Hat tip to @MattHarmon for the “Typology” terminology. This exercise builds on some work done last year. First, The Douche presented “The Shonn Greene All Stars,” which suggests that even bad RBs have value if they’re the only option available to their team. Later, I tried in a rather convoluted way to use the ADP Gap between a team’s RBs as a tool to identify desirable fantasy RB handcuffs. Today I’m going to revisit that idea in a little more structured fashion.
First, the methodology. I took the mid-August ADP data1 for the past three seasons from My Fantasy League. I chose mid-August because by then most backfield situations have a reasonable amount of clarity. Then I compared the ADP for a team’s highest-drafted RB to the team’s next-drafted RB and identified the average ADP gap. Then I divided all the RBs into one of 4 categories, based on whether their ADP Gap was larger or smaller than the average gap for all backfield combos:2
- Large Gap RB1 – think LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson. High draft picks who dominate touches and are expected to produce a lot of points
- Large Gap RB2 – think Bryce Brown, Knile Davis, etc. The backup to the stud Large Gap RB1. Barely sees the field. The only value is if the RB in front of them is lost to injury.
- Small Gap RB1 – think Reggie Bush or Deangelo Williams. The lead back in a timeshare or backfield where its not clear who the “starter” will be, where both RBs are expected to have value, or in a backfield with injury/performance concerns.
- Small Gap RB2 – think Joique Bell or Jonathan Stewart. The backup to the above. Sees the field a lot, regardless of the performance of the small gap RB1.
My theory here is that ADP represents the “wisdom of the crowd”. The Large Gap RB1 is a player about whom there is near-universal agreement that they will not only dominate the team’s RB touches, but be really productive with those touches. The Small Gap RBs represent collective uncertainty. Whether the uncertainty stems from unclear roles, injury, or past performance concerns, the crowd isn’t clear which back to own.
Setting the Table
The following tables present the backfield combos. I didn’t include the specific ADP for each player, since that wasn’t relevant, beyond determining which combos had a larger or smaller than average ADP gap. To keep things simple, I’m also presenting just the PPR fantasy points/game (FPG) for each player. I’m not accounting for injuries, final seasonal ranks, etc. Careful observers will also note that not every RB is accounted for. In some cases, only one RB per team had an ADP within the top 100 RBs. In those cases I concluded only one RB was drafted from that team, and excluded that player. Finally, in some cases, a team had 3 RBs. I’ve only analyzed the top two by ADP.
Large ADP Gap
|2011||Turner, Michael ATL RB||14.6||Snelling, Jason ATL RB||4.3|
|2011||Rice, Ray BAL RB||23.3||Williams, Ricky BAL RB||4.9|
|2011||Forte, Matt CHI RB||18.7||Barber, Marion CHI RB||8|
|2011||Benson, Cedric CIN RB||11.1||Scott, Bernard CIN RB||4.6|
|2011||Hillis, Peyton CLE RB||11.2||Hardesty, Montario CLE RB||5.3|
|2011||Jones, Felix DAL RB||9.9||Murray, DeMarco DAL RB||11.2|
|2011||Best, Jahvid DET RB||18.8||Leshoure, Mikel DET RB*||0|
|2011||Foster, Arian HOU RB||23.8||Tate, Ben HOU RB||9.4|
|2011||Jones-Drew, Maurice JAC RB||19.2||Jennings, Rashad JAC RB*||0|
|2011||Charles, Jamaal KCC RB||9.5||Jones, Thomas KCC RB||3.6|
