Quarterbacks Stream

I Streamed a Stream 2019 Review Pt. 4- Running Backs

After a short hiatus, I am back with my “I Streamed a Stream” 2019 Review. This article focuses on Running Backs. If you have not read any of this review so far, then go back and read parts 1, 2 and 3.

The Running Back position was my biggest challenge and my biggest disappointment in 2019. Over the course of the season, I was only able to stream the Running Back 33 overall. There are a couple of reasons for this, which I will go into. However, the biggest takeaway from this is that the position is scarce. Therefore, drafting a surplus of Running Backs is required if you are able to stand a chance of making the playoffs, let alone win you league. 

Roster Construction Challenges

When you look at a typical roster constructed for a typical fantasy football league, it will consist of a bench with at least 3 Running Backs. Maybe even more! Similar to the Quarterback and to the Tight End positions, there is only 1 NFL starter in those position. However a standard fantasy football league will have 2 RB spots and 1 Flex (where you can play a WR, RB or a TE). That means in a 12 team fantasy football league, you have 24 Running Back starters when the NFL has 32. In addition, it means you need to take more cover for bye weeks, for your Flex, and incase your Running Backs get injured. A standard fantasy football roster will see 5 or maybe even 6 Running Backs on the roster. Multiply 5 x 12 and that’s 60 Running Backs on rosters. 

With only 32 starters and 60 Running Backs on rosters, finding a Waiver Wire option becomes incredibly challenging. Therefore, to stream the Running Back 33rd overall, or have a streaming back that was better than half the Running Backs drafted, might not be considered a failure?

Yet to me it does. I cannot shift the feeling I could have done better. And I will look to do better in 2020. So to do that, I need to look at where I went wrong. However, before I do that, I want to highlight the Running Backs who outperformed my stream model in 2019:

RBs 1-46- The ones who beat the stream

RBs 1-46

To start my deep dive into improving in 2020, I need to understand the whole landscape. Here are the 46 Running Backs that had a positive PAS (Points Above Streaming) metric. Now, I know I have lost some of you here. Because I just told you I had the 33rd best Running Back yet 46 beat the model. The difference is not all of the above played every game. Therefore, their average points per game is higher. However, their total points is lower. 

What is clearly demonstrated from the above is the appearance of tiers. Tiers allow you to help break up the data to clearly define groups. Of those who beat the metrics, the apparent tiers from 2019 are as follows:

Tier 1

Christian McCaffrey

Tier 2

Dalvin Cook
Aaron Jones
Austin Ekeler
Ezekiel Elliott
Saquon Barkley
Derrick Henry

Tier 3

Alvin Kamara
Leonard Fournette
Nick Chubb
Mark Ingram

Tier 4

Chris Carson
Kenyan Drake
Todd Gurley
Josh Jacobs
James Conner
Devonta Freeman
Le’Veon Bell
Melvin Gordon
Miles Sanders
James White
Kareem Hunt

Tier 5

Joe Mixon
Phillip Lindsay
Marlon Mack
Jordan Howard
Devin Singletary

Tier 6

David Johnson
Derrius Guice
Damien Williams

Tier 7

Kerryon Johnson
Jamaal Williams
Ronald Jones II
David Montgomery
Tevin Coleman
Carlos Hyde
Adrian Peterson
Latavius Murray
Tarik Cohen

Tier 8

Raheem Mostert
Royce Freeman
Sony Michel
Matt Breida
Duke Johnson
Chris Thompson
LeSean McCoy
My Stream Model

One you break down the tiers, it’s easy to see where gains can be made. Based on last season, those from Tier 6 and below were not those with guaranteed volume and touches in their 2019 production numbers, with the exception of David Montgomery and Kerryon Johnson. However, that isn’t all. All of these guys had every inconsistent production. Sometimes they would get some great volume. Whilst other times they might get as few as 3 or 4 fantasy points in a week. That means when you are relying on fantasy production, replying on players outside the top 5 tiers is even riskier.

What this demonstrates is a position that is even more scarce than originally thought. Tiers 1-5 only contain 27 players. And of these 27, 3 of them since Free Agency either still don’t have a starting job or have lost theirs (Kareem Hunt in Cleveland, either Melvin Gordon or Phillip Lindsey in Denver, and Devonta Freeman). Our pool on relying on players is therefore even more scare than before. 

