Statistical Nuances from the Nomad: Running Backs
by Michael Pichan the Fantasy Nomad
Welcome into the realm of Fantasy Football analysis where the focus is on unearthing information that will help your Fantasy Football team
gain an advantage over of the competition. Each week, I will dig through the data, so you don’t have to, to provide a deeper explanation of what happened, uncover why those things happened, and whether we should expect those things to continue
to happen. And, this week I am adding some new statistical reports, which will appear in bold print below.
Running Backs Week Five
Changes at RB:
Packers RB Alex Green:
- Ahmad Bradshaw led RB’s in snaps with 72 followed by Donald Brown (71, who is out for the next few weeks), Arain Foster (56), Matt Forte (55), and a three way tie for fifth most snaps between Marshawn Lynch, Trent Richardson, and Maurice Jones-Drew (51)
- Jamall Charles and Ahmad Bradshaw topped all backs in carries (30), Arian Foster (29), Stevan Ridley (28), then Matt Forte (22, Michael Bush had only four carries his fewest of the seson)
- Rushing Yardage Leaders: Ahmad Bradshaw (200 yds.), Arian Foster (152), Stevan Ridley (151), Jamaal Charles (140, three weeks in a row Charles has 95 yds. or more in a game), then Alfred Morris (115, back-to-back 100+ yds. rushing for Alf).
- The top targeted backs were Ryan Mathews (8), Trent Richardson and Willis McGahee (6), followed by a four way tie with five targets were Darren Sproles, Ronnie Brown, LeSean McCoy, and Ahmad Bradshaw.
- The top pass catching running back was Ryan Mathews (6), followed by four backs with five receptionsa Willis McGahee, Ronnie Brown, Trent Richardson, and Darren Sproles each with five receptions.
- Elusive Rating: Trent Richardson (79.1 ER, 6 missed tackles), Reggie Bush (51.4, 5), Ahmad Bradshaw (41.2,4), Alfred Morris (40.9), and Ray Rice (34.6)
In Cedric Benson’s absence last week, Green ran for 55 yards on nine carries for a 6.1 yds/att average. Green’s yds/att average is a little skewed though, as 41 of those 55 yards came on one play. What Green’s performance showed Fantasy owners is that he has the ability to break a big play; and if an aging Cedric Benson can average 3.5 yds/att imagine what a younger, more athletic back like Green may be able to do. Of course, there are some concerns on how much Green will be utilized as the Packers rely heavily on the pass, not to mention the fact that John Kuhn
will most likely vulture the majority of the goal line touches. Looking beyond this week’s match up against one of the best overall defenses in the NFL, the Houston Texans, the Packers face a St. Louis Rams team in Week 7 that has allowed the 9th
most rushing yards/attempt, followed up in Week 8 against a Jacksonville Jags team that has allowed the third most Fantasy Points to running backs. Based on these match ups you can feel safe using Alex Green as an RB3 or Flex option in weeks 7 and 8, most likely beyond.
Packers RB James Starks
- Starks has been a healthy scratch the last few weeks, which leads us to believe that Alex Green will get the first crack at being the primary running back for the Packers, at least for the time being. Starks does come with the experience of being the lead back for the Packers last season, a season where he averaged over four yards a carry, but only found the end zone once in 13 games. Starks true value may come in PPR leagues as he had 29 receptions for 216 yards and a healthy 9.8 yds/rec last season. Of the Packers running backs, I would be much more confident owning Alex Green going forward.
Cardinals RB LaRod Stephens-Howling:
LSH ran for 167 yards on 43 attempts (4.0 yds/att) in 2011, most of them coming in the last game of the season where he ran for 93 yards on 21 carries. LSH also had two receiving touchdowns and 13 catches on 16 targets, with only one drop,
proving he should have more value in PPR formats. William Powell may see more opportunities between the tackles, but the Cardinals have one of the toughest, if not the toughest schedule going forward, especially in regards to the running back position. Point being, it will be tough for Arizona to run the ball, thus they will have to rely more on utilizing their back(s) in the passing game, and although Powell is capable of catching the ball out of the backfield, LSH has more NFL experience and the greater PPR upside. All that said, I like both LSH and Powell's potential this week against a Buffalo Bills team that has allowed the third most rushing yards, the most yds/att, and the most rushing touch downs of any team in the NFL this season, and would consider putting either one of the these two Cardinals running backs in my line up this week.
Cardinals RB William Powell:
Powell, a rookie RB out of Kansas State, is said to be the starting RB for the Cardinals now that Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells are on the IR. Powell's early claim to fame is that he led all backs in rushing this preseason, (for whatever that is worth). Powell finished the preseason with 249 yards rushing, three touchdowns and a 5.9 yds/att. As impressive as those numbers are, it was the preseason. And, to use a baseball comparison, Jake Fox and Sean Rodriguez once led all MLB players in home runs during spring training. Point being, preseason stats can be misleading. I feel Powell has the potential to have some success, just not behind this poor Arizona offensive line and, while I believe LaRod Stephens-Howling (LSH) has more potential for success this season as the Cardinals will be in second/third and longs often, which will be the situations where LSH will be on the field more often then Powell. Powell will be the better standard league play, of the two, as he most likely will get the goal line carries to go with the few rushing yards he may be able to muster each week as the primary ball carrier and LSH will be the better PPR option going forward.