|2011||McFadden, Darren OAK RB||18||Bush, Michael OAK RB||14|
|2011||McCoy, LeSean PHI RB||22||Brown, Ronnie PHI RB||1.2|
|2011||Gore, Frank SFO RB||12.3||Hunter, Kendall SFO RB||5.9|
|2011||Johnson, Chris TEN RB||14.2||Ringer, Javon TEN RB||5.9|
|2012||McCoy, LeSean PHI RB||17.1||Lewis, Dion PHI RB||2.9|
|2012||Johnson, Chris TEN RB||13.7||Ringer, Javon TEN RB*||2.8|
|2012||Rice, Ray BAL RB||17.7||Pierce, Bernard BAL RB||4.7|
|2012||McFadden, Darren OAK RB||13||Goodson, Mike OAK RB||5.8|
|2012||Richardson, Trent CLE RB||17||Hardesty, Montario CLE RB||3.7|
|2012||Mathews, Ryan SDC RB*||11.7||Brown, Ronnie SDC RB||7.7|
|2012||Lynch, Marshawn SEA RB||17.1||Turbin, Robert SEA RB||4.8|
|2012||Greene, Shonn NYJ RB||11.8||Powell, Bilal NYJ RB||7.1|
|2012||Murray, DeMarco DAL RB||15.4||Jones, Felix DAL RB||7.7|
|2012||Green-Ellis, BenJarvus CIN RB||11.9||Scott, Bernard CIN RB*||1.8|
|2012||Jackson, Steven STL RB||12.4||Pead, Isaiah STL RB||1.3|
|2012||Jones-Drew, Maurice JAC RB*||12.7||Jennings, Rashad JAC RB*||7.2|
|2012||Brown, Donald IND RB*||6.6||Ballard, Vick IND RB||8.2|
|2012||Gore, Frank SFO RB||14.2||Hunter, Kendall SFO RB*||5.8|
|2012||Peterson, Adrian MIN RB||21.8||Gerhart, Toby MIN RB||3.9|
|2012||Bush, Reggie MIA RB||13.2||Thomas, Daniel MIA RB*||7.3|
Small ADP Gap
|2011||Wells, Beanie ARI RB||12||Williams, Ryan ARI RB*||0|
|2011||Jackson, Fred BUF RB||21.3||Spiller, C.J. BUF RB||9.9|
|2011||Williams, DeAngelo CAR RB||9.7||Stewart, Jonathan CAR RB||12.2|
|2011||Moreno, Knowshon DEN RB||5.6||McGahee, Willis DEN RB||11.1|
|2011||Grant, Ryan GBP RB||8||Starks, James GBP RB||8.8|
|2011||Addai, Joseph IND RB||6.1||Carter, Delone IND RB||3.5|
|2011||Bush, Reggie MIA RB||14||Thomas, Daniel MIA RB||6.4|
|2011||Green-Ellis, BenJarvus NEP RB||9.8||Woodhead, Danny NEP RB||5|
|2011||Ingram, Mark NOS RB||9.3||D.Sproles||17|
|2011||Bradshaw, Ahmad NYG RB||16.1||Jacobs, Brandon NYG RB||9.5|
|2011||Greene, Shonn NYJ RB||12||Tomlinson, LaDainian NYJ RB||9.5|
|2011||Mathews, Ryan SDC RB||17.2||Tolbert, Mike SDC RB||13.8|
|2011||Hightower, Tim WAS RB||12.4||Helu, Roy WAS RB||11.3|
|2012||Smith, Kevin DET RB||4.8||Best, Jahvid DET RB||0|
|2012||Stewart, Jonathan CAR RB||8.7||Williams, DeAngelo CAR RB||9.2|
|2012||Wells, Beanie ARI RB||7.1||Williams, Ryan ARI RB*||5.6|
|2012||Benson, Cedric GBP RB*||10.9||Starks, James GBP RB||6.4|
|2012||Redman, Isaac PIT RB||6.9||Mendenhall, Rashard PIT RB||6.6|
|2012||Jackson, Fred BUF RB*||12.3||Spiller, C.J. BUF RB||16.3|
|2012||Bradshaw, Ahmad NYG RB||13.2||Wilson, David NYG RB||5.2|
|2012||Charles, Jamaal KCC RB||15.4||Hillis, Peyton KCC RB||4.1|
|2012||Sproles, Darren NOS RB||16.5||Ingram, Mark NOS RB||6.2|
|2012||Helu, Roy WAS RB*||3.9||Morris, Alfred WAS RB||16.1|
|2012||McGahee, Willis DEN RB*||14.5||Hillman, Ronnie DEN RB||3.9|
|2012||Ridley, Stevan NEP RB||13.1||Vereen, Shane NEP RB||6.5|
|2012||Turner, Michael ATL RB||11.1||Rodgers, Jacquizz ATL RB||8.8|
|2012||Foster, Arian HOU RB||19.1||Tate, Ben HOU RB||5.1|
|2012||Martin, Doug TBB RB||19.6||Blount, LeGarrette TBB RB||2.8|
|2012||Forte, Matt CHI RB||14.9||Bush, Michael CHI RB*||6.8|
As a group, the Large Gap RB1s averaged over 15 FPG, while their backups averaged just under 6 FPG. On the Small Gap side of the ledger, the RB1s average about 11.5 FPG while the RB2s come in at about 9 FPG. So on the surface, the four groups perform as expected. Yeah, crowd!
