Najee Harris Fantasy Football

The Mundies: Rewarding Patience & Fantasy Football

Hey, everybody. 

“Patience is a virtue.” A very common saying going back as far as the fifth Century, simply put, means the ability to wait for something without frustration.

Also simply put, this sentiment is much easier said than done. 

I struggle mightily with patience. I always have. Much of the time I am not patient, I am impatient. Instant gratification is my brain’s preference as my years upon years of active addiction will attest to. And yes, as I have grown older and shifted to a person in recovery, my issues with patience have improved. But that second part of the simple definition seems to always creep in. Frustration in waiting.

That is also where this concept overlaps with ideas I have discussed previously, like future tripping and accepting that which is out of our control. “The ability to wait for something without frustration.”

One piece, the waiting, is typically completely out of our control. We are forced to wait for things all of the time, from learning a new skill to standing in the seemingly longer and longer lines at the grocery store.

Just like stressing about the future or frustratingly closing the Sleeper or ESPN app when one of my favorite running backs gets vultured by Jamaal Williams, I am not in control of the results. It is the same with impatience. The more frustrated I get, the more exaggerated sighs I let out, the more I mimic a young Paul Rudd in the movie “Wet Hot American Summer,” when he is asked to clean up the lunch tray he intentionally spilled all over the floor, the less it matters. Time is not sped up in a manner proportionate to my level of frustration. 

So, what do we do? 

In this case, I am not a beacon of “walking the walk.” I still find myself acting like a small child in some cases when my patience is running on empty. But, one thing I have learned is that the level of patience in my tank seems to correlate with my general mood. When I am tired, hungry or upset about something else, dwelling far too much on the outcomes of my fantasy football matchups, needlessly rushing through something, that needle gets closer and closer to empty. 

When I am rested, when I am not hurrying just for the sake of hurrying, when I am feeling more grounded, I find I do have the ability to wait with minimal frustration.

This impatience also surfaces in my experiences with fantasy football. Focusing on the trees, blinding myself from seeing the forest. And it happens every year, no matter how many preseason pep talks I give myself. 

Players I am high on start slow, and part of my brain goes to a place of panic, of assuming one or two sub-optimal games means 100 percent bust. I am not alone in this reaction. The “panic-meters” come out quickly in fantasy football, especially at the start of the season. A highly-ranked running back starts off slow and many go straight to the “what am I going to do now?” mindset, as if that player’s value and future output are tethered to the small sample size. 

Don’t get me wrong, especially in redraft fantasy football formats, there is a limit to one’s patience as we need to score points and win games. But history has also shown that some of our expectations just aren’t realistic.

Research

I embarked on some research for this column that ended up being much more time-consuming than I expected. Through some of it I did become fairly impatient as it was tedious and time consuming, that is the nature of research, and I was able to stay mostly centered and motivated to see it through.

I looked at RB1s ― top 12 running backs in Points Per Reception (PPR) leagues going back five years (2016-2020; ranked on a Fantasy Points Per Game [FPPG] basis). The typical early-season reaction to one or two bad games prompted the question: “What is typical for a top 12 running back over the course of a season?

How common are below-average games, and is this early season concern warranted or just based on the timing as it is the first football we have watched in months after hours of research and speculation? Would the reaction be different if it were a few bad games in late October rather than early September?

Specifically, for each RB1 in each of those seasons, I looked at the percentage of games they fell below their overall season FPPG average, how many weeks they were not among the top 12 and how many weeks they didn’t even crack the top 24. 

This study was not to point to any specific player and predict their future, rather, it is to show that our expectations for how often an RB1 is an RB1 are likely unrealistic.

Findings

And the survey says (drumroll):

From 2016-2020, running backs who finished top 12 at the position in PPR formats on a PPG basis:

  • Weeks scoring less than their overall PPG average: 55.7 percent
  • Weeks finishing outside the top 12: 49.4 percent
  • Weeks finishing outside the top 24: 23.0 percent

So as you can see, RB1s in the last five years have finished either below their PPG average or outside the top 12 about half of their games, and outside the top 24 just under a quarter of their games. I will be elaborating on this research in a future thread on Twitter to show these percentages for each RB finish, from the RB1 through the RB12.

But for now, the Mundie Awards.

THE EARLY SEASON PATIENCE AWARD

Najee Harris (RB, Pittsburgh Steelers)

This will be the lone Mundie Award for this installment, and boy did Najee Harris reward those who were patient through a slow start.

The Steelers’ offense is not great. How they beat the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 I will never know. Ben Roethlisberger looks to be all but done slinging the unstriped football in the NFL. I could be wrong, but that is what my eyes have seen so far. 

Najee Harris reeled in 14 receptions on 19 targets in Week 3.

Enter Najee Harris, who debuted in his rookie season with an underwhelming 16 carries for 45 yards, no touchdowns, and only once reception for four yards. A measly 2.8 Yards Per Carry (YPC). Not the smash start many of us impatient Harris hype machines had envisioned with our aspirations for instant gratification. 

But one thing stood out in that first game. As far as running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield, Harris is the man and essentially the only show in town. Week 2 saw a downtick in rushing attempts, but also a perfect five catches on five targets including a receiving TD. After Week 2, Harris led all NFL running backs with a 94 percent opportunity share.

Then Week 3 happened. Harris was the entire Steelers offense. On a day when Harris did not score a TD, he still amassed 28.2 PPR points, on the back of a ludicrous 14 receptions on 19 targets. 

Only one other RB in the NFL scores 28 points without a touchdown regularly, and that’s Christian McCaffrey. Let’s be clear that Harris is not McCaffrey, but what we saw in Week 3 is that he has a similar ceiling to him, especially with the amount of shorter check-downs we are likely to see continue from Roethlisberger. 

Barring injury, Harris will very likely lead NFL running backs in opportunity share at the end of the ceiling. He will likely have some off weeks with his less-than-efficient rushing, but as I showed you, even the best fantasy running backs produce RB1 numbers about half of the time.


Writing new and different editions of “The Mundies” will be a lot of fun, but I’d love some help. If you have ideas, hit me up, and I’ll include a shout-out for any suggestions used.

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