You won’t believe it, but you weren’t dreaming: the fantasy football regular season is over (in most leagues and for our purposes at least), and it’s time to gear up for that deep playoff run toward the championship. It’s just three more weeks and fantasy contests for most GMs out there, so if you’re still alive and trying to make a deep playoff run ending in a championship, you better not let any valuable bit of information slip through the cracks.
To gain the biggest edge in your fantasy football league, it’s necessary to understand how to apply the advanced statistics being used in sports nowadays. Back in the day, it was all about wins and losses, passing yards, and touchdowns scored. It’s not that those stats are now worthless, they just don’t offer enough information to savvy analysts. While football is still in its infancy compared to baseball in terms of analytics, the evolution the sport has seen lately in those terms is notable.
Each week, I’ll be tackling NFL’s Next Gen Stats, bringing you data from the previous week’s games with notable takeaways you should consider when assessing fantasy players for the upcoming week. In case you’re new to the series, or Next Gen Stats altogether, I recommend you read our NGS-primer. Now, let’s get to the data!
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Week 14 – Running Back Takeaways from NextGenStats
I have mentioned one of the most important concepts to consider when analyzing players through this series of articles: air yards. The metrics around it are key to know who is really overperforming or underperforming among receivers and passers, but it doesn’t have much to do with rushers. For this last group, which mostly features on the ground, we can look at time, speed, and efficiency metrics.
Today, I’ll present each of the stats from the NFL’s advanced metrics site, its correlation with rushers-fantasy points, and a list of leaders and trailers in each category along with some notes and takeaways on both the players’ and the metrics’ impact on fantasy football as a whole.
Last season, the NFL introduced the concepts of:
- Expected Rushing Yards (xRY; How many rushing yards is a ball-carrier expected to gain on a given carry based on the relative location, speed, and direction of blockers and defenders?).
- Rushing Yards Over Expectation (RYOE; The difference between actual rushing yards and expected rushing yards on an individual play or series of plays).
- Rush Pct Over Expected (ROE%; The percentage of runs where a ball-carrier gained more yards than expected).
I will only focus on fantasy production as pure rushers, eliminating the pass-catching element from their game. This will concentrate entirely on their total rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns in terms of the fantasy points per game numbers shown (labeled ruFP/G). I will also include an extra column, “ruFP/15Att“, which accounts for the fantasy points a rusher is getting per 15 rushing attempts, which would be considered an RB1 workload on average and allows us to know how different players in different roles would be doing if given the same opportunities.
So let’s dive in. Note: The cutoff is set at 70 rushing attempts.
Running Backs Efficiency
Correlation with Rushing Fantasy Points (based on the 2020 season): negative-32%
Leaders and Trailers:
- Remember, the more “efficient” a rusher is, the lower amount of yards he “wastes” going headfirst toward the opposite goal line in a straight route.
- It’s been a couple of checks since the last time we had a below-3.0 EFF rusher ranked, but Jonathan Taylor has led the pack on back-to-back columns (Week 11 and Week 14 now) with the closest mark to it (3.03 last time out). In fact, only Chase Edmonds has approached him as the third-lowest efficiency, which belongs to Tony Pollard, and he’s already 0.19 points below.
- The efficiency of a rusher has pretty much nothing to do with the carries he’s gotten (no correlation nor stabilization happening over time), so you can take the EFF values for what they are no matter the number of rushing attempts an RB has to his name at any point throughout the season. That’s why we can rest easy comparing the likes of Taylor (241 carries) and Edmonds (76).
- The range of outcomes among top-EFF rushers is quite wide. We have everything from Taylor’s 14.4 FP/15Att to Sanders’ 7.7 mark, almost half of the former’s…
- One thing that seems to align nicely with EFF is the actual Y/A racked up by the rusher. Four of the five top-EFF players are putting up at least 5.2 yards per carry with Devontae Booker the only one averaging fewer than that.
- Nothing is going to save Mike Davis‘ season this deep into the year… Davis, the no. 1 free agency signee by the Falcons, put up a fantastic season backing up CMC in Carolina, filled his bag, and seemingly went to freaking sleep. His 4.67 trails everybody in the NFL and he’s closely followed, interestingly enough, by his role-replacement in the Panthers’ offense–Chuba Hubbard.
