Whether it be DFS or season long, fantasy football is a decision-making game. We try to use the best processes possible to arrive at weekly lineup decisions, then watch the games to see the results. Although there are sure to be bumps in the road, over the course of time we should see positive results if our decision-making processes are positive.
I've collected data on top weekly fantasy scorers at each position, dating back to 2013. For each position in this series, I'll use a 51-game sample size derived from No. 1 fantasy finishers over the last three seasons. I wanted to come up with a data-driven profile for top weekly scorers at every position of fantasy significance. The hope is that these profiles will increase my chances of identifying candidates to score a lot of -- or ideally, the most -- fantasy points at their positions in a given week.
Part one was Quarterbacks. (Read Here.)
Part two is Running Backs.
Weekly RB1 Overall Profile (PPR Scoring):
Accounted for multiple touchdowns: 42/51 (82.4%)
Handled 18 or more touches: 47/51 (92.2%)
Played on team that won the game: 39/51 (76.5%)
Played on team that was favored: 36/51 (70.6%)
Played at home: 31/51 (60.8%)
Faced run defense that ranked 15th or worse in DVOA: 38/51 (74.5%)
Faced run defense that ranked 10th or better in DVOA: 4/51 (7.8%)
Touchdown Scoring and Usage
It's no surprise that overall RB1s are usage monsters, handling 18 or more touches over 92% of the time. It's also no surprise that they score a lot of touchdowns, hitting pay dirt multiple times in the same game in 82.4% of overall RB1 instances. In-game usage is fairly predictable. Pinpointing multiple-touchdown scorers can be more difficult -- this is hindsight analysis and not necessarily predictive -- but there are other similarities between overall RB1 scorers that we should be able to spot ahead of time.
Winning and Playing with a Lead
Game flow is sometimes tough to pin down before games happen, but there are indicators as to how games will flow. The most obvious is Vegas lines, which provide a favorite and point spread. 70.6% of overall RB1s are pre-game favorites. 76.5% of overall RB1s played on teams that won. Running backs playing on teams that experience positive game flow are more likely to rack up touches and ultimately touchdowns. Even as trail mode can theoretically result in more running back targets and receptions, just 4-of-51 (7.8%) of PPR RB1s played on teams that lost by more than a touchdown.
Nearly 61% of overall RB1 scorers have played at home over the past three seasons. 27-of-51 (52.9%) overall RB1s fit the description of both home and favored, which compares quite favorably to 19.6% of overall RB1s being underdogs on the road, 17.6% being road favorites, and 7.8% being home dogs. Targeting home-and-favored running backs was already a part of my process in identifying strong running back plays, so I felt good about this part of the examination.
The fact that both overall QB1s and overall RB1s hit in home games at a nearly 61% clip suggests leaning toward home-game quarterbacks and running backs should be part of our weekly decision-making process, even if we only use it to break ties.
Matchups are sometimes downplayed by season-long fantasy analysts, but they were shown to matter greatly in the Quarterbacks writeup. Matchups also have major significance when it comes to running backs, even more so than passers. Whereas only 7.8% of overall RB1s have faced top-ten run defenses according to Football Outsiders' DVOA, 74.5% of overall RB1s have faced defenses ranked 15th or worse by DVOA.
My preexisting beliefs were challenged more in the Quarterbacks writeup, and will be challenged more so in forthcoming installments of this series. Still, I found this a useful exercise, if only to reaffirm my process when trying to pinpoint top fantasy running back plays. When seeking out overall RB1 scorers, we want high-volume backs who are playing on teams that are favored -- and ideally playing at home -- while facing run defenses that are mediocre or worse.