Shawn Siegele profiles Aaron Jones’ roller coaster season, examines Raheem Mostert’s breakout, and weighs in on Boston Scott’s opportunity – a look at the NFC running back committees ahead of Week 15.
The RotoViz Screener and NFL Stat Explorer provide a smorgasbord of data as we dive into the advanced stats for every team. Much of our focus is on how RBs score their points. We use expected points (EP) and fantasy points over expectation (FPOE) along with carries and targets to better understand each player’s workload.
Zero RB Watch List – NFC
As we head into the fantasy playoff semifinals, let’s look at backfields with competitions or committees that could determine the fate of your championship run.
After the outburst in his Arizona debut, Kenyan Drake has been the same player he was with the Dolphins.
This becomes even clearer when we look at his efficiency numbers.
Drake has scored below expectation in 10 of his 11 games this season, helping to explain why multiple Miami coaches soured on his potential. He’s consistently bad as a rusher (-0.5 ruFPOE/G) and as a receiver (-0.9 reFPOE/G). He lost touches in both phases against the Steelers.
Given the poor state of David Johnson’s health, we might have expected Chase Edmonds to benefit, but it was the erstwhile fantasy star who turned five touches into 13.3 points. Despite Johnson’s 2019 collapse, he remains one of the most effective receiving backs in the league, especially with the end zone in sight.
Devonta Freeman has been a rock solid RB2 when healthy this season. He averages more than 13 EP a game and does it as both a rusher (6.5 EP) and a receiver (6.8). This balanced workload protects him in most game scripts and makes him a weapon when healthy.
The big lead against Carolina also provided 13 carries for Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison. Hill capitalized with a TD and maintained his roster spot in deep dynasty formats.
The Bears runners are mirror images of each other. David Montgomery logged his fourth game with 20 carries, and he’s averaging more than 17 attempts a game over the last seven weeks.
You would expect that to translate into RB1 upside, but he’s underperformed his rushing total by 11.3 points and only scored 98.6 points in that span despite two 20-point games.
Meanwhile, Tarik Cohen has averaged only 2.2 ruEP on the season – his value must come entirely as a receiver. He’s met the challenge from a volume perspective – only five RBs have earned more reEP on the season – but his efficiency pales in comparison.
Austin Ekeler has been the star and Leonard Fournette the straggler, but Cohen’s numbers have endured a stark decline from 2018. During Matt Nagy’s first year as a play-caller, Cohen averaged 2.7 reFPOE per game.
Bo Scarbrough has averaged 18 rushing attempts since breaking into the rotation four weeks ago. That workload has translated into 9.4 PPG. The three targets from Week 14 represent 75% of his targets on the season.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Jones has had a crazy season, and his numbers are a blast to scroll through in the NFL Stat Explorer. Among the highlights:
- Five games with 25-plus points. Four games with 7.5 or fewer.
- Five games with 20-plus Expected Points. Four games with 10 or fewer.
- Four games with double-digit points over expectation. Five games with -3.0 or below.
It’s been a wild ride, but the highs have led to an RB4 season. He out-touched Jamaal Williams 23-8 in this one, and dominated the receiving workload.
From Week 9 to Week 14, Williams led 27-17 in reEP and that edge had ballooned to 33-6 in actual points. Despite Williams’ involvement, Jones has dramatically expanded his receiving profile this season.
Green Bay has changed its philosophy, throwing to the RBs to the tune of 14 reEP/G. Only the Patriots, Chargers, and Saints average more. In 2018, they averaged 9.1 reEP to RBs (24th).
Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley’s opportunities have dropped from 24 per game in 2018 to 18 per game in 2019, and his previous floor has become more of his current season. He was only held below 20 opportunities twice last year, and he’s only hit that level five times during the current campaign.
The Rams telegraphed those developments during the offseason, and Gurley’s usage has been more stable than it may seem. With the exception of the Week 12 debacle against the Ravens, the numbers have also ticked up over the last month.
The volume has coincided with a burst of fantasy scoring. All three recent 20-opp games resulted in 18.5 or more fantasy points. Darrell Henderson has been relegated to the bench, and Malcolm Brown isn’t that involved either, though he’s still capable of vulturing the key TD.
This isn’t a committee, but Dalvin Cook’s recent injury and a non-competitive game gave us an extended look at Alexander Mattison.
New Orleans Saints
Latavius Murray outscored Alvin Kamara 11-8 in a game where the 49ers may have been focused on Kamara to their overall detriment. This was actually not the least efficient game of Kamara’s career, but it continues a worrying trend for an electric player who hasn’t been himself since Week 3.
With a 4.4 forty and 38.5-inch vertical at his pro day, Boston Scott inspired Matt Breida and Ekeler comparisons when he was selected in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. The big difference was in the all-important production category. He wasn’t prolific at Louisiana Tech, and the opportunities had been few and far between until a -6.0 FPOE day from Miles Sanders opened the door.
After leading Philadelphia to a season-saving comeback victory, Scott is a key pickup ahead of Week 15.
San Francisco 49ers
Raheem Mostert leads the NFL in yards per carry and now has three games with at least 9.0 FPOE. On all three occasions he finished RB5 or better on the week. The difference? This is the first time those games have occurred back-to-back.
Mostert has been a driving force in three straight with only Derrick Henry, McCaffrey, and Fournette outscoring him in that window.
Of course this is the 49ers Extreme Committee, so it’s not all good news. Mostert has only five receptions in that span.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you want to take a positive from this, Ronald Jones logged his seventh game with 15 or more opportunities. It was also the second-highest target total of his career.
He probably needs an explosive performance at some point in the next three weeks to avoid new and better competition in 2020.
A new coaching staff and the Bryce Love era can’t come soon enough in Washington.1
I’m constantly impressed at the depth and breadth of the information in tools built by Mike Beers, Dave Caban, and Anthony Shook. If you enjoyed some of the visualizations used in this piece, make sure to check out the NFL Stat Explorer, the NFL Pace app, the Best Ball Win Rates tool, the Game Splits app, the RotoViz Screener, Game Level Similarity Projections, the Strength of Schedule Streamer, and the Weekly Stats tool.
Image Credit: Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Aaron Jones.
- For desperate owners and Chris Thompson enthusiasts, the eight targets suggest a possible return to his opening-month volume. (back)