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Zero RB Antifragility: 2014 Midseason Check-in with Justin Forsett, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Fred Jackson

Justin Forsett

The Zero RB Antifragility theorem was touted this offseason more than ever, and Justin Forsett is the centerfold this year’s class. Runners up awards are deserved for both Ahmad Bradshaw and Fred Jackson.  We’re half way through the regular season for most fantasy leagues – how is this strategy doing overall?

The below chart combines late offseason ADP data from FantasyFootballCalculator.com and fantasy usage and efficiency metrics for 2014 drafted and undrafted rnnning backs through Week 6. 

Pos RankPickNameTeamruATTSruATTMSruEPruFPOEruFPOEPA
11.03LeSean McCoyPHI950.72541.03-7.73-0.08
21.05Jamaal CharlesKC420.419.086.420.15
31.07Adrian PetersonMINOut
41.11Matt ForteCHI990.67343.768.140.08
52.01DeMarco MurrayDAL1590.79568.5745.930.29
62.02Eddie LacyGB800.55235.0913.510.17
72.08Marshawn LynchSEA790.5637.2617.440.22
82.09Doug MartinTB480.63219.740.160
92.1Montee BallDEN550.55626.41-3.21-0.06
102.11Giovani BernardCIN860.5743.4518.950.22
113.01Andre EllingtonARI10.65932.144.360.05
123.03Arian FosterHOU1060.67149.9231.380.3
133.06LeVeon BellPIT1050.62943.4616.740.16
143.08Reggie BushDET450.33817.694.410.1
153.09Shane VereenNE420.23623.993.610.09
164.03Alfred MorrisWAS970.67449.337.270.07
174.04Rashad JenningsNYG910.55853.33-1.73-0.02
184.05Zac StacySTL530.51526.320.04
194.09Toby GerhartJAC480.50524.39-6.09-0.13
204.11Joique BellDET660.46831.82.80.04
214.12C.J. SpillerBUF670.42925.02-1.72-0.03
225.02Ray RiceBALOut
235.02Ryan MathewsSD230.3778.584.520.2
245.07Ben TateCLE530.5127.668.540.16
255.08Pierre ThomasNO240.18612.5311.470.48
265.09Frank GoreSF760.46932.088.520.11
275.12Chris JohnsonNYJ510.31920.685.320.1
286.07Bishop SankeyTEN500.33620.856.250.12
296.08Maurice Jones-DrewOAK150.2885.59-1.39-0.09
306.08Danny WoodheadSDOut
317.03Darren SprolesPHI250.1919.4519.750.79
327.1Trent RichardsonIND870.46546.2-6.1-0.07
337.11Knowshon MorenoMIA310.37819.980.820.03
348.04Fred JacksonBUF530.3425.323.480.07
358.06Carlos HydeSF340.2115.229.980.29
368.07Steven JacksonATL690.50734.693.610.05
378.09Jeremy HillCIN360.23820.2513.250.37
388.09Bernard PierceBAL470.44825.38-2.18-0.05
399.04Lamar MillerMIA630.4634.3216.680.26
409.04Devonta FreemanATL210.1547.94-0.14-0.01
419.05Stevan RidleyNEOut
429.07Mark IngramNO240.43616.815.50.65
4310.04Andre WilliamsNYG540.33126.972.030.04
4410.05Terrance WestCLE540.43224.3911.110.21
4510.07DeAngelo WilliamsCAR250.42410.870.030
4610.09Ahmad BradshawIND600.32124.114.290.07
4710.12Darren McFaddenOAK580.64426.122.580.04
4811.02Khiry RobinsonNO610.47327.6514.750.24
5012.01Shonn GreeneTEN440.35218.976.030.14
5112.04LeGarrette BlountPIT370.22215.8117.490.47
5212.1Jonathan StewartCAR290.43312.961.840.06
5313.05Chris IvoryNYJ670.41929.514.90.22
5413.06Knile DavisKC730.535.5515.150.21
5513.07Ronnie HillmanDEN410.50617.47-0.87-0.02
5614+Antone SmithATL130.0964.9119.691.51
5614+Isaiah CrowellCLE450.27619.2127.790.62
5614+Justin ForsettBAL640.38128.2430.560.48
5614+Roy HeluWAS200.13910.066.440.32
5614+Benny CunninghamSTL270.26210.037.170.27
5614+Branden OliverSD570.43824.5412.360.22
5614+Lorenzo TaliaferroBAL400.30323.87.80.19
5614+Bobby RaineyTB540.43922.689.520.18
5614+Storm JohnsonJAC140.3688.452.350.17
5614+Matt AsiataMIN640.40530.5810.020.16
5614+Jerick McKinnonMIN410.25916.344.260.1
5614+James StarksGB350.33313.251.950.06
5614+Lance DunbarDAL120.0724.48-2.18-0.18
5614+Brandon BoldenNE150.0935.32-2.82-0.19
5614+Darrin ReavesCAR310.3213.56-5.96-0.19
5614+Donald BrownSD590.37324.28-11.68-0.2

