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Rookie Running Backs Draft Capital Case Study | Fantasy Football

The Mundies: “Balancing Act”

by Scott Rinear

“The Mundies” is a column series by Scott Rinear, awarding life and fantasy football. Now in its second year of publishing, this column presents an optimistic outlook on life and an analytical approach to the game. Read forward as Scott discusses the balancing act of life and presents a draft capital case study on rookie running backs.

Hey, everybody.

You hear it a lot; The importance of balance in our lives. It has become somewhat of a cliché – a common piece of life advice. And for good reason. Take it from me – someone who has major obsessive tendencies and spirals on specific things with ease. 

I have been known to dig my own rabbit holes and dive in headfirst. I have been a “no middle ground” guy in many aspects of my life. Like with drinking:  It’s not something I do anymore, but when I did, it was all or nothing every time. I wasn’t interested in just having one or two drinks, simply enjoying a beer on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I wanted to be drunk, and once I got there, I wanted to keep going. 

I have the same tendencies when it comes to video games, TV shows or fantasy research. The obsessive behavior was the same regardless of the outlet. Left to my own devices, I can jump down any of these rabbit holes to the point where I might have to be reminded to eat meals.

 Earlier in life, I had no concept of balance. I was immature and selfish and just wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I started focusing on balance. And I realized something. “Balance” doesn’t exist. It’s not attainable. 

Balancing Act

You’ll notice the title of this column is “Balancing Act” instead of “Balance.” We all juggle a lot of things in our lives, and balance is important. But there can never be a true balance. Our lives are never “balanced.” There is not some magical moment where we can say, “Well, my life is now balanced, so I guess that’s done.” 

It’s the same as the idea of perfection. It’s the same with recovery. I am a recovering drug addict. I am not, nor will I ever be, a “recovered” drug addict. I’ll never be able to say, “Well, I’m now recovered, so I guess I’m not an addict anymore.” 

Hence, balancing act. This might seem like just semantics, but it was an important realization for me. There is so much that humans deal with on a day-to-day basis. We don’t need extra stress, especially the stress caused by unrealistic or impossible expectations. 


One area where this came up for me more recently is my existence in the fantasy football community. I made the decision to give this a shot during the Covid-19 Pandemic, with my official “Hey everyone, I’d like to be a part of this” sent in November of 2020. 

Before that, I had merely existed on Twitter in the shadows, asking random start/sit questions and tagging a few folks who regularly responded (shout out to Michael Reedy). The community’s warm embrace of me threw gasoline on the fire lit with my passion for this. I live in the numbers and data, and the rabbit holes I excavated early on were many. One idea led to another unplanned idea and another. It wasn’t long before my passion, left unchecked, morphed into an obsession.

One of my issues when I enter obsessive mode is that I can easily be blinded to it. All of my spare time started going toward research, building spreadsheets and entering data while concurrently teaching myself how to do all of this more efficiently to save time. But not to save time to make more time for other things. It was to create more time for even more spreadsheets and data sets.

I was so excited! Some people cared what I had to say. The excitement further fed my passion, and this new endeavor became a dense chunk of osmium, bringing down one side of the balancing scale like a see-saw (osmium is the heaviest metal). I have a wife, two kids and a full-time job. The newly created imbalance was not sustainable, and on a Sunday afternoon during the 2021 offseason, my wife called me on it. 

It was unpleasant, but I had my blinders on. So I took a step back. I regrouped and recalibrated. And ever since, I have intentionally striven for more balance. But balance, like recovery, is a process. It’s not a result. It takes effort. It requires flexibility and the ability to adapt. But before all of that is a crucial piece; Awareness. 

Most of my issues with this topic are not because I am “bad at balancing.” It stems from a lack of awareness. Nowadays, it typically creeps up when something new is added to the octopus-shaped balancing scale that is my life (like a fantasy football side hustle). And the best any of us can do is acknowledge the need for balance and then put forth the best effort in our individual balancing acts. 

And now, The Mundie Awards. 

The Mundie Awards

 Draft Capital

I decided to switch it up a bit here. The 2023 NFL Draft is only a few weeks out. These are the dog days of the off-season. I feel the discussions, articles, Twitter threads, etc., regarding the 2023 rookie class have been ample with the information we have. Flags have been planted. Takes have been stated (or shouted in some cases). Expectations have been formed, some realistic, others not. I discussed the problems with unrealistic expectations earlier in this column.

In the fantasy football world, one form this takes surrounds the incoming rookies. No NFL experience also means none of these players have failed yet, either. The promise of the shiny new unknown is seductive. So, I want to add some contextual reality to the discussion as it pertains to what we can expect from these rookies from both a redraft and dynasty perspective.

Rookie Running Backs Draft Capital Case Study | Fantasy Football

Chris Carson had two seasons where he rushed for over 1,000 yards.

Two key pieces of the puzzle we don’t have yet come with the NFL Draft. Draft capital and landing spot. We can watch film and analyze statistical and athletic profiles until we are blue in the face, but draft capital is a huge part of the equation.

So, for the first time in the now 34-part “Mundies’ column series, the Mundie Award is being given to an accomplishment, to a data point with a historical sample size that can at least inform expectation. As we prepare for one of my favorite events of the year, when we see what the NFL thinks of the prospects we’ve been discussing/debating for months (or years for some), we can look at what the historical data tells us.

