Our Josh Brickner bucks the “trend” at Big Guy Fantasy Sports and tries to identify Consistency in the current rookie class at Running Backs! Follow him on Twitter @joshbrickner.
Can Rookie RBs be Trusted Beyond 2017?
The 2017 fantasy football season was the year of the rookie running back as two of the top five PPR backs, and four of the top twelve, were first year players. Those owners who gambled on one or more of Alvin Kamara (RB3), Kareem Hunt (RB4), Christian McCaffrey (RB9), and Leonard Fournette (RB10) had a good chance of hoisting up their league’s trophy on Christmas. This trend of heavy usage for rookie running backs in the NFL should not only continue, but increase. These rookie ball-carriers come into the NFL with much fresher bodies than a veteran back with three to five years of wear and tear from punishing NFL hits. Additionally, with head coaches literally getting fired after winning a playoff game, the pressure for GMs and coaches to win RIGHT NOW is enormous. Forcing coaching staffs/front offices to play their top talent immediately instead of making a rookie earn his stripes on the bench.
Here at Big Guy Fantasy Sports, consistency is our business. If you’re unfamiliar with the Consistency Rankings and Clutch Reports at BGFS, I recommend you take a look. Basically, a player is consistent (earns a Clutch Game) when he meets or exceeds your league’s Clutch Factor scored in a given week. A player’s Clutch Rating (CR) is based on the percentage of games he earned a Clutch Game (CG) against the number of games played. BGFS founder Bob Lung has been looking at consistency in fantasy football for 16 years, and is no fan of rookies. Bob reaches this conclusion based on the numbers; since 2010 only 30 out of 340 rookies (8.83%) drafted in the first four rounds of the NFL draft have had a Good (over 60%) Clutch Rating in their inaugural season. The running back position leads the way in rookie consistency as 15 out of 88 running backs (17%) produced a CR over 60% in their rookie season.
Should a fantasy owner completely ignore rookie running backs due to their historical inconsistency? OR should he/she follow the trends and build a team almost entirely of first-year backs? Neither. Completely ignore rookie ball-carriers in your August draft based on the data and you could miss out on a league-winning player. Conversely, the owner who overcorrects and goes rookie running back crazy will likely drive themselves crazy throughout the season. The smart and savvy fantasy player examines the historical consistency data of first-year running backs in similar situations (Coaches, offensive schemes, etc.) to find that elusive 17%.
Using Historical Data to Find Consistent Rookie RBs
In April’s NFL Draft, there were seven running backs selected who have a good chance to be their team’s lead running back come Kickoff Weekend. Which of these rookies should fantasy footballers target for their squads and which should they avoid? For our purposes, I will examine the consistency profiles of four RB1s who were the lead backs for the offensive coordinator/play-caller of the current rookie back. This historical consistency data will be compared against the rookie running back’s ADP. We can then pinpoint not only which first-year backs have the best chance at being consistent, but who can be acquired at value.
Today we will feature the first running back selected in April’s draft; second overall pick Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants. Will Barkley join the ranks of rookie runners like Ezekiel Elliot and Alvin Kamara who paid huge dividends for their fantasy owners in their first seasons? OR will the former Nittany Lion just be another over-hyped prospect?
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