Large Gap RBs
You don’t need a RotoViz subscription to tell you that the Large Gap RB1s are really desirable (as a group) targets. Who wouldn’t want Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, etc. on their team? These RBs represent the highest ceiling, but also the highest risk.
The next most obvious, and useful, observation is that in aggregate, handcuffing a Large Gap RB1 has little value. Even the rationale for handcuffing is questionable: “I’m going to use a roster spot on a player that only has value if another player is lost.” Essentially you’re investing two picks in that Large Gap RB1, which probably doesn’t even decrease the damage if that player is lost,3 and provides no value if he isn’t.
Then consider that out of 44 Large Gap combos, in only 3 cases did the RB2 outperform the RB1: DeMarco Murray over Felix Jones in 2011; Vick Ballard over Donald Brown in 2012; and Fred Jackson over C.J. Spiller last year. The final nail in the coffin, as far as drafting the Large Gap RB2: of 44 such players, only 8 (18%) have provided flex value (more than 8 FPG) and none have produced RB1 value (more than 15 FPG). Instead of drafting a handcuff, you’d be better off with a Small Gap RB.
Small Gap RBs
The really useful takeaways though seem to be on the Small Gap side of the equation. As a group, the Large Gap RB1s have an average ADP of about 15. The Small Gap RB1s come in around pick 60, while the Small Gap RB2s come in around pick 115. Yes, the Large Gap RB1s average 3.5 FPG more than the Small Gap RB1s, but some of that is offset by the lower ADP – almost 3 rounds of difference, on average.
The other thing to consider is risk. Over the past 3 seasons, only 48% of the Large Gap RB1s (by ADP) have put up an RB1 caliber season (over 15 FPG). I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t draft a clear cut stud. But I am saying that you may want to be cautious about how much draft equity you spend on Large Gap RB1s: a 50% “failure” rate cautions against putting too many eggs in this basket.
Digging into the Small Gap RBs a little more, we see that in aggregate the gap between the RB1 and RB2 is only about 2.5 FPG. But the ADP Gap is 50-60 picks. Fully 1/3 of the time (14 of 41), the Small Gap RB2 outscores the Small Gap RB1, and Small Gap RB2s produce flex-worthy seasons (8+ FPG) at a higher rate (53%) than Large Gap RB1s produce RB1 seasons (48%). In other words, as a group, the Small Gap RB2s are nearly as desirable as the Small Gap RB1s.
This is not to say that Small Gap RB2s are better investments than Large Gap RB1s on their own. Clearly not. But they make a lot more sense than handcuffing your Large Gap RB1. And if you’re doing that whole Zero RB thing? Stocking up on Small Gap RBs is the way to go. Acquiring multiple Small Gap RBs in the mid to late rounds gives you a solid chance at respectable production, while leaving your earlier round picks free to invest in less volatile, more predictable positions.
Keep in mind that 2014 ADP data is still very fluid, and these situations are likely to change by mid-August. But at the moment, here are some Small Gap RB situations to consider:
I get a little squeamish inside when I think about drafting some of these guys. But these are the guys that will make or break your fantasy roster. It sure looks like Shane Vereen, C.J. Spiller, and Reggie Bush are being drafted too early, based on the recent history of Small Gap RB1s. Their ADP is approaching Large Gap RB1 levels, but it seems unlikely they’ll hit that ceiling. I also think the Darren Sproles ADP will drop a bit over the summer. It’s hard to see Shady McCoy as anything but a Large Gap RB1, but so far this offseason, he’s a Small Gap RB1.