- Don’t get EFF wrong, though. Peep a little bit more down the list of “trailers” and you’ll see names such as those of Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon, and Josh Jacobs pop up. Those are far from bad fantasy players, so it’s not that sky-high EFF marks are linked to underperforming players. All of those three rank inside the bottom-10 EFF players yet are posting ruFPPG of 8.3+ at the very least.
- Slight league-wide bump up in the efficiency this week, as it’s gone from 3.78 to 3.88. Still not at the levels of the early season when it was sitting at a super-high 4.00 (later 3.93 the second time we checked).
- Overall, and with 49 qualifiers through Week 14, the league EFF keeps going down for the third time in a row as it has gone from 4.00 yards to 3.93 in Week 8 and is now at a lower 3.78 mark. Not that big of a difference, but somewhat notable and still going down and down.
- Players with the top-15 EFF marks have averaged five TDs over the 14 games played (removing Taylor’s outlier 16 TDs the average would sit at four), while those with the bottom-15 marks have scored an average of five TDs.
- Only one qualifier (Miles Sanders) has yet to score a touchdown and he’s currently boasting a 3.45 EFF mark, one sitting in the top-five. The four players with only one TD on the year have marks ranging from 4.07 to 3.13, though… In other words, they are spread up and down the leaderboard without much significance to it.
- The group of 12 RBs averaging 10+ ruFP per game is posting an average EFF of 3.74.
- The group of 11 RBs averaging <5 FPPG is at a 4.05 EFF.
Percentage of Stacked Boxes Faced
Correlation with Rushing Fantasy Points (based on the 2020 season): 8%
Leaders and Trailers:
- The correlation between stacked boxes and fantasy points is so minimal that it doesn’t make much sense to be overly worried about it if anything at all.
- Don’t throw away stacked boxes completely given that almost nonexistent relation, but keep in mind that it is heavily related to the role a player has on his offense and to what teams expect from him.
- Every qualifier has forced opposing defenses to drop a stacked box on them at least once. Carlos Hyde has the fewer such plays with just five faced boxes on his 72 carries, leading the league for the second column in a row having faced just one more box since the last time we checked. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Chase Edmonds follow him with eight stacked boxes faced each through Week 14.
- Kansas City has kept “up” with their low stacked boxes faced, as both CEH and Darrel Williams have been able to stay on the bottom-four of the leaderboard through Week 14. None of them has faced that type of alignment more than nine times or on more than 8.4% of their total rushes.
- CEH is the only rusher with 8+ FPPG facing single-digit-percentage stacked boxes, while the next lower mark among those with that average fantasy production would be Josh Jacobs’ 12% (while scoring 8.3 FPPG).
- Absolutely insane amount of stacked boxes that are faced by Atlanta’s out-of-the-blue superstar rusher Cordarrelle Patterson. CP is facing those formations on 42.6% of his carries and has done so 52 times over the season. Only two more players have similar percentages (40%+) in Rhamondre Stevenson and Elijah Mitchell. Both are, coincidence or not, playing in their rookie seasons.
- Of the seven qualified rushers with <100 rushing attempts, only Chase Edmonds and Carlos Hyde have faced stacked boxes on fewer than 21% of their carries, with Kareem Hunt having faced the most (29.5% and 23 total).
- Of the 19 rushers who have faced stacked boxes in 25% of their carries or more, the Y/A sits at 4.3. That compares to an average of 4.4 Y/A for those (13 of them) that have faced them <15% of the time.
- Stacked boxes are often employed in the red zone. That probably explains why 22 of the 23 rushers with the highest rate in 8+D% (all above 21%) have already scored two or more touchdowns.
- Rushers with 150+ carries through Week 14 see stacked boxes 24.2% of the time while those with <115 carries so far see them 19.8% on average.
- Looking at the metric from a pure FPPG perspective, the top-12 per-game scorers at the position have faced 8+D an average of 25.4% of their attempts. This group includes Elijah Mitchell (40.0%) and Leonard Fournette (12.9%).
