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Performing Against Expectation – Veteran Running Backs

@thedynastyrobot is here to discuss player performance against expectation for veteran RBs

For every pass, rush, or target a player receives, there is an expected fantasy value based on the game scenario at the time of the play. When all this is quantified, one can see how many fantasy points a player should have obtained on average. A comparison of this to actual results will show who is consistently over or underperforming their expectation. Fantasy football is about opportunity, first and foremost. Having a player underperforming but with a lead role will be much better. However, those who continue to outperform expectations will continue to see opportunity, while those who underperform may see their roles cut back.

Leveraging the data from Tan Ho and Joe Sydlowski, I have quantified the prior year’s fantasy points against expectations on a per-game basis. I have also calculated the same value but for yardage only to remove scoring variance. Mostly, this data should line up, but a few outliers may greatly under or overperform their expected touchdown numbers. Since touchdowns can vary greatly from year to year, it’s important to consider this.

With this data, we can see which players may be breakout or regression candidates. Some players may not have seen significant playing time but outperformed their expectations. This could lead to more opportunities in the future. Conversely, a player may have put up decent fantasy numbers but was well under expectation. Their role may diminish as they move forward.

There are a couple of things to note about these variations. A single-season value may be an outlier, so it’s best to see a few years of data. This also helps to see trends, such as when a veteran player may begin falling in efficiency, which could lead to a fall in value. It can also be used for rookies with limited data, albeit with lower weighting. Data may be skewed if a player only played a few weeks of the year. With that said, let’s jump into the data by position.

2022 Running Backs (Veterans)

Note: Data is sorted by 2022 fantasy points per game.  A minimum of 3 games in 2022 qualifies a player.

PAE – Fantasy points above or below expectation (left side of the chart)

YAE – Fantasy points above or below expectations for yardage elements only (right side of the chart)

Top Veterans

SANTA CLARA, CA – OCTOBER 23: San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) runs the ball during the NFL professional football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers on October 23, 2022 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire)

This just in, Ekeler, CMC, Henry, Jones, and Chubb are showing no signs of slowing down from an efficiency standpoint. Only Ekeler saw a substantial drop in YAE that is somewhat below his 5-year average. His PAE remains in line.

Barkley and Jacobs saw big upswings this past year, more in line with their big rookie seasons.

Mixon, Kamara, and Cook stand out at the top. Mixon has had a negative YAE in the last three seasons and remains on the chopping block in Cincy. Kamara and Cook’s PAE have been dismal for the last two years, but Cook’s YAE remains slightly higher than Kamara’s.

Connor finished higher in PPG than others with similar efficiency metrics.

Pollard’s efficiency remained high on the larger workload, which shows in his jump in PAE.

While Swift has fallen significantly in value of late, his efficiency remains in line. With additional touches, his value would rebound in 2023.

Fournette and Zeke’s precipitous drop in efficiency over the last few years has led to them getting cut. We must see if they can land a handcuff or committee-type role in the offseason.

JT saw a massive drop in efficiency that likely stems partially from the injury and disastrous offense in Indy. Hopefully, with Richardson in the fold, his value can bounce back with limited touchdowns being vultured near the goal line.

Jamaal Williams, Miles Sanders, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Latavius Murray surprised to the upside this past year but did so on solid efficiency and not just touches. This bodes well for their future assuming workshare can keep up. That will be more challenging for all but Sanders, who is a clear lead back in 2023.

Dobbins continues to be held back due to injuries, but his efficiency is very strong from both a YAE and PAE standpoint. He only has four people above him in PPG with better 5-year averages in YAE.

Montgomery will most certainly be in a committee with Gibbs, and his efficiency is just average and below in his career. Goal line touches may drive his value, similar to Jamaal in 2022.

Other Notables

KANSAS CITY, MO – SEPTEMBER 26: Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25) attempts to slip through the tackle of Chargers safety Nasir Adderley (24) during the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers on September 26, 2021 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire)

Gibson’s efficiency is pretty poor at -.47 YAE. Many look at him as one of the higher-value backs in this next tier. The coaches are talking about using him more in the passing game this year. Caution should still persist with his limited upside.

Mostert and Penny have put up some pretty unbelievable efficiency on what, to date, has been relatively poor fantasy results. As aging backs behind younger studs, it will be tough for them to carve out a large role, but the numbers support them seeing more touches, especially for Penny.

Many thought Dillon would be the guy in Green Bay by now. However, he continues to play second fiddle to Jones. His lack of efficiency supports this, and he has fallen off in 2022 with more of a workload.

CEH had his first year of positive value. With first-round pedigree, maybe there is still a chance he can carve out a role either in KC or elsewhere.

Damien Harris is down in value, and his YAE has dipped dramatically as well. Harris now finds himself in a crowded backfield in Buffalo. The upside is there, but he will be dependent more so on workload and remaining healthy.

D’onta Foreman has seen his value drop of late. The draft acquisition of Roschon Johnson has caused many to believe his workload is in jeopardy. However, his efficiency numbers remain well above par and will give Roschon a run for his money before he can take the job from him.

Dontrell Hilliard has put up some sizeable efficiency but finds himself on the outside looking in for the offseason. He could find his way into a handcuff landing spot with upside, so keep an eye out for that.

Mattison’s efficiency has been about neutral for his career. Mattison has the potential to take on a full workload. Dalvin may be out with no replacement depending on how this offseason plays out. However, Mattison’s efficiency is still lacking.

Ronald Jones, who has largely been irrelevant, has shown some efficiency of late and may garner some touches in Dallas. Salvon Ahmed in Miami and Trayveon Williams in Cincy find themselves in very similar situations.

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