Teams without a Top 24 Running Back

Some of the players in the chart above in Tier 6 and below are there due to injury. Kerryon Johnson, David Johnson, Derrius Guice for example. Others are their because their offense cannot support either another top 24 Running Back (Jamaal Williams, Latavius Murray are two examples), or their offense cannot even support 1 top 24 Running Back (Ronald Jones II, David Montgomery, Carlos Hyde for example). 

Therefore we need to use a bit of deduction to work out potential teams to fade Running Back targets, even if they are the number 1 on the depth chart. From the data above, those appear to be Chicago, Tampa Bay, Houston, San Francisco, Kansas City, Washington, Detroit, and Miami (who didn’t even have a RB in the top 50 when measuring on PAS).

“But wait Murf, Kansas City and San Francisco are good offenses with wonderful coaches, so do we not target their starting Running Backs?” There are two underlying problems with each of these teams. Firstly, we do not know who the starting Running Back is in 2020 for either of these teams yet. Secondly, because they are both so good at coaching and scheming a run game, they can use more average talent to fill a hole. Both coaches can follow a next man up plan and see little drop off in their production. Therefore, why are a chance and draft their “starting Running Back” inside the top 24 Running Backs when we have more clearly defined opportunity to target.

Yes the Chiefs has a top 12 Running Back in 2018 and 2017 with Kareem Hunt. And so did the 49ers in 2017 with Carlos Hyde. However, there is nobody on their rosters right now who has achieved the mark, or has shown consistency for more than a few games.

Other takeaways

Other things to take away from this is that in realistic terms, anything outside of RB2 and upwards range is completely random. Once you take the top 24 guys, positions 25-60 are purely luck based. This probably isn’t want you want to hear. However, let me explain.

The players in Tiers 6-8 were all separated on a Points Per Game basis of anywhere fractions of a point to the biggest gap of 2.67 points per game. Across a Fantasy Football season, assuming everyone is fit and healthy, equates to roughly 40 points. So that’s 20 players, including my stream model as a player, split from anything as little as 0.2 points in a season to as much as 40 points. Given the average player, who starts a game and gets 15 touches of the ball accrues on average 11 PPR points, one injury, one big play, one coaches decision can change a Running Back finishing RB30 and RB25. The difference between RB25 and RB30 last year was 13.1 PPR Points.

Now, I’m not advocating streaming Running Backs as a strategy. Far from it, the above proves that it is just random who ends RB25 and who ends RB40. Therefore, the only way to have a better chance is to draft more players at that position. Which is why we do it. If there was a better way, we would draft 4 Running Backs maximum. However, we don’t. And that is because we know that it doesn’t work.

Position Scarcity Again

This lack of ability to get past the random nature of backup Running Backs, due to injury, form, coaching changes, scheme, opponents, or whatever else, in itself, produces more position scarcity. Fantasy football players therefore mitigate that risk by stack benches with players, in the hopes one of them hits. That means streaming at the position is harder than any other. 

The only time you “win” off the Waiver Wire with a Running Back is because an opponent has “lost” due to injury, more often than not, meaning you gain a two-fold advantage. However, you can’t rely on that as a strategy.

Therefore, to avoid the randomness, you need to get your hands on as many top 24 Running Backs as you can, stack your bench with the players with the best chance to push into the top 24 if they get a chance, and not to rely on the Waiver Wire. If you do this, your chances of success should increase.

So Whats the Point?

I know I just said streaming isn’t a winning strategy. However, it can give you an advantage over just general stashing. It requires patience and reading our Waiver Wire picks each week. If you have one RB spot that you just stream week to week, taking the best dart throw of that week, you should achieve a top 36 Running Back. 

As I mentioned earlier, my stream model was right bang in the middle of the pack of the 60 Running Backs on average that get drafted. Take the top 24 Running Backs out, leaving 36 Running Backs, and my stream model was in the top 25% of that. 

Streaming diversifies your chances of hitting from outside the Top 24 Running Back and effectively gives you more chances to get lucky. Instead of having your static 3 or 4 Running Backs on your bench, you can add 1 new body every week. It’s just widening your odds. Based on ongoing situation changes, match-ups and with new, up to date, and better data. 

That’s the whole point of PAS. It’s to find those players who make a difference game by game vs the stream. As well as to highlight potential draft targets, it should also be used for streaming targets also.

The Rest

So what about the remaining Running Backs? Well, this is how they finished:

RBs 47-95

The next instalment of I Streamed a Stream will be on Wide Receivers. Please find everything we are doing on twitter @5yardrush and do check out the articles on the rest of the website.

However, until the next time Rush Nation, Keep Rushing

— Murf

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