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RotoViz Hacks: Using the Screener to Drill Down on RB Usage

One of the things that’s tough to do when watching football on Sunday is to keep track of the context of every player’s usage. For example, I was really interested to see that Wendell Smallwood got a lot of work for the Eagles yesterday. But I also know that the Eagles blew out the Steelers, so some of the personnel decisions could be the product of an unusual game flow.

We can actually use the RotoViz Screener to get additional details about running back usage because it will calculate the average margin for a player’s rushes, targets, and pass attempts.

Let’s look at how to do this. First, I set the Seasons filter to 2016. Then I set the Display Variables to ruEP, and ruAVGMGN. I just want to know how many expected points from rushing each player had, and also what the average game margin was on their rushes. Then I set the Weeks slider so that it goes from Week 3 to Week 17. The second setting in the slider doesn’t really matter. You could set it so that it just returns Week 3 to Week 3.

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After you set your filters and click Search the Database, then you want to go down to the app output section. In this case we’ll use the Compare Seasons tab, under the Player Level section. Then to look at the Eagles backs that we want to check out, we just input their names into the selection box and we get a table.

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If you’re a fantasy writer for another site we encourage the use of these tables in your writing. In fact, RotoViz strives to be one-half crazed player takes like “IT’S FINALLY GOING TO HAPPEN FOR JEFF JANIS” and one-half analysis infrastructure tools for fantasy writers. You can just right click on that table and save it as an image for use in articles.

Anyway, what you see when you look at the table is that while Wendell Smallwood led all Eagles backs in ruEP, he also had the highest average margin for his rushes. His rushes were more weighted to the second half blowout than the other backs. If you wanted to look at the work division in the first half all you need to do is make a quick change to one of the sliders, and select Quarters 1-2, and then search again.

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When you so that you see that the rushing workload was divided pretty evenly in the first half – although there also wasn’t a lot of usage to speak of.

This exercise isn’t definitive on any level, but it does give you a quick way to get context on player usage. Smallwood did most of his damage when the game was out of hand. Ryan Mathews was apparently hurting, so there was no reason for the team to rush him back into the game.

While it is discouraging to see that Smallwood basically got a bunch of garbage time carries, it was also encouraging to see him out there this early in the season. He had been dealing with an injury in training camp which meant he was behind even Kenjon Barner. I have Smallwood in a couple of dynasty leagues and it would take a lot to pry him out of my hands at this point. If you look at total usage on the season, Smallwood is behind only Mathews and Darren Sproles.download

What Sunday seemed to confirm is that we might not be very far from the scenario envisioned when Smallwood was drafted, which is that he’s a high upside back on a team where a catalyst could thrust him into a key role.

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