Rather than diving into an individual player, I will look at historical draft capital trends for RBs. As with any analytical data based on past sample sizes, none of this is absolute. Players like Chris Carson (round No. 7 pick) do happen. This is about probability, something that cannot be ignored if adding the word “realistic” in front of the word “expectations.”

Rookie Running Backs Draft Capital Case Study: Parameters

The way I set this up started with simply compiling all the RBs who have been drafted going back to 2012, grouped by which round they were drafted in (1-7). What is it we ultimately care about in fantasy football? Fantasy points. For each drafted RB, I looked at their Points Per Reception (PPR) points per game in their NFL rookie season (important for redraft formats) along with their second and third years in the league (useful for dynasty formats). 

With any study like this, you need a threshold. You need something to compare to. What is considered “good” or “successful” or oftentimes called a “hit” in fantasy football analytics. Since we are talking points per game, it makes sense the measuring sticks are also points per game. I calculated a historical average of points per game for the RB1, RB2, RB3, etc., through the RB50 from 2012-2022 (PPR, minimum eight games played). I then defined the “hit rate” as finishing as a top-24 RB based on the historical average. For fun, I also tracked the hit rate for finishing as a top-12 RB.

 If you are interested in the raw data of this study, I am making it available for free on my Patreon. To summarize here, the historical thresholds are the following:

• Top-24 PPR RB points per game: Over or equal to 11.8 points per game
• Top-12 PPR RB points per game: Over than or equal to 14.7 points per game

So now we have all of our pieces. We have the list of drafted rookie running backs, the round they were drafted, and their PPR points per game in their first three seasons. We have our “what is good?” threshold established based on 11 seasons of historical points per game data. We can then determine how many RBs drafted in each round have gone on to “hit” (over 11.8 points per game) in their rookie season or any of their first three seasons. So, let’s do this.

Rookie Running Backs Draft Capital Case Study: Data

Since 2012, there 240 RBs have been drafted. The following is the sample size of RBs drafted per round:

• Round No. 1: 15
• Round No. 2: 29
• Round No. 3: 31
• Round No. 4: 47
• Round No. 5: 34
• Round No. 6: 44
• Round No. 7: 40

For each round, we’ll look at the percentage of RBs with a top-24 output in their rookie year, the percentage of RBs with at least one top-24 season within their first three years and the percentage of RBs with multiple top-24 seasons within their first three years.

Top 24 points per game (over 11.7) in their rookie season:

• Round No. 1 RBs: 80.0 percent
• Round No. 2 RBs: 62.1 percent
 Round No. 3 RBs: 12.9 percent
Round No. 4 RBs: 2.1 percent
Round No. 5 RBs: 5.9 percent
Round No. 6 RBs: 4.5 percent
Round No. 7 RBs: 0.0 percent

Top 24 points per game (over 11.7) at least once in their first three seasons:

• Round No. 1 RBs: 66.7 percent
• Round No. 2 RBs: 48.3 percent
• Round No. 3 RBs: 38.7 percent
Round No. 4 RBs: 14.9 percent
• Round No. 5 RBs: 14.7 percent
Round No. 6 RBs: 9.1 percent
Round No. 7 RBs: 5.0 percent

Top 24 points per game (over 11.7) multiple times in their first three seasons:

• Round No. 1 RBs: 66.7 percent
• Round No. 2 RBs: 34.5 percent
Round No. 3 RBs: 16.1 percent
Round No. 4 RBs: 4.3 percent
Round No. 5 RBs: 5.9 percent
Round No. 6 RBs: 2.3 percent
Round No. 7 RBs: 2.5 percent (only Carson)

Rookie Running Backs Draft Capital Case Study: Takeaways

The results are not a revelation. RBs drafted earlier tend to be more fantasy relevant than RBs drafted later. It is also not news that draft capital matters. What those general statements don’t convey are some of the more specific and useful takeaways, such as the significant drop-off between Round No. 3 and Round No. 4 RBs. 

Dameon Pierce

Dameon Pierce finished 2022 as the PPR RB19 on a points-per-game basis.

Dameon Pierce in 2022 was the only RB drafted in Round No. 4 (out of 47 since 2012) to have more than 11.7 PPR points per game in his rookie season, our top-24 threshold. Again, this is not meant to be all-inclusive. RBs can fall in the draft and be under-drafted. Players like Pierce can land in a situation where they receive a large workload during their rookie year. Players like Carson will buck the trend now and then. But all that is somewhat baked into the data.

It’s why there is only one 0.0 percent result (Round No. 7 RBs who were Top 24 their rookie year). There will always be exceptions, and you can’t just stop at draft capital and call it good. But, if your favorite rookie running backs fall to Round No. 4 or later, the odds they pan out for fantasy football are “not great, Bob.”

I plan to have a similar study with WR draft capital available soon. If you’re interested in that and haven’t seen it in the next few weeks, hit me up on Twitter, and I’ll get it to you.

Thank you so much for reading my case study on rookie running backs! As I have moved toward more analytics-based fantasy football content, my goal is to provide that content in a manner that is as easy to digest as possible.

Advanced analytics are very useful, and I think they can be explained simply and logically. Please feel free to reach out to me to explain more about the analytical concepts I present in these columns. My Direct Messages (DMs) are always open.

And as always, find me on Twitter, talking fantasy football, joking around, posting GIFs and lending my support where it’s needed @MunderDifflinFF.

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