• Andrew Woodruff

Stuck Between A Rock & Hard Place

Andrew Woodruff / @ff_awwoodruff33

From part one of my studies, I looked at running backs who failed to reach RB36 or better in their first two seasons. Through the study, we saw less than nine percent of those 130+ backs ended up even producing one season as an RB2 level player or better. With my success mark determined, I decided to look at the backs who had at least one season in their first two seasons where they were PPR RB25 to RB 36 and see what happened with their careers. Are the odds any better?

The Sample:

For this study, I compiled the players from the same 2010 through 2018 classes who met the requirement of either their first two seasons production reaching RB25 to Rb36 levels (an RB3 level player). From there, we will go through what outlook has occurred for their careers since that point.


Age At Draft:

21 year olds:

Ingram, Ekeler, Rojo, Hines, Crowell, Yeldon, Rodgers, Mason, Rawls

Odds of one RB2 season: 66.7%

Odds of multiple RB2 seasons: 11.1%

Odds of one RB1 season: 22.2%

Odds of multiple RB1 seasons: 11.1%

Youth is something a lot of people value, especially with the shorter shelf lives of running backs. Unfortunately, several of these players are early into their careers with Ekeler, Ronald Jones, Hines. They happen to be the same relevant ones of this group with promise when seeing only Ingram as the elite older option and Crowell or Yeldon useful once from the remaining guys.

22 year olds:

Henry, Cook, Tate, Drake, R Freeman, J Williams, A Williams, Powell, Ballard, Breida, West, (Henderson, Singletary, Pollard, Gaskin- not included since only have 2 seasons)

Odds of one RB2 season: 45.5%

Odds of multiple RB2 seasons: 27.3%

Odds of one RB1 season: 18.2%

Odds of multiple RB1 seasons: 18.2%

For those drafted early, they were the guys most likely to jump next level. Henry, Cook, Drake are three particular names I see here. Tate honestly could have at least put up a single RB2 season had injuries not derailed his career path along with the eliteness of Arian Foster. The rest on this list have had flashes, but their teams have refused to give them a full-time opportunity.

23 year olds:

Spiller, Murray, Gerhart, Langford, Michel

Odds of one RB2 season: 40%

Odds of multiple RB2 seasons: 40%

Odds of one RB1 season: 40%

Odds of multiple RB1 seasons: 20%

If you are an elite 23-year-old like Murray or Spiller drafted to lead, then the odds are high they are fantasy relevant. They are also the only successes of this group. Ingram was the only one who has made it multiple seasons after starting slow in a backfield timeshare. Michel, Gerhart, and Langford were each drafted into situations where they were locked in timeshares and either struggled with injury or earning touches.

24 year olds:

Allen, Booker

Odds of one RB2 season: 0%

Odds of one RB1 season: 0%

Pretty simple; it is concerning if you are twenty-four and just now entering the draft. At that age, you need to be a man who immediately produces, or your career probably does not end up being fantasy relevant.


Coach Change vs No Coach Change in 1st 3 years:

Yes Change:

Ronald Jones, Derrick Henry, Toby Gerhart, TJ Yeldon, Royce Freeman, Tre Mason, Tony Pollard, Jamaal Williams, Devontae Booker, Andre Williams, Isaiah Crowell

Handling a coaching change in the first three years is a difficult thing for most backs to overcome. Swapping schemes and learning a new playbook can already be a challenge. New coaches want to bring in their guys like competition through free agency or the draft. Currently, RoJo, Henry, Yeldon, and Crowell are the only ones to overcome the change. That is only 36% odds of a single RB2 season. And since Jones missed time on his 2020 pace, currently only Henry has been an RB1 so far.

No Change:

Spiller, Ingram, Michel, Tate, Cook, Murray, Drake, Henderson, Singletary, Powell, Langford, Allen, Hines, Rodgers, Ballard, Gaskin, West, Rawls, Ekeler, Breida

This group is going to have much better chances without the coaching change. Seeing Spiller, Ingram, Cook, Murray, Drake, Powell, Hines, West, and Ekeler out of twenty gives us 45% success of at least an RB2 season and 25% with an RB1.


Year 1 to Year 2 Adjustment:

This part was created by comparing the PPR points each player scored in their first and second years. If I saw the player score go down significantly, I went ahead and marked it red. If their score went down by twenty or less, then I used orange. Yellow implied a small increase of fewer than fifty points. I went with fifty since everyone in this category played more games in year two but without significant changes to their total. That leaves green where the player went way up on their season total.

Green: Spiller, Cook, Jones II, Drake, Tate, Powell, Rodgers, West, Breida

The great thing is every player on this list had a season where the lowest finish was RB28 in a year. Cook, Jones, and Tate were three such guys who overcame rookie struggles with injury or a learning curve to show growth as a sophomore. And that lowest score was Ben Tate returning from IR and behind Arian Foster. A massive increase in year two probably led to a great season somewhere down the road.

Yellow: Ingram, Henry, Crowell, Gerhart, Michel, Freeman

So every single player in this list landed into situations where they started their careers in a committee. By their third year, the players who were successful finally separated. The other three saw the teams add someone else into the mix to take their reps with Gordon for Freeman and Harris for Michel. Peterson had a legendary year along with a mobile quarterback plus Harvin pulling most carries from Gerhart. That plus a shift in coaching saw Gerhart lose any chance of relevance.

Orange: DeMarco Murray

DeMarco Murray is special. Murray helps to show he should be in the Yellow tier since his total dropped 10.2 points with three fewer games. So with fewer games played in his second year, Murray almost matched his total from the year before. That was a part of a tandem backfield improving an extra 2.35 PPR points per game when his average went from 11.23 to 13.58 per game. I could not penalize Murray with the Red tier seeing those factors.

Red: Yeldon, Mason, Langford, Allen, Booker, Williams, Hines, Williams, Ballard, Rawls

This group says a lot of the draft capital argument where we see mostly backup day three guys in this last group. Each of these guys saw a drop in production during their second year. Yeldon had three more games but lost almost four points per game played. Everyone else had just one little brief flash before fizzling out because of injury or being just a minimal depth player. Nyheim Hines is the exception of this group so far with his coaching/ QB situation in this bizarre year. He could prove to be an outlier if the team continues to give him a role.


Draft Capital:

1st (odds: RB1 66.7%; RB2 66.7%)