June 14, 2013 Leave a comment
No question about it – it feels soooo good when you hit on a Late Round Running Back (aka LRRB – not to be confused with ROUSs). You not only set yourself up for great success during the fantasy season, but you are also the envy/scorn of your entire league. The challenge, of course, is actually locking down an LRRB. You see, LRRBs are not very easy to find…over the last three years, there have only been an average of five per year. The great thing about LRRBs is that they are low-risk high-reward commodities – so you can get them by the bushel! You aren’t spending a high draft pick on these guys, but if you hit, they can deliver just like a high draft pick. Which makes it worth your while to investigate your options before your draft….So let’s get started…
Identifying an LRRB
Before we start looking for an LRRB, we need to know what an LRRB looks like.
- LRRBs are drafted late: For most sane fantasy owners, RB37+ are your backup RB’s backup so let’s start there (we are operating in a 12-team league, so RB37 is theoretically drafted after all 12 teams have three RBs each).
- LRRBs score a lot of points: LRRBs must end the season as though they were a starting RB, meaning they rank as a top 24 RB.
Everything in this article is taken from two sources (available to all, thanks to the Internets):
- ADP Data: From FantasyFootballCalculator.com, based on 12-team standard league data.
- Stats: From KFFL.com, points calculated using standard Yahoo! Scoring.
- Extra Credit: For those interested in revising data to fit your league’s scoring, all this data is available in spreadsheet form via Box.net.
LRRBs of Seasons Past
Before looking at the present, let’s look to the past and identify recent LRRBs. The three charts below each represents a different year, and each shows a total of 70 RBs: all the drafted RBs, plus the top scoring undrafted RBs.
A quick way to read these charts: the further to the right the RB falls – the later he was drafted; the higher the RB’s bar rises, the more points he scored. Below are a few points to help you orient yourself….
- Y-Axis is points scored for each RB.
- X-Axis is RB ADP.
- The first vertical dotted line separates RB37+ from the pack, aka The Land of LRRBs.
- RBs that went undrafted are listed to the right of the second vertical dotted line.
- The dotted horizontal line represents points scored by RB24 by season’s end. Consider any RB whose bar breaks through that horizontal dotted line a starting RB.
- The red bars represent LRRBs – remember, LRRBs were drafted at RB37+ and finished as an RB24 or better. Below each chart each LRRBs name is shown.
- CJ Spiller – 40th RB selected – 212 points (7th highest)
- Mikel LeShoure – 43rd RB selected – 149 points (20th highest)
- Alfred Morris – 48th RB selected – 241 points (5th highest)
- Danny Woodhead – Undrafted RB – 117 points (24th highest)
- Jonathan Stewart – 37th RB selected – 147 points (24th highest)
- Michael Bush – 40th RB selected – 186 points (10th highest)
- Willis McGahee – 42nd RB selected – 151 points (21st highest)
- Darren Sproles – 44th RB selected – 191 points (7th highest)
- LaDainian Tomlinson – 37th RB selected – 164 points (17th highest)
- Thomas Jones – 38th RB selected – 136 points (23rd highest)
- Fred Jackson – 41st RB selected – 152 points (21st highest)
- Darren McFadden – 42nd RB selected – 220 points (5th highest)
- Peyton Hillis – 60th RB selected – 234 points (3rd highest)
- Benjarvus Green-Ellis – Undrafted RB – 187 points (15th highest)
- Michael Tolbert – Undrafted RB – 157 points (19th highest)
Okay, so now what? Well, let’s start by identifying some similarities between these LRRBs. Two trends common to 10 of the 15 LRRBs are (1) going to new team or (2) getting a new HC or OC:
- Going to a new team: (Sproles, McGahee, Hillis, Tomlinson, Jones)
- With the exception of Hillis, most of these vets saw some form of success with their previous team – and continued to find success at their new location.
- New OC or HC: (Woodhead, Stewart, Bush, McFadden, Jackson)
- While the players changing teams obviously got new coaches, these LRRBs did too, but stayed on the same team.
Some additional trends common to several LRRBs:
- Third Year RBs: (Spiller, Hillis, McFadden, Green-Ellis, Tolbert)
- None of these third-year RBs had fantasy-relevant success in their first two seasons.
- Strong Offense: (LeShoure, Woodhead, Tolbert, Sproles, Green-Ellis)
- These RBs benefitted from a high-scoring offense.