 

Round 1

Hit Rate – 25 percent

It took Jamaal Charles some time, some Andy Reid confessional, and some Wheaties to get on par with expectations, but his owners are catching up. The Eagles finally appear to have their run game intact, but we only have a small sample to go by which supports LeSean McCoy getting back to draft expectation– hopefully the momentum continues. Matt Forte is truly the only running back that was worth the draft capital, and he should have been number one overall.

Round 2

Hit Rate – 50 percent

DeMarco Murray is Master of the Universe. Does this mean that Jason Garrett was Skeletor all those years?  Giovani Bernard is getting even more workload than most expected and is performing well above draft expectation. Marshawn Lynch is another option that slid too far. Doug Martin isn’t very good at football.  There can only be one song that represents Doug E Fresh at this point:

 

You listened to that that entire track didn’t you? It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone. Ronnie Hillman proved against the Jets that Montee Ball is nothing more than an above-average professional RB. Eddie Lacy still has a chance to salvage his value, but we have another game under our belts that proved James Starks is the back that the Packers should be giving the ball too. Lacy could very well be on a Mikel Leshoure path if he keeps it up. If you opted to draft a wide receiver in round 1 but didn’t want to wait any longer than round 2 to secure a running back, you’re hit odds increased, but you still hope for more than 50 percent given the investment price.

Round 3

Hit Rate – 100 percent 

Andre Ellington is finally gaining momentum and appears to be healthy(er), but you expected to get more points under your belt before he hits the underbelly of his schedule. Arian Foster’s hamstring derailed him, but you expected that. You also expected him to go ape shit when he does carry the load. Le’Veon Bell was a major hidden value gem this offseason; not even beat reporters were able to give us a single clue that he transformed from big to small Nutty Professor. That dinner scene would have been enough to help me drop 30 pounds, too. Reggie Bush is pretty much on par with his ADP, but we’re not sure how long that will last with the possibility of Theo Riddick cutting into his workload juuust enough to possibly make him more of a flex play than a RB2. I know that Bush is more talented, but we get ourselves into trouble when we assume that the less talented option won’t be put back on the field once they’ve shown their worth.

I avoided Shane Vereen like the plague this year, not believing his target projections to be attainable, but even the plague is spreading these days in real life, and he’s about to benefit from Stevan Ridley’s injury. While you draft a running back in the third because you hope for him to have RB1 upside, this is the first round of the draft in which you didn’t have a chance to completely crap the bed.1 So, there’s probably a 50 percent chance you drafted Gio in round 2 and Reggie Bush in round 3, and you’re not doing too bad, at least in contention.

