improvement on the scoreboard will go a long way. It is no secret the Cowboys want to run for reasons ranging from shortening games to protecting Tony Romo and their defense. Ezekiel Elliott is going to be fed the rock behind a wall of maulers, and that should continue deeper into games than Dallas’ backs were in 2015.
Last offseason we leveraged Vegas win total projections to get ahead of improving or deteriorating late-game scripts from the 2014 season. It helped steer us toward Doug Martin and Chris Ivory, and away from Joique Bell and the Lions. Alfred Morris was a whiff, but at least we were in an improving team’s ballpark. Let’s take a look at a few backfields set for more work in 2016, as well as a couple on shakier ground.
Rise: Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders
Murray was exceedingly mediocre last year. His rushing grade ranked 29th out of 68 qualifiers and was worse on a per-attempt basis (38th). He placed 39th in yards per carry (4.0), forced a missed tackle once every 6.3 handoffs (25th), and was a zero in the passing game (-3.3 grade; 63rd). Murray had as many games graded in the red by PFF (five) as in the green, and as many games below four yards per carry (seven) as above it. His 0.53 fantasy points per touch ranked 64th out of 74 backs with at least 50 total touches.