Colts RB Vick Ballard-
Unlike the running backs in Arizona and Green Bay, Ballard should see the majority of the snaps for his team at running back, making him arguably the best short term own out of all the aforementioned backs. The risk with Ballard is that he has been Shonn Greene-sque in that he has averaged only 2.0 yards/att, but part of that could be contributed to his lack of rushing attempts. Ballard has only saw about five carries a game, with some of them coming in short down situations. In addition, Donald Brown is scheduled to return in a few weeks, and if Brown is near 100% he should regain his job. Donald Brown has been some what of an underrated Fantasy Running Back averaging about 10 Fantasy Points a week, which is more than Steven Jackson, Ben Jarvius Green-Ellis, and of course Chris Johnson, to name a few. So, although Brown may not be getting a lot of love from those in the industry he has provided adequate numbers based on his average draft day position and thus, unless Vick Ballard has some dominating performances, his value will only last a few weeks.
To sum it all up, I view Packers RB Alex Green to have the most long-term value over the rest of the running backs listed above. My second choice would be Colts RB Vick Ballard, especially in the short term. I like Ballard’s match up this week versus a Jets defense that has allowed the second most overall rushing yards (just four yards short of the Saints) and the Jets have given up the fifth most points to running backs the season. With a few solid performances, Vick Ballard could easily increase his long-term value, which is another reason I rank him higher then the two Cardinals backs. Rounding out this list I rank LaRod Stepehns-Howling ahead of James Starks in PPR leagues and William Powell ahead of LSH and Starks in standard league formats.
Some other interesting Running Back stats to note:
Running Back Leaders Through Week Five
- Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall: In his first game of the season, Mendenhall saw 22 snaps (16 run plays), carried the ball 14 times for 81 yards rushing and one touchdown to go with two receptions for 2o yards. Mendenhall had two runs of 17 or more yards, but one was called back due to a holding call. The 17 yard run was the longest run from the line of scrimmage for any Steelers RB this season. (Side note: Steelers, Lions, Bucs, and Colts are the only teams to not have a run of 20 yards or more).
- Patriots RB Stevan Ridley has rushed for 492 yards so far this season, (fourth most by a RB this season), and is on pace for over 1,500 rushing yards. Unfortunately, Ridley is also on pace to have six fumbles, and may be one fumble away from losing serious time to either Brandon Bolden or Shane Vereen.
- Niners RB Kendall Hunter: In Hunter's last two games he is averaging 20 snaps and 68.5 yds. rushing on about 10 attempts per game after getting only nine attempts combined the previous two weeks.
- San Diego Chargers Running Backs: In week five, Ronnie Brown led all Chargers RB's in snaps with 33 (two were running plays) followed by Ryan Mathews 30 (14 running plays) and Jackie Battle with only eight (four running plays). If you read my Statistical Nuances from the Nomad article last week, Battle's decline in opportunities would not be as surprising.
- LeSean McCoy leads all RB’s in snaps (302), followed by Ray Rice (289), Arian Foster (265), Marshawn Lynch (254), then Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew (244)
- Despite seeing 34 less snaps then Ray Rice and about 50 less snaps then league leader LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster still leads the league in attempts (132), followed by Marshawn Lynche (113), Stevan Ridley and Jamaal Charles (102), then Alfred Morris (100)
- Rushing Yardage Leaders: Jamaal Charles (558yds., 5.5 yds/att), Arian Foster (532/4.0), Marshawn Lynch (513/4.5), , Stevan Ridley (492/4.8), then Alfred Morris (491/4.9)
- Arian Foster leads the league in rushing touchdowns with five followed by four players who have four rushing TD's a piece Alfred Morris, Stevan Ridley, Trent Richardson, and Frank Gore
- Yards/att.: C.J. Spiller (7.6), Jamaal Charles (5.5), Darren Sproles, Frank Gore, and Kendall Hunter (5.4)
- The top targeted backs are Darren Sproles (33), Ray Rice (31), Darren McFadden (26), Trent Richardson (25), then LeSean McCoy(23)
- The top pass catching running backs: Darren Sporles (28), Ray Rice (23), Trent Richardson (20), then LeSean McCoy and Darren McFadden (18)
- Elusive Rating: Marshawn Lynch (63.1 leads RB's in causing defenders to miss tackles with 25, eight more then the next RB on this list), Alfred Morris (52.4), Michael Turner (45.5), Frank Gore (41.2), then Trent Richardson (40.8)
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