Round 4

Hit Rate – 50 percent

Rich Hribar wrote this offseason about game flow and why Alfred Morris is a liability at his ADP, and it’s right on the money as he’s top six in carries yet hanging onto a low-end RB2 status. Zac Stacy’s shared backfield situation told you not to draft him at his price. Benny Cunningham took the little value he had away on the goal-line against the 49ers, and Tre Mason is now a waiver wire speculative grab. Toby Gerhart was my biggest miss this offseason. That offensive line sure is offensive. C.J. Spiller needs a change of scenery. Rashad Jennings and Joique Bell are the only options you really feel somewhat good about going forward, health permitted.

From round 5 on you’re going to see much of the same volatility from round to round, but that’s why you went into the draft with a wait-and-see approach at the position. The biggest take away from this year is that now more than ever the RB position is much closer to a streaming position than something you wanted to try and throw money at early on to help combat the volatility you knew would experience.  You’re just unfortunately unable to stream this position because it’s like a dry heave trying to get points out of two guys on your roster.

Conversely, here’s another possible outcome that completely derailed your season if you didn’t choose the right running backs in the mid-rounds:

  • Ray Rice in the 5th
  • Bishop Sankey in the 6th
  • Knowshon Moreno in the 7th
  • Jeremy Hill in the 8th
  • Stevan Ridiley in the 9th
  • Terrance West in the 10th

As with any draft strategy, zero RB theorem isn’t the be-all-end-all, but it could have worked out for you. I would say at the end of the day, let the draft board come to you, but you did fare well if you drafted receivers early and hit on the right mid-round RB options. The premise behind zero RB is swinging at a bunch of mid and late options and hopefully you hit a home run with a few, like the aforemetioned Forsett, Bradshaw, and Jackson.  Half of you that drafted Round 2 and Round 3 running backs are doing okay. For the other half that continue to just get pummeled by taking a bunch of running backs early, here’s some additional data nuggets that might help you consider taking your chances on less risky early round options and waiting on RB next year.

 

  • Five of the top six RBs through Week 6 were drafted in round 2. If you weren’t on board with Zero RB, this was the round to target, and you’re likely well off across the board.
  • Five of the top 12 RBs to date were drafted after round 8.
  • Ten of the top 24 RBs were drafted in round 8 or later, even undrafted.
  • Seven of the top 12 efficient running backs in terms of expected fantasy points were drafted in round 7 or later
  • Three of the above RBs weren’t even drafted.
  • Round 13 RBs have all provided at least one week of RB1 performances
  • The two most valuable picks so far were drafted in round 13 or later in terms of fantasy points per game – Ahmad Bradshaw and Justin Forsett.
  • It’s safe to say that both Isiah Crowell and Jerrick McKinnon will be added to the above list.
  • DeMarco Murray was the only Round 1 and 2 RB in the top 12 in terms of fantasy points over expectation per attempt.
  • While a smaller sample size of carries accounts for higher ruFPOEPA metric, it’s pretty telling that five of the top 13 in this category through Week 6 were undrafted.
  • Round 2 RBs are outperforming Round 1 RBs in points per snap.
  • Only Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray, and Giovani Bernard are Rounds 1-3 RBs that are in the top 13 for total targets.
  • Four of the top 12 targeted RBs were drafted in round 8 or later.
  • According to Pro Football Focus, only five of the round 1 – 4 RBs are in the top 12 of fantasy points per opportunity for backs that have at least 50 percent of the snaps.

 

All-in-all, the 2014 numbers so far definitely provide merit to Zero RB, but it’s been a headache for owners across the board trying to field a dependable RB2 from week to week let alone a RB1. There’s still a lot of season left, so anything can happen.  In the offseason I want to look further into round 2 running backs over a large time period and see if there is any opportunity for trend spotting.  With the number of NFL teams growing that use some sort of RBBC, I completely understand why owners covet the last dregs of the true workhorse days.  But odds are, no matter what draft strategy you used, you’re looking at a couple options every week that you’d rather not start if you could avoid it.

Maybe we should consider point-per-breath taken at the position, for crying out loud.

  1. I just realized I write a lot about poop. Chalk it up to child rearing  (back)

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