- On the other hand, the bottom-12 FPPG rushers (min. 70 carries) are facing stacked boxes 17.5% of the time on average. This group includes Carlos Hyde (6.9%) and Alexander Mattison (31.9%).
Average Time Behind The Line Of Scrimmage
Correlation with Rushing Fantasy Points (based on the 2020 season): 21%
Leaders and Trailers:
- You might think that TLOS and EFF are related, as a north-south rusher should spend less time behind the line of scrimmage. With five weeks on the books already, the relation sits at a ridiculous 0.5%. I mean… nothing linked between these two things, I’m afraid.
- The relation between TLOS and actual fantasy points is also pretty much nonexistent, so this metric can be discarded when analyzing players in fantasy leagues and trying to predict their outcomes.
- Both the Packers and the Patriots surely have a prototype of rusher… All of AJ Dillon, Aaron Jones, Rhamondre, and Damien Harris rank inside the quickest-10 players to cross the LOS. That’s not a coincidence, folks.
- With players missing on making the cut (Ronald Jones II two blogs ago, Kenyan Drake this week), it’s now time for Dillon to lead the way with his 2.56 TLOS. That also means nobody is crossing it in fewer than 2.5 seconds as was the case with Drake back on Week 11.
- Compared to Drake, though, Dillon is a very solid pick to believe his lighting-quick tendencies. Drake was putting up his league-leading mark on just 55 carries but Dillon has kept his one up through 143 carries and counting.
- Hyper-quick rushers tend to get lower Y/A than those that take rushing a little more patiently. Those putting up the 12th-lowest TLOS marks are averaging 4.1 Y/A. Those putting up the 12th-highest TLOS are averaging 4.8 Y/A.
- The 12 “fastest” rushers to cross the TLOS are averaging 7.1 FPPG through Week 14 with one player below 5.0 FPPG (Devontae Booker).
- The 12 “slowest” are averaging 8.0 FPPG through Week 14 with one player below 5.0 FPPG too (Khalil Herbert).
- The top-12 running backs in FPPG are averaging a 2.79 TLOS.
- The bottom-12 players are averaging 2.78 seconds behind the LOS.
- There is something to this, but it’s ridiculously insignificant to give it any importance at all for fantasy purposes.
ATT & YDS & Y/A & TD
Correlation with Rushing Fantasy Points (based on the 2020 season): 83% / 90% / 53% / 86%
Leaders and Trailers:
- While Chase Edmonds found a way to qualify one more time, he did so with just six carries above the threshold of 70 for Week 14. He either comes back in a hurry and stays active ROS, or he’ll miss out on his league-leading Y/A mark.
- When it comes to high-volume rushers, it’s back to Jonathan Taylor (of course) and Nick Chubb… only with an unexpected guest this week: Tony Pollard with a tied-for-second 5.6 Y/A mark through Week 14.
- Good to see four of the top-five running backs in Y/A having at least 107 carries to this day. Again: Edmonds, you better get your excrement together, mate.
- After three more weeks of play since the last time we checked, it’s not Mike Davis trailing the league anymore! That dubious honor belongs now to Latavius Murray (barely above the min. 70 carries) with Myles Gaskin being the true stinker through Week 14 as he’s putting up a measly 3.4 Y/A (three-way tie for second) on a massive 154 carries over the year.
- Even though Gaskin has basically sucked on a per-carry basis, he’s still averaging a reasonable 6.9 FP/15 that are higher than the fantasy tallies of three other rushers (Davis, Ingram, and Hyde). That’s something positive, I guess…
- Four running backs with double-digit touchdowns to date… and wild variations in terms of Y/A marks ranging from Taylor’s 5.6 yards to James Conner‘s 3.7. Only a measly two-TD distance separates both on the scoring department, though obviously the former is averaging a bulky 17.8 FPPG compared to the latter’s 11.5 average.
- Jonathan Taylor is the lone rusher through Week 14 averaging more than 13.2 FP/15Att, currently putting up 14.4 such FP. Hunt is second at 13.2, followed by Conner as the only other rusher above 12 FP/15Att.
- Of the 19 qualifiers averaging 10+ FP/15Att, only Tony Pollard has fewer than four touchdowns on the season. He’s by far the less TD-dependent rusher of the year, and his 107 carries are healthy enough not to consider his numbers a fluke.
