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RB Snap Chat: Looking for Early Season Trends


I’ve been writing weekly running back efficiency reports this season. Here’s a slightly different look at data from the first two weeks of the season. For this article, I’m using a player’s snap percentage and fantasy points (PPR) to look for trends. Unlike the weekly reports, this article looks at the season to date.

Here’s a quick visual of the main RBs. Snap percentage is on the X axis, PPR fantasy points on the Y axis.


Some thoughts:

  • Up and to the right is good of course. The trend line represents the best fit for all RBs through two weeks. So players above the line have out-performed, while players below the line have under-performed. All the usual caveats apply, about using this information tentatively, based on the sample size, etc. For example, Detroit has faced both the Giants and Panthers, two solid defenses, so the performances of Joique Bell and Reggie Bush may improve as they face some softer defenses.
  • Le’Veon Bell is dominating the league from both a snap and fantasy scoring perspective. He’s well above the trend line, and there’s little reason to doubt that his usage will change. Whether or not he can be as productive remains to be seen, but he has plenty of cushion; he could lose some efficiency and still be one of the top backs in the league.
  • For comparison, take a look at Montee Ball. He has virtually the same snap percentage as Bell, but falls well below the trend line. With a preseason ADP almost a full round ahead of Bell’s, owners may be getting nervous. If you think he could improve (being in a Peyton Manning offense helps), stick with him or try to get him.
  • This chart doesn’t include Thursday’s Tampa Bay debacle, so Bobby Rainey still looks pretty good.
  • Diminutive Darren Sproles is head and shoulders above everyone. His fantasy point production has far outpaced expectations, based on his snap percentage. Can that really continue? It might be sell-high time. On the other hand, it’s a Chip Kelly offense and we’re only two weeks in, so maybe this is the new normal.
  • Sproles’ crazy out-performance aside, LeSean McCoy is still one of the better backs in the league.
  • Here’s a fun exercise: for teams that have two backs on the chart, find both backs and see where they fall. For example, Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson are in very similar spots in terms of both snap percentage and productivity. That will be an interesting backfield to watch, and making the proper start/sit decision there could be a challenge.
  • On the other hand, Ahmad Bradshaw is blowing Trent Richardson out of the water. Richardson is hanging out in that scrum of players with about 40 percent of snaps and less than 20 points. Bradshaw on the other hand is over 60 percent of snaps (RB1 territory) and hanging out with Marshawn Lynch and McCoy. Could his performance decline as the season progresses? Of course. But Richardson isn’t doing anything to put pressure on him.
  • DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar couldn’t be more opposite if they tried. Hard to see a reason to hang on to Dunbar in redraft at this point.
  • Saints’ RB Pierre Thomas has performed just fine so far, but teammate Mark Ingram has been phenomenally efficient. I’m happy for Ingram personally, but not sure what to do from a fantasy perspective. His usage is low enough that if his efficiency declines his value really falls off quickly.
  • Eddie Lacy, Frank Gore, and Toby Gerhart are all in fairly troubling territory. Good usage, but poor efficiency. Obviously Lacy seems likely to improve on his current performance if he stays healthy, given his performance last year and the quality of his offense. Look for a disgruntled or impatient owner perhaps. Gerhart is the most concerning given his preseason ADP. There’s not a real threat, likely, to his workload. But his performance is so far under water that a heavy workload may not matter. Gore may also need to worry about Carlos Hyde, although he too is somewhat below par.
  • Matt Forte is the most-used back in the league, but his performance is below par. Chalk it up to matchups perhaps. I’m not worried.
  • So far, CJ Spiller is outplaying Fred Jackson.
  • The best hope for a Bishop Sankey sighting lies in the low usage and poor efficiency of both Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster.
  • Rashad Jennings is shaping up to be a great get for his drafters, especially considering his ADP was virtually the same as Gerhart’s.
  • Alfred Morris also looking good so far.
  • Jamaal Charles, not so much. He was under-utilized in game one, and injured in game two. He’s been inefficient with the work he’s gotten, and Knile Davis has looked good with his. If Charles gets healthy, of course he’s the focus of Kansas City’s offense. But the inefficiency is still worrisome. If he can’t get fully healthy, but just healthy enough to play, then there could be some sort of time share or snap-count situation which limits both his and Davis’ upside.
  • How much lower does Bernard Pierce need to go before Lorenzo Taliaferro gets a look?


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