Putting 2019 in Context: Is the Running Back Dead Zone Dead?
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Image Credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Derrick Henry.

Last July, I wrote an article about the running back dead zone — basically, RBs picked in Rounds 3 through 6 have busted at incredible rates since 2015. That article — along with several others which had similar findings — fundamentally changed my strategy in best ball drafts.

Oops.1

Leonard Fournette, Aaron Jones, Chris Carson, Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram, and James White (just to name a few) did not get the memo that they were supposed to be bad. Rather, they decided to be very good.

 
Round 2015-18 Number of Players 2015-18 Average PPR Scoring 2015-18 Average Win Rate 2019 Number of Players 2019 Average PPR Scoring 2019 Average Win Rate
3 15 148.9 7.7% 6 181.9 8.5%
4 21 125.4 7.1% 4 207.2 8.7%
5 17 137.4 8.6% 6 185.6 7.6%
6 18 117.8 7.9% 3 63.3 6.0%
Combined 71 131.3 7.8% 19 169.7 7.8%

RBs in the so-called “dead zone” were not so dead in 2019, scoring an average of 169.7 points, 29.2% higher than the average from the previous four years. Rounds 3 and 4 were especially lucrative for runners, as both rounds sported an above-average win rate and absolutely gaudy PPR scoring numbers. This raises the question: Is the RB dead zone dead?

Why were these running backs so good in 2019?

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