Friday - Feb 22, 2019

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RB ROUNDUP: Analyzing the Committees

Although they experienced a small resurgence last year, workhorse running backs are still a rarity in today’s game. Instead, most teams employ a committee approach, splitting the workload to keep their players fresh. While that strategy can be useful on the field, it’s a nightmare scenario for fantasy owners, who have to decide which of those running backs are actually worth drafting.

That’s where I come in. I analyzed the NFL’s most crowded backfields to help you identify the best running backs who are stuck in committees. For this analysis, I looked at teams that are likely to have three or more running backs competing for touches. Of the 12 teams I examined, only a few have an unquestioned starter, and many of them have room for multiple backs to be fantasy relevant.

To properly assess the value of each player, I decided that a good analysis would have to answer three fundamental questions:

  1. How much volume has the player received?
  2. How efficient has he been with that volume?
  3. How is he scoring most of his fantasy points — through rushing, receiving, or touchdowns?

To answer these questions, I calculated a variety of stats that, together, offer a complete picture of the player’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as his overall ability. All of the stats have been calculated using PPR settings, and each player’s stats are based on his career NFL numbers.

Of course, there are several rookies in this analysis who have no NFL experience, which makes comparisons a bit more difficult. For this reason, I have chosen to use their college stats to answer questions #1 and #3, and I chose not to answer question #2, since efficiency stats in college are inflated by spread offenses and lesser competition. As such, rookies are marked with an asterisk (*), and their efficiency stats are blank.

Baltimore Ravens

The Stats

General Efficiency Production Breakdown
Player Average Draft Position (ADP) Touches Per Game Fantasy Points Per Touch Yards Per Carry Yards Per Reception Fantasy Production from Rushing Yards Fantasy Production from Receiving Yards and Receptions Fantasy Production from Touchdowns
Alex Collins 46 10.65 0.75 4.52 8.13 51.6% 28.7% 19.7%
Kenneth Dixon 192 9.83 0.87 4.34 5.40 37.3% 45.1% 17.6%
Javorius Allen 203 9.83 0.81 3.81 6.57 35.2% 48.1% 16.7%

The Rundown

Alex Collins: Collins had a surprising breakout year in 2017, and his career numbers look solid across the board. He’s obviously a talented runner, averaging 4.52 yards per carry and scoring more than half of his fantasy points by churning out yards on the ground. With 8.13 yards per reception, he may also be an underrated receiver. He fumbled four times last year (losing two), so he still needs to prove he can hold onto the ball.

Kenneth Dixon: Dixon missed the entire 2017 season with a torn meniscus in his left knee, but he was an effective No. 2 back as a rookie the previous year. In the 12 games he’s played, he has averaged 0.87 fantasy points per touch, best among Ravens backs. His efficiency stats suggest that he can be a good contributor, but he has already had two suspensions and two significant knee injuries, so he’ll have to earn his way back into a meaningful role.

Javorius Allen: Allen has been a versatile player for the Ravens, garnering at least 130 carries and 45 receptions in two of his three seasons. However, his efficiency on the ground (3.81 yards per carry) leaves a lot to be desired. His statistical profile is also shockingly similar to Dixon’s: he has averaged the exact same workload (9.83 touches per game) and his production breakdown is nearly identical. Allen and Dixon may be competing for the same role.

The Verdict

As the only player in this backfield who has both strong production and proven durability, Collins is the clear leader of the group. However, his current ADP might be too high. John Harbaugh has shown a willingness to feed both Allen and Dixon when they’ve been on the field, and both players are likely to limit Collins’ passing-down work. Either Allen or Dixon could provide good value, but one will have to beat out the other to be fantasy relevant. Given Allen’s inefficiency over a large sample size, I’ll take a chance on Dixon.

Best Fantasy Asset: Alex Collins

Best Value: Kenneth Dixon

 

Cleveland Browns

The Stats

General Efficiency Production Breakdown
Player Average Draft Position (ADP) Touches Per Game Fantasy Points Per Touch Yards Per Carry Yards Per Reception Fantasy Production from Rushing Yards Fantasy Production from Receiving Yards and Receptions Fantasy Production from Touchdowns
Duke Johnson 75 9.31 1.17 4.19 9.26 20.4% 68.2% 11.3%
Carlos Hyde 106 15.28 0.76 4.17 5.82 46.3% 29.3% 24.4%
Nick Chubb* 122 16.79 N/A N/A N/A 57.3% 8.1% 34.6%

The Rundown

Duke Johnson: Johnson has averaged 942 yards from scrimmage in his three NFL seasons, and unsurprisingly, more than two thirds of his fantasy production has come from his receiving work. Unfortunately, touchdowns have been hard to come by, as they account for only 11.3 percent of his fantasy production. Still, his efficiency numbers are good, and he was able to score seven touchdowns in 2017 after scoring only three in the previous two years.

Carlos Hyde: Averaging over 15 touches per game in his four seasons with the 49ers, Hyde has been a bell cow. His stats suggest that he’s a more effective runner than receiver, but he has contributed in both areas. Now that he’s sharing a backfield with Johnson, his 2017 receiving volume (3.69 receptions per game) will probably regress to pre-2017 levels (1.47 receptions per game), but he should be a big part of the Browns rushing attack.

Nick Chubb: Chubb was a beast in college, gaining over 5,000 yards and scoring 48 touchdowns during his four years at Georgia, despite splitting the workload with Sony Michel. However, he was basically a nonfactor in the passing game, scoring only 8.1 percent of his fantasy points through the air. The second-round pick will have to compete with two other capable backs, but he’ll get some chances to showcase his bruising running style.

The Verdict

This backfield looks like a three-headed monster, but each player could be worth an investment at his current price. Johnson is ranked a bit too high for someone who won’t get early-down work, and he probably won’t score seven touchdowns again. His pass-catching role is secure, though, so he’s still a FLEX option in PPR leagues. Hyde and Chubb are harder to predict since they’re vying for the same job, but either one could be a steal if he can overtake the other. You can draft both of them and wait for the situation to shake out, or you can just take a chance on the cheaper of the two.

Best Fantasy Asset: Duke Johnson

Best Value: Nick Chubb

About Jay Devineni

A journalist by trade, Jay is in St. Louis and still a loyal Rams fan. He earned a Master's Degree in Journalism from Columbia University and is a published sports writer.