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Measuring Running Back Consistency: Takeaways & Targets (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Jared Lese | @JaredL_FF | Featured Writer
Aug 18, 2022
Austin Ekeler

FantasyPros recently released its initial article in the 2022 Measuring Consistency series, which leveraged 2021 data to highlight the top-performing quarterbacks last season. By understanding the average production and volatility of each startable player, fantasy managers can more effectively prepare for their drafts. Doing so enables managers to better evaluate and target players that fit into their desired roster construction strategy. Risk-averse managers may prefer lower average-producing players with greater weekly scoring stability. In comparison, others may want the high ceiling and lower floor players that can single-handedly win or lose a match-up each week.

Each of the four-part Measuring Consistency series articles highlights every startable player’s weekly performances to understand their average production before clustering and indexing them against their respective positional groups. After reviewing each position group’s top players in a standard 1QB, 3WR, 2RB, 1TE league (i.e., top 18 QBs, top 24 RBs, top 36 WRs, and top 18 TEs), certain stellar and middling performances reveal themselves. Depending on the player’s average production and volatility, measured by their coefficient of variation (CV), fantasy managers can better understand the underlying types of fantasy production each player possesses beyond just aggregated data.

With quarterbacks already done, running backs are next.

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Analysis and Recommendations

Running backs, generally the most valuable position in fantasy football, presented a bit more variety than quarterbacks. Top performers like Jonathan Taylor and Austin Ekeler were in their own tier throughout the season (Christian McCaffrey would be included if he did not suffer another injury-plagued season, as would Derrick Henry). These elite fantasy performers carry managers to championships, so identifying whom to draft and how to best construct a fantasy roster is key to winning.

Beyond these fantasy MVPs, however, there were some amazing running back performances at great values in 2021, namely Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon, Najee Harris, and D’Andre Swift (pre-injury). Alternatively, the disappointing seasons of Aaron Jones, Dalvin Cook, and Ezekiel Elliott, among others, frustrated managers who spent high capital to draft them. Hitting on the high-value picks while avoiding the volatile costly ones is critical to achieving success in fantasy.

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Stellar Performers:

  • Austin Ekeler (third-highest scorer; 19.4 PPG; 0.42 CV)
  • Leonard Fournette (sixth-highest scorer; 16.2 PPG; 0.61 CV)

Middling Performers:

  • Aaron Jones (13th highest scorer; 13.5 PPG; 0.67 CV)
  • Dalvin Cook (16th highest scorer; 14.4 PPG; 0.58 CV)

These data suggest that fantasy managers should anticipate volatility regardless of which running back they select unless McCaffrey falls to them and stays healthy all season. Using FantasyPros’ consensus RB draft rankings, players to target in 2022 are Alvin Kamara (currently ranked as the RB9), Saquon Barkley (RB10), and Travis Etienne (RB20). Although Kamara and Barkley possess rather high average draft positions (ADPs), their elite upside should not be overlooked, thereby making their current costs incredibly advantageous for keen managers. Similarly, Etienne’s elite receiving prowess should offer stability and high production potential in his first, healthy NFL season.

Alternatively, players to avoid include Dalvin Cook (RB4), Nick Chubb (RB12), and Ezekiel Elliott (RB16) since they are highly ranked players that offer average-or-higher volatility with severe hindrances to their upsides (i.e., Cook’s injury history, Chubb’s lack of receiving role, and Elliott’s significant backfield competition with Tony Pollard).

CTAs

If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant, which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.

Jared Lese is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jared, check out his archive and follow him @JaredL_FF.

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