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Historical RB Rankings: Visualizing the Elite 24


If you read my previous article on Historical WR Rankings, you’re familiar with the Positional Ranking. Stats change year to year and the numbers vary from a decade ago. The metric that does not discriminate against those changes is the Positional Ranking. Regardless of increase or decrease in yardage and touchdowns, the PR measures each player in relation to the rest of the league. I believe studying trends in yearly PR is an underrated strategy in predicting future success.

Here are the RB rankings from the last 14 years.

The Quick Stats

From 2000-2013, 14 NFL seasons: all stats taken from FFToday PPR scoring:

  • 336 = total # of possible top 24 spots (168 RB1, 168 RB2)
  • 149 = average # of RBs to register a carry per year
  • 125 =  RBs finished with at least one top 24 ranked season
  • 49 = RBs had only one top 24 ranked season
  • 27= RBs had only two
  • 13 = RBs had three
  • 12 = RBs had four
  • 24 = RBs with five or more top 24 ranked seasons
  • 29 =  RBs placed in their Rookie years

The numbers in italics were identical to the WR stats.

The Elite 24

I did not manipulate these numbers to match. I used the same parameters I did for WRs. There were 24 Elite RBs and 24 Elite WRs over the last 14 seasons. Below you’ll find all the RBs with at least 5 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production. 61% of the RB1 seasons came from the RB Elite 24.


The consistency these 24 had is pretty incredible. Over half of this list had 5+ straight years of RB1/2 production. Thomas Jones was the only late bloomer of the group. The few that weren’t stars right away had an incumbent RB in front of them when drafted and got started in year two.

I’ll echo what I said about the Elite 24 WRs. Some of the Elite 24 RBs probably have gas left in the tank. With a suspension looming, Ray Rice might tumble down draft boards. Rice is only 27. People have been betting the wheels would fall off of Frank Gore for a couple years now. We’re still waiting for that to happen. Judging by Christine Michael’s ADP, #29 RB, there’s a crowd that thinks Lynch is next to fall too. Lynch is 28 years old this year.

Forte, AP, Bush, Johnson and MJD all turn 29 years old this year. Both Forte and AP are 1st round picks, Bush 3rd, Johnson is going in the 6th and MJD in the 9th in redraft leagues. S Jax is also a 9th round pick. If you don’t want him, Justin Winn will gladly take him off your hands. Just looking at their 2013 numbers above, one or more of these may be a steal in 2014.

Yes, all of these RBs will lose their ability at some point. I’m not afraid to take a swing at any of the Elite 24 at the right price and you shouldn’t be afraid either.

The Rookies

Twenty nine RBs cracked the top 24 in their rookie years. This is nearly three times as many as WRs that did it. Of those 29, seven are part of the Elite 24. Twenty-three percent of the 125 RBs to post top 24 seasons did so during their rookie campaigns. The last two years have been very productive for rookies. Buy the Rookie RB hype.


There are a few one-and-done players on the list. You’ll notice, except for Slaton, the ones that had a RB1 rookie year went on to solid careers. This is a promising trend for Lacy. I’ve heard T Rich compared to Marshawn Lynch. It’s a fair projection. I wouldn’t bet against either Richardson or Martin bouncing back. The success of rookies shines a positive light on Matt Freedman’s #1 rookie, Bishop Sankey. He looks like a workhorse with ridiculous comps. Don’t rule out Charles Sims, Carlos Hyde, Devonta Freeman or Kadeem Carey from getting action this year. Look at what Le’Veon and Stacy did in 13 games.

One Year Wonders

Too many to list but I decided to show a few that were grossly over drafted following their breakouts. If you’ve played long enough, you may recall Tatum Bell was on the cover of major Fantasy magazines in ’06. Careful when you follow the “He’s got potential” hype.


C.J. Spiller is only 22 days younger than Darren McFadden. Yes, DAYS. Both are injury prone and in contract years. Both are also rumored to be returning kicks this year. Are they really that different as players? Spiller’s ADP is 3rd round, McFadden’s is 10th.


Who’s next for the Elite 24?

These are the obvious choices to join the future Elite 24.


DeMarco Murray has yet to play a full season. He’s the Percy Harvin of RBs. I like these RBs chances of joining the Elite 24.


Arian Foster could do it but he might also be Priest Holmes.


Pass Catchers

I grouped the following pass catching specialists together. Several Zero RB champions can found below. Pierre Thomas led the league in RB receptions last year. Pierre is a safe bet to notch a 5th RB2 season with Sproles gone. Helu is late round lottery pick. Shane Vereen and Andre Ellington look good to make this list in 2014.


Strictly Runners

These RBs catch very few passes and are TD dependent. Alfred Morris reminds me of a young Michael Turner. To join the Elite 24, receptions are crucial so Morris and Ridley aren’t likely. They are still relevant at the right draft spots though.


Ryan Mathews reminds me of McGahee. Good but not great. Would it surprise anyone if Rashad Jennings had a Fred Jackson like breakout? Jackson was 28 when he first notched an RB2 season, Jennings is 29.


I could keep going but you get the idea. Players that finish with RB1 and RB2 seasons are likely to do it again. The evidence of a PR trend is staring you in the face.

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