On the other hand, Jonathan Stewart, Lamar Miller, and Chris Ivory are ridiculously cheap, and if they produce at Small Gap RB2 or even Small Gap RB1 levels, you’ll be pleased. If you squint a little bit, CJ2K and Chris Ivory look a little bit like Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Health is always the question for Ivory, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he had a Joique-like season. Miller is just as talented as he was last season, and Moreno supposedly reported to OTAs out of shape. Stewart is another oft-injured back, but D-Willy is D-Geriatric. Even if both are healthy, there should be a lot of volume in the Carolina run game.
Put it this way: you could assemble a backfield of Joique Bell (56), Stevan Ridley (79), Fred Jackson (92), and Terrance West (106) for an average ADP of 83.25. Not bad. In this case, your first RB is Bell in Round 5. So you’ve got 4 rounds to acquire high quality and less volatile players. You could grab Jimmy Graham in the 1st, a QB like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, or Matt Stafford, and two WR1 types before hitting RB.
So in theory, the highest scoring cohort is the Large Gap RB1, followed by Small Gap RB1 & then Small Gap RB2.4 What if we took the current ADP for every RB, and re-ordered them by cohort? So we’ll rank the Large Gap RB1s by ADP, then Small Gap RB1s by ADP, etc. This would combine the ADP value and Typology value for each RB as a sort of alternate way of ranking RBs for the upcoming season. Here’s what that would look like:
|Lg Gap RB1||Jamaal Charles|
|Lg Gap RB1||Adrian Peterson|
|Lg Gap RB1||Matt Forte|
|Lg Gap RB1||Eddie Lacy|
|Lg Gap RB1||Marshawn Lynch|
|Lg Gap RB1||Arian Foster|
|Lg Gap RB1||Montee Ball|
|Lg Gap RB1||Doug Martin|
|Lg Gap RB1||LeVeon Bell|
|Lg Gap RB1||DeMarco Murray|
|Lg Gap RB1||Zac Stacy|
|Lg Gap RB1||Alfred Morris|
|Lg Gap RB1||Andre Ellington|
|Lg Gap RB1||Bishop Sankey|
|Lg Gap RB1||Toby Gerhart|
|Sm Gap RB1||LeSean McCoy|
|Sm Gap RB1||Giovani Bernard|
|Sm Gap RB1||Reggie Bush|
|Sm Gap RB1||C.J. Spiller|
|Sm Gap RB1||Shane Vereen|
|Sm Gap RB1||Ben Tate|
|Sm Gap RB1||Ray Rice|
|Sm Gap RB1||Ryan Mathews|
|Sm Gap RB1||Frank Gore|
|Sm Gap RB1||Chris Johnson|
|Sm Gap RB1||Rashad Jennings|
|Sm Gap RB1||Trent Richardson|
|Sm Gap RB1||Pierre Thomas|
|Sm Gap RB1||Knowshon Moreno|
|Sm Gap RB1||Steven Jackson|
|Sm Gap RB1||Maurice Jones-Drew|
|Sm Gap RB1||DeAngelo Williams|
|Small Gap RB2||Joique Bell|
|Small Gap RB2||Darren Sproles|
|Small Gap RB2||Danny Woodhead|
|Small Gap RB2||Stevan Ridley|
|Small Gap RB2||Fred Jackson|
|Small Gap RB2||Khiry Robinson|
|Small Gap RB2||Bernard Pierce|
|Small Gap RB2||Terrance West|
|Small Gap RB2||Jeremy Hill|
|Small Gap RB2||Devonta Freeman|
|Small Gap RB2||Chris Ivory|
|Small Gap RB2||Carlos Hyde|
|Small Gap RB2||Lamar Miller|
|Small Gap RB2||Ahmad Bradshaw|
|Small Gap RB2||Andre Williams|
|Small Gap RB2||Jonathan Stewart|
|Small Gap RB2||Darren McFadden|
Other than LeSean McCoy, whose ADP Gap vis-a-vis Darren Sproles I’d expect to change over the summer, that’s not a bad redraft ranking.