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Ultimate Zero RB Watch List – AFC Week 6

Through the first four weeks of the season, the focus of the Zero RB Watch List has been on keeping close tabs on every AFC backfield while using Expected Points as our guide.  This week, we’ll compare those Expected Points with the actual points scored to identify potential regression candidates, good or bad. 

What is expected points (EP)? As defined by the RotoViz glossary:

EP is calculated using the average fantasy point value of a target/rush with the same line of scrimmage.

It’s another valuable perspective in examining RB workloads. Rather than focusing on raw fantasy points or snap counts, EP takes noisy efficiency out of the equation and provides a clear picture of opportunity.

Here’s a look at the EP of every running back in the AFC to date, contrasted against their actual PPR totals in fantasy leagues. After the table, we’ll talk regression candidates and run down key developments from Week 5.

PLAYERRush EPRec EPTotal EPPPR.Q1Pts Over Expectation
Leonard Fournette69.324.493.7108.414.7
Le'Veon Bell6248.8110.896.5-14.3
Mike Gillislee49.5049.548.6-0.9
LeSean McCoy45.544.189.673.8-15.8
C.J. Anderson44.320.264.561.7-2.8
Javorius Allen40.935.976.864.9-11.9
Melvin Gordon40.33979.391.812.5
Frank Gore39.914.954.852.1-2.7
Kareem Hunt37.219.356.5114.958.4
Jay Ajayi36.812.849.635.4-14.2
Joe Mixon36.314.350.743.5-7.2
Marshawn Lynch36.210.947.139.2-7.9
Lamar Miller35.615.751.359.78.4
Isaiah Crowell31.816.147.932.1-15.8
Bilal Powell28.127.655.756.20.5
DeMarco Murray26.717.244.847.22.4
Mike Tolbert24.410.134.527.7-6.8
Derrick Henry22.11.623.726.73
Terrance West21.54.926.430.23.8
Jamaal Charles20.75.826.528.62.1
Chris Ivory19.516.53629.8-6.2
Robert Turbin18.97.626.517.9-8.6
Marlon Mack18.34.222.529.36.8
Alex Collins17.32.72026.56.5
Elijah McGuire1711.428.434.15.7
D'Onta Foreman16.74.220.919.9-1
Jeremy Hill14.54.418.915.4-3.5
Duke Johnson12.941.654.575.721.2
James White11.848.752.559.67.1
Jalen Richard11.49.821.231.910.7
Matt Forte11.411.723.422.2-1.2
Dion Lewis11.29.82127.16.1
James Conner5.51.46.95.5-1.4
DeAndre Washington5.216.82218.5-3.5
Corey Grant549134
Austin Ekeler4.21519.2255.8
Tommy Bohanon3.512.215.712.3-3.4
Damien Williams2.76.18.86-2.8
Rex Burkhead2.39.211.516.75.2
Kyle Juszczyk2.217.319.523.13.6
Matt Dayes2.22.853.8-1.2
Charcandrick West1.910.212.121.39.2
Kenyan Drake1.95.67.54-3.5
Tyler Ervin1.815.517.313-4.3
Terrell Watson1.801.80.5-1.3
Devontae Booker1.301.31.40.1
Jamize Olawale1.32.84.14.80.7
Danny Woodhead0.73.94.66.72.1
Patrick DiMarco0.54.14.91.3-3.6
De'Angelo Henderson0.100.10.10
Akeem Hunt01.41.40-1.4

What Goes Up…

  • Whether he’s special or a beneficiary of Andy Reid’s scheme, it’s probably not realistic to expect Kareem Hunt to continue to defy expectations so flagrantly over the next three months. His 58 points over expectation in 2017 are nearly triple that of the next closest RB.
  • That would be Duke Johnson, whose efficiency is fueled by TDs in three straight games. Were he to start getting more than an average of 7.8 touches per game, that efficiency would likely dip, but so far, we still haven’t seen many signs that the Browns are interested in doing that. Cleveland appears committed to his ineffective running mate. More on him in a moment.
  • Posting the longest TD run in your franchise’s history (90 yards) will certainly boost efficiency numbers. While Leonard Fournette’s efficiency is likely to regress, his incredibly valuable workload — second only to Le’Veon Bell’s — is all that matters.
  • Lamar Miller is doing enough with his touches to hold off D’Onta Foreman. Coming off a career-high 13 carries in Week 5, the rookie had an early fumble and was held to just four rushes this week against the Chiefs. He really isn’t doing enough to force a timeshare. I’m holding him in leagues where I can but will consider dropping him during the tricky bye weeks if we don’t start seeing a more encouraging trend.

