• Corey Buschlen

Dobbins, Gibson, & Swift: Poised For Volume

Twitter: @FootballStock

There’s an argument as old and as lively as ever in fantasy football.

Efficiency or Volume?

Conventional wisdom is that “Volume is King” and efficiency is “bound to regress.”

But if you read between the lines and find patterns/trends you can predict the relationship between efficiency and volume easily.

Last year I conducted a small research thread where I examined the likelihood of a volume increase as a result of an efficient rookie season.

As you can see, the narrative was debunked, and the projections yielded very accurate results. So, I decided to do a similar experiment on the running back position.

My goal is to determine which rookie running backs from this year were efficient on their limited volume.

I decided to set these parameters based on my own definition of what “efficiency on limited volume” means for the position. To qualify a rookie RB must-have.

  1. 150+ total touches in a rookie season (about 10 per game)

  2. To eliminate low volume qualifiers

  3. A minimum of 10 games played as a rookie.

  4. To eliminate low volume qualifiers

  5. Averaged 5.0+ yards per touch (carries and receptions)

  6. Indicative of efficiency on a touch-by-touch basis, 5.0 YPT is generally top 20 in the NFL in most years.

  7. Received less than a 50% opportunity share (carries + targets) of their respective backfield.

  8. They were competing for touches with a veteran and were not considered a feature back as a rookie.

Basically, the running backs that fit this description were completely underutilized and fantasy managers were pulling their hair out every time they were taken off the field.

Coaches are slow to trust rookies, especially old school, “earn your stripes” coaches. But as you will see in the upcoming sections, they will give a young player more opportunity once they’ve earned it.

The 2020 rookie running backs that qualified for these parameters were:

All three of these RBs were ones that fantasy owners were praying for more volume from all season. All three started to receive it as the season went on and should be set up to improve as sophomores.

Since 2013 there have been 9 other running backs that have achieved these parameters:

As you can see, there are some big-time fantasy assets that are on this list.

Following their efficient rookie seasons, these were the same metrics, except in these 9 running backs second seasons.

The entire point of this article is to indicate that while efficiency is “bound to regress” when a player is very efficient, they are rewarded with more volume.

Here were the increases (decreases) for each player from their rookie season to their 2nd season.

As you can see, the more talented, higher drafted running backs tended to ascend in their careers. Whereas guys who were thrust into more volume or third-down roles as rookies (Duke/Hill/Rawls) fell off in their sophomore campaigns.

The key figure to pay attention to here is the 22% opportunity share increase. This type of volume would take this year’s class into full-time feature back territory.

These numbers are all exciting for these three young stud backs and these are just a baseline projection. I would argue that these three showed as much talent as rookies as David Johnson, CMC, Kamara, Sanders & Chubb did.

In fact, J.K Dobbins averaging over 6 yards per touch put him in an exclusive club of only Kamara & David Johnson. Of course, both of those two experienced such a tremendous volume increase to propel them to Tier 1 fantasy running back status and top 3 finishes as 2nd-year players.

Using the averages of David Johnson & Alvin Kamara’s increases the projection becomes even more favorable for J.K Dobbins. With his talent and the success of the Ravens rushing attack, these projections would be enough to make Dobbins a top 5 option.

That was a lot of numbers and information, but the overlying point of this article was to drive home this.

High efficiency is very likely to result in an increased role and more volume. Especially when we can see the talent the player possesses. Simultaneously, a player's efficiency numbers may dip their second year but that will be offset by increased volume.

J.K Dobbins, Antonio Gibson & D’Andre Swift should all be in for breakout years this coming season.