Overview and Methodology
I took the top 50 RBs in Half PPR scoring for 2018 and decided to break down how valuable an opportunity was for them in 2018. Opportunities are defined as carries plus targets for this exercise. Included in this research are the averages over the top 50 RBs for a breakdown of how often TDs were scored, targets versus carries as a percentage of opportunities and a few other items. Here are the averages for some numbers across the top 50 RBs:
|Points Per Opportunity||Opportunities per TD||% of Carries||% of Targets||Catch Rate|
|2018 Top 50 RB Averages||0.786||28.12||77.10||22.9||76.61|
Using these numbers, I selected 2 players that showed this as a positive indicator for and 2 as a negative indicator so I could look deeper at what it shows for these players. Everyone who plays fantasy with any PPR scoring knows a target is more valuable than a carry, which means there are PPR specialist types that rank high on efficiency, but generally do not have the volume to be top end options. On the other end of the spectrum there are backs that are not utilized much in the passing game but their volume on the ground drives their value. Now to highlight a few players.
Positive Indicator: Aaron Jones
Going through this exercise really highlighted how much better of an option Aaron Jones is compared to Jamaal Williams. Their opportunities were very close in 2018 with 168 for Jones and 162 for Williams. Jones was better in every way in 2018. He accomplished scoring over 50% for fantasy points per opportunity despite actually having a higher percentage of rushes as his total opportunities than Williams. Jones did have his point total helped by scoring 6 more total TDs than Williams, but if Jones receives the majority of carries in the Packers’ offense, scoring 8 TDs on the ground seems very repeatable.
Jones finished as the 10th most efficient RB per opportunity in 2018, which is even more impressive when you consider he has the 2nd highest rush percentage at 79.17% in the top 10 behind only Kareem Hunt. Some of the other names in the top 10 are guys who do a lot of damage in the passing game. Names like Tarik Cohen, Duke Johnson and James White. If the Packers and new head coach Matt LaFleur commit to Jones like they should, then he should easily out pace those guys in opportunities during the 2019 season. Sure if he does receive the volume his efficiency will drop some, but he has a chance to have a huge season in 2019.
Negative Indicator: Damien Williams
Damien Williams finished as the most efficient RB on a per opportunity basis in 2018. The biggest concern that stands out is the small sample size and how far better than the average Williams was in 2018. I expect a lot of his numbers to regress in 2019. He was 0.39 points per opportunity better than the average of the top 50 RBs, there was only 1 target he did not catch to achieve a 95.8% catch rate and he scored a TD every 12.33 opportunities. None of those numbers are likely to repeat in 2019. When you combine these and the likelihood that the Chiefs’ offense as a whole regresses, the numbers leave me a little worried about Williams at his ADP of 2.10 in half PPR, which is the RB12. It is also not like Williams is a young player the Chiefs found, he is going into his 6th NFL season which seems like a late point to breakout as a star RB without being stuck behind a star earlier in your career.
To be fair there are a few items that show there is potential for Williams in 2019. The 8th most efficient RB in 2018 was fellow Chief Kareem Hunt. Even though I expect the Chiefs’ offense to regress, if a player receives the volume in this offense they will put up fantasy points. It just will not be at the levels of efficiency Williams reached in 2018. Another item in favor of Williams is Carlos Hyde ranked 49th in points per opportunity in 2018. He was 1 of only 2 RBs in the top 50 to not break 0.5 points per opportunity. The Chiefs are a better situation than Hyde saw in either Cleveland or Jacksonville last season, but those numbers are not encouraging.
Positive Indicator: Matt Breida
It seems like whoever gets the ball in Mike Shanahan’s system is able to produce for fantasy purposes. Even with Nick Mullens and CJ Beathard under center for most of the season, the 49ers RBs produced for fantasy. Breida was 21st in points per opportunity, which given the situation was a very strong showing. He also had a very high percentage of carries compared to total opportunities at 83.15%. He has shown to be efficient on the ground averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Considering that outside of George Kittle the passing game had no other reliable weapons, that is very impressive. Breida also improved as a pass catcher in his second season, averaging 9.7 yards per reception with a catch rate of 87.1%. If he sees more work in the passing game his 2019 per opportunity numbers could improve even more.
The biggest question around Breida will be the workload. The 49ers signed Tevin Coleman in the offseason and Jerrick McKinnon who was signed the previous offseason but was hurt for all of 2018. While McKinnon is still recovering, Breida has the opportunity to secure that 2nd spot in this RB core. Shanahan has shown in the past that his system can support 2 fantasy relevant RBs. Not to mention the 49ers as a whole should be better on offense with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo back along with the moves San Francisco made in an attempt to bolster their WR core.
Negative Indicator: Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry is a polarizing figure among many fantasy players. Looking at these numbers at first glance he ranks pretty well at 20th in points per opportunity. However, all of his season totals are basically warped by his giant game against Jacksonville where he had 17 carries for a total of 47.8 fantasy points in half PPR scoring. If you exclude that game, his points per opportunity drops from .83 to .67 and he would fall from 20th to 35th and drop below the league average for the top 50 RBs. That game against Jacksonville accounted for almost 25% of Henry’s fantasy points on the season. Since the game is an outlier, players should not just look at his season total fantasy points. Do not let a monster game outweigh over 2 and a half seasons of Derrick Henry being only okay.
The other concern with Henry is his complete lack of use in the passing game. Only 4 RBs saw fewer targets than Henry in the top 50 RBs and only 2 had a higher percentage of their total opportunities as carries. Henry can be easily game scripted out if the Titans fall behind and there is no guarantee the Titans will have a high powered offense. In 2018, Henry scored a TD on every 17.9 carries, but in the previous 2 seasons he scored on every 28.6 carries. Henry is currently going in the 4th round as the 21st RB in Half PPR leagues, which is not a price I am looking to pay in drafts this year.
Overall it was an interesting exercise to layout all this information for comparison, while it is not the only thing that matters there is a lot of interesting information. This highlights only a few items I noticed while looking into opportunities and efficiency of RBs in 2018. I will continue to review the information and highlight other interesting facts or compare players headed into 2019.