- Rookies: (Morris)
- Suprisingly, not a lot of Rookie RBs are LRRBs. Reason being, Rookie RBs are sexy, and starting Rookie RBs are especially sexy and that means a high ADP (LRRB Kryptonite). Albert Morris was the lone rookie on this list, mainly because no one knew he would start until late in the preseason (typical preseason Shananigans).
Certainly I am not about to declare that any and all RBs who fit these categories will produce big numbers for you this year – but it certainly is a good place to begin looking…
So now that we have an idea of WHAT to look for. Let’s figure out WHO we should be looking at:
Looking at the two most common traits of past LRRBs, it turns out that only a handful of our 2013 LRRB candidates are on a new team or has a new coach (excluding rookies). That being the case, let’s start with LRRB candidate #1 (in no particular order), a newcomer to the west coast…
- Danny Woodhead – At the very least, Woodhead should beat out Ronnie Brown as third-down back, while at best he could be involved in some early down work particularly in the event that Ryan Mathews goes down due to an(other) injury. In other words, Woodhead should have the opportunity to succeed in San Diego. Last year, Brown finished the season about where Woodhead’s current ADP is today, and I expect Woodhead to improve on Brown’s 2012 stats. Now, I don’t think the Chargers have a very good team this year, but I do believe they will improve from last year – which should help Woodhead’s numbers.
- Ryan Williams – Williams is not on a new team, but he has a new coach. Additionally, Williams is a third-year RB (he missed his entire first year) , so he fits two traits common to LRRBs of seasons past. And like Woodhead, Williams is battling an incumbent for playing time. Rashard Mendenhall was signed by the Cardinals and is familiar with Coach Arians and his offense. In fact, Mendenhall had two 1,000 yard seasons and one 900 yard season in just four years under Arians. Sounds like a tough challenge for Williams, so why is he on the list?! Well, I owned Williams last year, and while I wouldn’t say I was impressed with him, I was intrigued. I mean it’s hard to love any RB that was running behind that abysmal o-line last year. He certainly has talent – his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and make a plays in the open field is really what I like best about him. So Williams might be more of a PPR-special, but this situation is certainly worth monitoring over the summer. If Williams or his role in the offense doesn’t develop in training camp as much as I think it might, it might be worth taking a look at Mendenhall a few rounds earlier particularly considering the success he’s had with Arians.
- Shane Vereen – Vereen fits two of the above categories: he is a third year RB, and he plays on a potent offense. Another reason to like him is that Danny Woodhead is no longer on the team, and Woodhead was an LRRB just last year. In fact if you combined Vereen’s and Woodhead’s points from last year (both played similar roles on the offense), you would get the 12th highest scoring RB. As a Ridley owner last year, I took notice of Vereen’s skill set. I was worried every time Vereen was on the field, waiting for Belichick to make the switch after every game. With Woodhead gone, this could be Vereen’s year.
- Ben Tate – Like Vereen, Tate is a third year back playing second fiddle. The Texans are a run-heavy team, and everyone knows that Arian Foster has had a lot (like a LOT) of carries over the past three seasons. Tate was supposed to have a larger role last year but struggled with injuries all season. In a twist of fate, Tate has been the healthy Texans RB this offseason, while Foster has been out, resting his calf. The Ben Tate drum has been beating for a while now, making it hard to differentiate between the hype and the potential. Even with those beating drums, I would be more than happy having Tate as my backup RB’s backup.
- Zac Stacy/Isaiah Pead – I liken this situation to the Redskins situation last year – no one knew what the heck was going on! No one knew Albert Morris this time last year, perhaps one of these RBs could be this year’s Morris. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the Rams will be able to run with as much success as the Redskins, but the opportunity for someone is there. Whoever wins will benefit from an offense that reloaded big-time in the offseason. It’s worth noting that Pead had a chance last year to take the starting gig, but couldn’t do it. Pead is also suspended for Game 1 of this year’s regular season, so in terms of ADP, I am giving the edge to Stacy. Hopefully the Rams RB situation won’t be as murky as we get closer to our fantasy drafts.
While it sure helps to draft an LRRB – it is by no means a necessary ingredient for a successful season. And remember, the search for LRRBs does not end at the draft, it is a season long endeavor: over the last three years, one LRRB each year came from the waiver wire. So good luck, and keep your eyes peeled for that elusive late round running back!