Dynasty Football: Successful College Metrics - Running Backs
In the second installment of this four-part series, ‘Dynasty Football: Successful College Metrics’, I’ll be looking at various metrics from Player Profiler, to understand which athletic and production metrics matter the most for future fantasy production. I’ll be correlating the data against the top dynasty players at each position, as per the dynasty rankings at Fantasy Pros (as at 26/12/2019). I’ll be highlighting which metrics are the most common / important – in terms of predicting future success in the dynasty fantasy football arena.
Through understanding which metrics are most common / important in the highest ranked dynasty players, this will provide you with a major advantage in two main areas of your dynasty league:
1) Improved & more accurate player evaluation ahead of dynasty rookie drafts
2) Identifying ideal buy-low / sell-high candidates for your dynasty team
In part two of this series I’ll be evaluating the RB position…
The RB Data
For the athletic & production metrics, I have considered 50% and above as a ‘successful’ score in each individual category. With regards to draft pick, I have used round 1 as the cut-off point as an extra variable for RB success.
To work out the overall ranking of importance & commonality, I have awarded one point for each metric at or above 50%, with a separate score for top 20 and top 40 to combine and split the data – giving deeper context. I have then combined these scores and ranked accordingly. To give a different perspective on the data, I have also worked out how many of the ‘key’ (green) metrics each player hits above 50% in the right hand column. The players highlighted in red have achieved less than 50% hit rate on the key metrics – in a sense could be considered an outlier from the data.
The Most Common/Successful Metrics
#1 – College Target Share (85% in Top 20, 78.95% in Top 40)
The most common metric for the RB position is College Target Share. The ability for the RB to be active in the pass game is crucial for fantasy football as it provides a higher floor & ceiling for fantasy. Also, pass game usage is crucial for gamescript dependency – where a team is playing from behind and the RB isn’t used as often in the pass game, it will make the player more volatile and a riskier weekly play. With most fantasy leagues playing as PPR, achieving this metric and being involved in the pass game adds to the players’ dynasty value.
#2 – College Dominator (85% in Top 20, 77.5% in Top 40)
What is a College Dominator Rating? Essentially, it’s the percentage of total offensive production – in both the run & passing game. Achieving well at this metric shows an ability to be the focal point of the offense, to be involved consistently in the gameplan and produce on the playing field. For the RB position in fantasy, you’re looking for usage / volume, production & stability – with this metric encapsulating all of these factors perfectly.
#3 – Speed Score (85% in Top 20, 75% in Top 40)
The third most important metric for the RB position is Speed Score. This metric is based upon a player’s 40 yard time, whilst assigning a premium to fast times run by bigger backs. For example, two players run the same 40 time – the heavier player would have a better speed score. In fantasy, the bigger & faster RBs will tend to be elite TD scorers. The flip side is that smaller backs will have to exhibit exceptional speed to achieve in this metric.
#4 – 40 Yard Dash (75% in Top 20, 80% in Top 40)
The 40 Yard time is the fourth most common / key metric for an RB. A really easy metric to understand, outlining the ability of a player to run fast over a 40 yard distance. Whilst it’s not essential to be the fastest player in the league to succeed – it is really important for making the most of big plays and maximizing the most of RB touches. The slower RB is more reliant on vision and instinct to be a successful fantasy RB.
#5 – College YPC (75% in Top 20, 77.5% in Top 40)
The final common / key metric found in successful RBs is College YPC – showing an ability to achieve a high number of yards per rush attempt. Again, a relatively easy metric to understand and is translatable to the NFL. This metric is all about production and consistency over the longer term. Whilst there are a number of factors to consider with this metric (such as OL play), there is a correlation between success and dynasty value.
To summarise, the five most successful college production and athletic metrics in predicting dynasty success for a RB in the NFL are: College Target Share, College Dominator, Speed Score, 40 Yard Dash and College YPC. These are the key metrics that should be considered the most important metrics in player evaluation of the RB position. Agility and Burst Score have some correlation to dynasty success for an RB. Agility Score is the measure of short area quickness and balance with Burst Score more associated with an ability to move quickly from a stationary position. SPARQ-x is a metric that combines the overall athletic scores, although the correlation suggests you don’t require to have a full spectrum of athletic ability to be a success. Lastly, BMI has little correlation to dynasty success – where a better score indicates a higher likelihood of avoiding injuries – however is not always the case.
