fantasy football     JOIN THE HUDDLE    
HOME ARTICLES NEWS DRAFT GUIDE REGULAR SEASON STATISTICS NFL TEAMS MESSAGE BOARDS

FANTASY FOOTBALL ARTICLES

Repeatability - Running Backs
David Dorey
August 15, 2006
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Kickers

With running backs flying off the board in drafts this summer, you'd think that they are all no-miss picks with little risk. Ends up that they really have been among the more consistent fantasy values in recent years. The lack of any rookie running backs in the last three seasons seems to coincide with an increased consistency of Top 12 players repeating the next year. 2002 witnessed an unprecedented event - all Top 6 players from that year went on to remain in the Top 12 the following season. Not a dud in the bunch and 2003 was another good year with only Lewis missing time from his legal problems and Green falling. 2005 was another great year with four of the top six returning the next year and only Curtis Martin was a dud.

All player listings to follow were created using the standard performance scoring as seen on The Huddle statistics. This awards 1/10 for yardage and six point touchdowns.

  2001 Pts 2002 Pts 2003 Pts 2004 Pts 2005 Pts
1 M Faulk 337 P Holmes 365 P Holmes 365 S Alexander 297 S Alexander 360
2 P Holmes 269 R Williams 317 A Green 337 T Barber 293 L Johnson 333
3 A Green 256 L Tomlinson 299 L Tomlinson 336 L Tomlinson 282 T Barber 302
4 S Alexander 255 C Portis 281 J Lewis 303 C Martin 271 L Tomlinson 301
5 C Martin 236 S Alexander 267 C Portis 271 D Davis 255 E James 266
6 C Dillon 225 D McAllister 262 S Alexander 262 E James 252 C Portis 235
 
7 L Tomlinson 212 T Barber 258 D McAllister 257 C Dillon 248 L Jordan 224
8 R Williams 211 T Henry 251 F Taylor 228 R Johnson 219 R Johnson 223
9 A Smith 208 C Garner 249 R Williams 222 W McGahee 201 T Jones 200
10 S Davis 185 E George 222 E James 214 B Westbrook 199 M Anderson 199
11 G Hearst 180 F Taylor 214 T Henry 210 P Holmes 195 S Jackson 195
12 D Rhodes 180 A Green 212 S Davis 203 C Portis 194 W Dunn 183
 
13 A Thomas 172 J Lewis 211 T Barber 179 R Droughns 192 W McGahee 171
14 T Barber 164 M Faulk 205 D Davis 179 W Dunn 189 R Droughns 170
15 L Smith 159 D Staley 199 M Williams 178 A Green 188 W Parker 169
16 S Mack 158 C Dillon 196 M Faulk 172 M Pittman 187 C Dillon 169
17 M Alstott 154 M Bennett 192 K Barlow 167 D McAllister 178 D Davis 165
18 C Garner 152 C Martin 184 C Martin 162 J Bettis 174 B Westbrook 165
19 E George 145 G Hearst 179 R Johnson 159 T Jones 174 C Williams 158
20 D Staley 141 W Dunn 177 B Westbrook 153 F Taylor 169 C Brown 157
21 J Bettis 136 M Shipp 175 T Duckett 146 K Jones 161 J Jones 151
22 M Pittman 132 J Stewart 167 E George 142 N Goings 156 T Bell 146
23 W Dunn 130 A Smith 164 M Pittman 139 E Smith 155 R Brown 142
24 M Smith 129 E James 149 A Thomas 137 C Brown 154 D Foster 141
The Following season: Remained Top 6 Became 7-12 Became 13-24 Not in next Top 24

Top 6 became Avg. 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Top 6 3 2 2 4 2 4
7 to 12 1 0 1 2 2 0
13 - 24 1 1 3 0 1 1
Duds 1 3 0 0 1 1
7 to 12 became Avg. 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Top 6 1 1 2 1 1 1
7 to 12 1 1 0 2 0 0
13 - 24 2 2 2 2 2 4
Duds 2 2 2 1 3 1
Top 12 was: Avg. 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Top 6 4 2 3 6 4 4
7 to 12 2 2 2 3 1 1
13 - 24 3 2 3 2 5 3
24+ 3 4 2 1 2 4
Rookies 1 2 2 0 0 0

The Top 6 the last three seasons have returned over half to the Top 12 the next year - unusual considering history that rarely witnesses more than half of any position seeing players repeat great performances. Even more notable - there was only one dud in each of the last two years and both were the backs that were most expected to fall. Have to love that sort of consistency.

The 7 to 12 range rarely witnesses a player step up into the very top tier and surprisingly, almost none of the players stay in the top 7 to 12 range. They typically split between slipping down to an RB2 range if not to more of a back-up value. For the last three years, only one back has stayed as good or improved, most just fall back into being average after a stellar year.

Looking backwards from the Top 12, there were usually six to eight of the Top 12 that turned into a player that still ranked in the Top 24 the next year. The last two seasons have been the worse with top 12 players falling backwards and yet the position is raided in every draft like they were guaranteed points.

Notice too that the Top 12 normally had two players that were rookies each season and yet the recent drought of top caliber tailbacks from college continues despite 2005 being considered a running back rich draft. The days of rookie running backs making a big difference is getting hard to remember.

  Repeat Reliability 2002 2003 2004 2005
1 L Tomlinson 3 3 3 4
2 S Alexander 5 6 1 1
3 C Portis 4 5 12 6
4 T Barber 7 15 2 3
5 W McGahee     9 13
6 E James 24 10 6 5
7 R Johnson 91 19 8 8
8 D Davis   14 5 17
9 R Droughns     13 14
10 B Westbrook 72 20 10 18
11 J Lewis 13 4 25 25
12 C Martin 18 18 4 29
13 F Taylor 11 8 20 30
14 W Dunn 20 27 14 12
15 D McAllister 6 7 17 51
16 C Dillon 16 44 7 16
17 C Brown   80 24 20
18 A Green 12 2 15 64
19 J Jones     28 21
20 K Jones     21 33
21 T Jones 44 38 18 9
22 K Barlow 35 17 27 34
23 M Pittman 33 23 16 42
24 T Bell     46 22
25 T Duckett 42 21 36 38
26 L Jordan 48 57 43 7
27 D Staley 15 28 37 82
28 D Foster   43 66 24
29 W Parker     86 15

The table to the right shows the year end ranking for each of the listed players and is sorted in a manner to suggest the most reliable "repeaters" in fantasy drafts over the last five years. Until last year, Ahman Green was money in the bank and over the last four seasons, Holmes, Tomlinson and Alexander are in a class of their own for consistently repeating great seasons. Barber comes off a career best year and his reality is that in almost every draft in the last five years he has been taken well below his eventual value.

Top 12
Running Back Repeatability
66% - 33%

While 2003 had nine palyers return to the Top 12, 2004 went back to the standard number - 5 of 12. When you remove Tomlinson, James and Alexander from the equation, it really stands at 33% (3 of 9). That's not a very high number for how coveted running backs are in drafts though the reality is that you'll need two and maybe three as starters compared to the standard one for quarterback. Those backs in the top 12 are perhaps the main difference makers for fantasy teams because no position has the steep decline in total points that running backs do. And yet, the run continues on and on well after the first dozen are drafted.