RYOE & RYOE/A & ROE%
Correlation with Rushing Fantasy Points (based on the 2020 season): 67% / 53% / 33%
Leaders and Trailers:
- Starting last year, the NFL introduced the concept of Rushing Yards Over Expectation. Basically, it comes down to the extra yards a rusher gained (or lost) in a given play given the context of that play (down, distance, defender positional data, etc…).
- The RYOE metric indicates how many extra yards the rusher gained/lost on his carries over/under those he actually rushed for. Ex: YDS = 100, RYOE = 10, then the rusher was expected to rush for 90 yards, but overperformed that mark by 10 (RYOE) thus getting to 100.
- The RYOE/A metric indicates the average extra yards gained/lost per rushing attempt. Ex: Y/A = 0.5, RYOE/A = -1.5, then the rusher was expected to rush for 2.0 Y/A but underperformed that mark by -1.5 (RYOE) thus getting 0.5 Y/A.
- The ROE% metric indicates the percentage of rushing attempts the rusher exceeded the expected yards (gained more yards than expected). Ex: ATT = 10, ROE% = 50.0, then the rusher gained more yards than expected in 5 of 10 (50.0%) of his carries.
- Let’s address the elephant in the room first, who happens to go by the name of Jonathan Taylor. Yes, what you’re seeing in the table above is correct. Taylor has gained almost double the yards of second-highest RYOE player Nick Chubb, outrushing him from 360 to 185 in total yards over expectation. That’s absolutely ridiculous, and the distance between JT and Chubb is the same as that between no. 2 Chubb and no. 22 Miles Sanders.
- Of course, Taylor has carried the rock 241 times, a league-leading mark. Even then, on a per-carry basis, he’s still the clear leader thanks to his 1.5 RYOE/A compared to the second-highest 1.1 mark shared by three other rushers (yes, including one in Chase Edmonds with a super low and outlier 76 attempts).
- Cleveland rushers have been able to stay on the top-five in terms of their averages, both at 1.0+ RYOE/A. Sure thing, Hunt is barely making the cut but Chubb has tallied a bulky 167 carries already while keeping up that extra-yard-plus pace through 14 weeks of play.
- Denver (MelGo and Javonte) and New England (Rhamondre and Damien Harris) are the only two other franchises with two players getting 0.5+ RYOE/A each and into the top-12 rushers on that front.
- Only six players have qualified while putting up 1.0+ RYOE/Att so far this season. Only three of those have rushed the rock 100+ times.
- Not a single qualifier is still at minus-1.0 ROYE/A through Week 14. That said, as many as three are tied for the worst mark in the NFL at minus-0.9 (Darrel Williams, Chuba Hubbard, and Latavius Murray).
- All qualifiers considered, 23 are underperforming the expectations (<0 RYOE/Att), 22 are overperforming them (>0), and four are doing exactly what the model expected (=0). Pretty balanced field through three-quarters of the season, is it?
- Although the last time we checked a few rushers were above 50% in terms of ROE, no qualified rusher is doing so through Week 14. AJ Dillon has overachieved on the highest share of carries at 48.6%.
- Five players total above 45% ROE so far, but no two of them are from the same franchise while Kareem Hunt is in that group with just 78 barely-qualifying rushing attempts.
- Mike Davis, of course, trails the league in ROE% and is the lone player with a mark below 25%–or 29%, for that matter…
- There are eight qualifiers averaging double-digit FPPG to date, and only one of them (James Conner) is underperforming the expectations. On average, that group of eight players is rushing for 0.6 RYOE on the season.
- There are 20 qualifiers averaging <6 FPPG, and only four of them have positive RYOE/A numbers led by Chase Edmonds’ 1.1 mark. On average, that group of 20 players is rushing for -0.3 RYOE/A.
That’s it for today. Until we meet again next week, I hope you can crush your waiver wire, set up the best possible lineup, and get ready for another weekend full of fireworks!
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https://www.rotoballer.com/the-running-game-is-alive-nextgen-stats-analysis-3/971201 NFL NextGen Stats Analysis: Week 14 RB Breakdown