Bound to Get Better?

  • LeSean McCoy’s efficiency certainly has something to do with the total lack of receiving weapons in Buffalo, which allows defenses to key in on him. Losing Charles Clay, their only reliable target, won’t help.
  • Heading into Week 5, Browns coach Hue Jackson said he still believed in Isaiah Crowell, and he backed that up, giving Crowell 16 carries, the most he’s had since Week 1. Crowell once again did little to repay this loyalty, though he did post his best rushing performance of the season with 60 yards. It’s hard to keep the faith, but if the Browns continue to insist on feeding Crowell a valuable workload, I have to believe the points will follow. Crowell was an efficient player in 2015, posting 17.7 total points over expectation.
  • Jay Ajayi is a positive-regression candidate, as is the rest of the Dolphins offense.
  • We’ll talk more about Baltimore in a moment, but it’s worth noting that despite being the fifth-least efficient RB (by this measure) in the AFC, Javorius Allen has seventh-most points in PPR leagues.
  • Joe Mixon is like Isaiah Crowell in that both dominate touches and are performing below expectation, but I like Mixon’s fortunes more going forward, considering the states of their respective offenses. Mixon finally saw some positive regression with his first career TD this week, and his role now appears secure. He out-carried Jeremy Hill 15-4 in Week 5, and I expect to see him continue to trend in a positive direction.

Back to Baltimore

After out-rushing Javorius Allen 164-22 over the previous two weeks, Alex Collins was out-rushed by Allen 73-55  and out-touched 25-12 in Week 5. In a huge road game for the Ravens where they had a chance to catch the faltering Steelers for first in the division, it was Allen carrying the workhorse load and getting goal-line carries. It was his biggest touch total of the season, and it seemed like the Ravens were serious about committing to their best overall back.

We’ve said all along that Allen was the back to own in Baltimore, only questioning the value of that role. But the Ravens appear competitive and willing to trust him with a heavy workload, and he is trending up on the Zero RB Watch List.

Not that he was much of a factor anymore, but Terrance West looks like he’ll miss multiple games with an injury. The Ravens have signed Bobby Rainey to replace him on the roster.

The New Guy in New York

The bad news for Elijah McGuire is that he followed up his Week 4 breakout with just 20 yards on 11 carries against the Browns this week. The good news is that with Bilal Powell expected to miss this week’s first-place game against the Patriots and Matt Forte still nursing turf toe, the sixth-round rookie will have all the opportunity in the world in Week 6.

McGuire didn’t grade out well by most RotoViz measurements, though he was notable is his ability to take on a heavy workload:

McGuire joined Jeremy McNichols and Christian McCaffrey as the only players in this class to gain 3,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving over the last three years.

Despite that, the Box Score Scout is bearish on McGuire’s NFL comparables.

McGuire is worth rostering and maybe even a spot start against the Patriots this week. While he doesn’t appear to have the pedigree to take over this backfield, the workload could be there in the weeks ahead as his veteran teammates nurse injuries.

Return of The Mack

After missing the previous two weeks with a shoulder injury, Marlon Mack’s Week 5 breakout seemingly came out of nowhere. Mack was actually out-snapped by both of his running mates against the 49ers, receiving 17 to Robert Turbin’s 21 and Frank Gore’s 39, but he significantly outproduced both.

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My initial reaction is to downplay Mack’s breakout based on the light workload it was born from. Colts coaches, however, sound if as they’ve seen the light, which changes the equation completely.

If Pagano isn’t playing games and is true to his word, Mack needs to be rostered, but temper expectations, as I don’t expect the Colts to phase Gore out completely, and Turbin is still getting his share of snaps.

Murray the Workhorse?

After a near-even split in the ground game through the first month, the Titans decided to break up the backfield timeshare and ride DeMarco Murray against the Dolphins.

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The development is a surprise, considering how the work has been distributed so far and the fact that Derrick Henry has been the more efficient back on the ground. Henry is a hold while we see if this is a fresh direction for the Titans or just a one-off, but this is a concerning development for one of our Zero RB favorites.

In Oakland

Marshawn Lynch continues to be among the least-effective RBs in the AFC, turning in another tepid performance on Sunday against the Ravens. Lynch now has just 29 touches over his past three games, and while it’s too early to call this a timeshare, Jalen Richard looks like the more effective back and could be giving the Raiders reason to increase his work.

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I don’t expect Richard to overtake Lynch anytime soon, but with DeAndre Washington nursing a sore hamstring, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his carries continue to increase.

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By Cort Smith | @cortnall | Archive

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