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Is Success a Granted?

Is Success a Granted?

Going back to the class of 1988, about 2 rookies will jump right into your starting lineup every season. 

Ryan Grant accomplished this in 2007 with over 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns, landing him the 17th spot in PPR leagues.  Remarkably, he did this in basically just half a season.  Let’s put his accomplishments to the mirror of history and see what could be in store.

Ryan Grant averaged over 90 yards per game in his rookie season

This puts him in some elite company, including the likes of

Barry Sanders and

Marshall Faulk, and modern marvels like

LaDainian Tomlinson and

Clinton Portis.  If this small group of just about 20 guys is any indication, he has all but secured a starting spot on fantasy rosters for the next 3 or 4 years.

In their second year, the vast majority of these backs performed to at least at a strong RB2 level, together ranking an average 8th among runningbacks.  Those few that fell short either got injured that year, were just subbing in for an injured

Terrell Davis, like

Mike Anderson, or both if you happen to be

Olandis Gary.  All this (except for the bit about Terrell Davis) can also be said for the 30 or so runningbacks who got racked up 90ypg their second year, ranking an average 10th among runningbacks in their third season.

Ryan Grant became a fantasy starter in his rookie season

On average, 2 rookies break into the top 24 every season.  This is a mixed group, with perennial Pro Bowlers like

Ricky Watters, one-time wonders like

Dominic Rhodes, and men who simply refuse to die like

Fred Taylor.

For nearly half of these, their spectacular start turns out to be the best they’ll ever have.  Some set a really high bar for themselves, like

Jerome Bettis, while a few were simply doomed, like

Rodney Thomas, who was asked to sit behind a rookie out of Ohio State you may have heard of, a guy named

Eddie George. As I’m known to remind people, about a third of all every-down running backs will fall to injury each year, and these first-year phenoms are no exception.  Most rookies who never match their first season get bitten by the injury bug.

On the other hand, the other half of these rookies return to the top 24 in their second season.  Of these who make the return trip, most are productive in their third seasons and stick around for a while; these are your future Hall of Famers, your steady value backs like

Warrick Dunn, and fantasy vultures like the recently retired

Mike Alstott.

Ryan Grant could have been in the top 12 if he started the whole season

But he didn’t, and he wasn’t, and extrapolations are bogus, so we move on.  So far, history says

Ryan Grant has an excellent shot at RB2 or better next season.  To answer “Or better?” we look to the history of top 12 performers.

About a third of the RB1s of the last two decades broke the top 12 in their rookie season and, more or less, stayed there throughout their prime.  The table below summarizes when Top 12 Backs first broke into that class in their careers.

Season First break into Top 12
1 31%
2 23%
3 18%
4 12%
5 9%
6 2%
7+ Moe Williams%

This says if you believe

Ryan Grant performed like an RB1 last season, recent history gives him a 31% chance of living up to a first round draft pick. If not, he’s got a 23% chance.  If he reminds you of

Moe Williams, look for him in the late rounds of your 2015 fantasy draft.

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