The disheartening thing about looking at running backs if you’re a stat nerd is that you don’t really have a shot of outperforming NFL draft position in terms of explaining running back fantasy points per game. Draft position explains about 30% of the variance in RB fantasy points per game, while things like weight, 40 time and college production explain just a small fraction of that 30%. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the NFL draft is efficient in terms of selecting running backs. While draft position explains 30% of the variance in FP/G, it doesn’t explain FP per touch at all. Not even a little. So pretty much the NFL draft selects running backs well probably because RB is an opportunity-heavy position. To score fantasy points it’s important to play. In order to play, it helps if a team used a high draft pick to get the guy.
I’m done with my preliminary RB work for the year, but because I know I can’t beat draft position in ranking, I’m not even going to try. Instead what I’ve done is gone through and annotated CBS’ list of running backs with some comments based on whether I think guys are fairly valued. The list is below, but I can summarize it even more succinctly here (with my rank in parentheses):
Overvalued: Giovani Bernard (10), Joseph Randle (19), Andre Ellington(24), Stepfan Taylor (22)
Undervalued: Le’Veon Bell (1), Christine Michael (4), Zac Stacy (5), Latavius Murray (High), Knile Davis (2)
Of the guys that I have in the undervalued list, I think Bell, Michael and Stacy are probably the best bets to become production NFL running backs, while the rest of the group are either athletic fliers available for so cheap that there’s no possible downside. If Latavius Murray’s 4.38 40 reported from his pro day can be believed, that would make him a top three back for me based on his size and college production. But in any case, at over 220 pounds, Murray could be a high value late flier. The same is largely true of Knile Davis. It doesn’t really matter if he’s “truly” the 2nd best RB in this draft. His price is so low that he only has upside.
Of the guys I have in the overvalued list, they are either smallish, slowish or smallish and slowish. I tried to limit my calls of overvalued to instances where the back was projected to a round where the pick actually has value (1-4) and the running back has measurables that are in great supply and available on a regular basis.
|PROJ. ROUND||POS. RANK||PLAYER||SCHOOL||CLASS||WT.||Value|
|1,2||1||*Eddie Lacy||Alabama||rJr||231||Close to fair|
|2,3||4||*Le’Veon Bell||Michigan State||Jr||230||Value|
|3,||5||*Giovani Bernard||North Carolina||rSo||202||Overvalued|
|3,||6||*Joseph Randle||Oklahoma State||Jr||204||Overvalued|
|3,4||8||Stepfan Taylor||Stanford||Sr||214||Way Overvalued|
|4,||9||Christine Michael||Texas A&M||Sr||220||Value|
|5,6||10||*Marcus Lattimore||South Carolina||Jr||221||–|
|5,6||13||Kerwynn Williams||Utah State||Sr||195||Fair|
|6,||16||*Cierre Wood||Notre Dame||rJr||213|
|6,||17||Zac Stacy||Vanderbilt||Sr||216||Lots of Value|
|7,||18||Latavius Murray||UCF||rSr||223||Lots of Value|
|7,||19||*Knile Davis||Arkansas||rJr||227||Lots of Value|
|7-FA||21||Miguel Maysonet||Stony Brook||Sr||209||Whatevs|
|7-FA||23||Theo Riddick||Notre Dame||Sr||201||Whatevs|
|7-FA||24||Robbie Rouse||Fresno State||Sr||190||Whatevs|
|7-FA||25||Rex Burkhead||Nebraska||Sr||214||Some Value|