The main two ‘outlier’ metrics for an RB are Draft Pick and Bench Press. Whilst draft capital is important for opportunity in both the short and long-term, there is no correlation between being a first round draft pick and dynasty success. We can see from the data that there are several players taken outside the first round that have become a dynasty success – including 10% of the sample that went undrafted. My personal view is that to have the best shot at being a successful dynasty RB, you will ideally be taken by the end of day 2 of the actual draft (by the end of round 3). Bench Press displays an upper body strength, great for tackle breaking but no correlation to success. Another myth is the size/weight combination you need to be to become an established fantasy RB. Whilst it is favorable to be of a good size (220 lbs) to be considered a workhorse back, remember that RBs can have success in a number of shapes and sizes. Smaller backs tend to do more with their touches (Austin Ekeler lead the league in fantasy points per touch in 2019), so be sure to understand where the RB fits into the scheme, gameplan & understand the environment the RB will be working in.
It should be noted that as per any study, there are outliers in the data and there always will be outliers in player evaluation. For the RB position, the four players I consider the outliers are Josh Jacobs, Devonta Freeman, Damien Williams and Alexander Mattison. The biggest outlier from the data is Josh Jacobs, who achieves 0/5 of the minimum thresholds or successful key college metrics. Whilst he had success in his rookie season, there has to be some concern as the only top 25 RB to achieve less than 50% of the key metrics and even further that none were achieved. Jacobs is an underwhelming athlete, who failed to dominate in college - however was playing on an elite program at Alabama so shared the field with better players than some prospects. A drastic negative change in his current environment would affect his dynasty stock more than most. Freeman was an outlier but managed to have success playing with great talent on a strong offensive team. Likewise Williams has benefited from playing on an elite offense, under the guidance of Andy Reid, who has always got the most out his RBs (Westbrook, McCoy, Charles, Hunt, etc). Lastly Mattison has benefited from a scheme that fits his skillset, although is viewed as an elite handcuff of the former injury-prone Dalvin Cook.
Whilst the data and results from the production and athletic metrics will point you in the right direction for improved player evaluation and dynasty success, it’s really important to understand there are other factors to be considered in the overall process. Personally I love looking at athletic testing and college production metrics as the data is factual and accurate, unlike the subjective nature of film study or your perception of a landing spot, opportunity or volume. In order to be optimal at player evaluation, I believe you need to be taking other factors into consideration within your own player evaluation – such as landing spot, offensive scheme, volume / opportunity and film study of the college prospects.
From the evaluation of the data, we’ve looked at the five most successful college player metrics for the RB position – but what do we do with this information? If a player is hitting on 5/5 of these minimum thresholds above 50%, he will have a greater chance of dynasty fantasy success than someone hitting 0/5 of these thresholds. Outliers will always exist but no model or process will ever be 100% accurate.
The information on the key metrics should form part of your dynasty rookie evaluation prior to rookie drafts. It’s up to you as to what weighting you want to put on these metrics, but be sure to use the information alongside the other factors mentioned above. The above data will allow you to highlight potential stars at the position, whilst also helping you formulate your dynasty rookie rankings – spotting the value picks at the different positions, setting up your draft tiers and helping you exploit the sweet spot of a draft (such as trading for the pick at the end of a tier).
Also, through identifying key metrics, it will highlight potential buy-low players in dynasty. You should be considering other factors as well, with Offensive Line & Offensive Scheme key to the RB position. Two players I like as potential trade targets based on successful college metrics are Derrius Guice and Kenyan Drake. Guice has had an injury-ravaged start to his NFL career and whilst there is risk involved in acquiring him, he was a superb college prospect and hits on 5/5 of the key college metrics. The Redskins have free agent RBs in Adrian Peterson & Chris Thompson, with the only competition being in the form of also injury-ravaged prospect Bryce Love. Guice offers a 3-down skillset, where volume and pass-game usage are key for strong fantasy value. Drake has some current question marks on landing spot as a pending free-agent, which creates uncertainty – however he showed that in the right offense he can shine. He was the RB3 over the final quarter of the season, behind only Christian McCaffrey & Saquon Barkley. If he stays in Arizona then his value will increase substantially on where it currently stands – well worth the risk for RB1 upside.
Hope you enjoyed the article & use the analysis provided in your dynasty player evaluation process. You can find all 4 articles of the ‘Dynasty Football: Successful College Metrics’ series right here: