Last week I introduced you to Wide Receiver Upside Ratios, a metric that uses both ADP and similarity score ceiling projections to determine a player’s relative upside. The next logical step would be to follow up with the ratios for other positions, like running back.
Now if we are going to apply upside ratios to running backs there’s a few things we should keep in mind. The similarity score app has a slight bias towards young, pass-catching backs, but I don’t think that is necessarily a critique of the app. Also, production from the running back position is particularly usage reliant and year-to-year usage in the NFL is becoming harder to predict due to committee backfields. The app is blind to situational changes so guys like David Wilson and Lamar Miller have very low ceiling projections – it’s best to ignore their upside ratios.
With those caveats, there is still much to be gained from exploring running back upside ratios and that’s where we will focus our attention.
Notable Early-Round Talent
Things start to get sketchy…
- The Upside Ratios support the widely accepted RotoViz theory that Doug Martin should be the first player taken in your draft. His ceiling projection is almost 45 points (!!!) better than the next best back, Trent Richardson. Get this, the Muscle Hamster actually has the highest ceiling AND floor of any running back. Also please consider that Martin played the last nine games of the season without his All-Pro linemen Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph. Pass on Doug Martin at your own risk.
- DeMarco Murray can be had for a third-rounder, yet has firmly established RB1 upside. Shawn Siegele notes that Murray’s expected value above replacement will easily eclipse the trendy second round wide receivers in most formats. He’s certainly an injury-risk, but very few backs come without that red flag.
- For as much as we don’t know how running back usage will play out this year, Alfred Morris is about as good of a bet as any backend 1st rounder/early 2nd rounder for touches. He compares very well to Top 5 backs like Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch from both a floor and ceiling perspective. In fact, Morris actually owns the highest ceiling projection of the trio.
- I wouldn’t worry too much about Adrian Peterson’s seemingly low upside ratio. His 2012 season was so historically rare that the similarity score app had a hard time coming up with close comps for it. Purple Jesus is perfectly safe as a Top 3 pick.
- I won’t be the owner of many Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, or Maurice Jones-Drew shares if their current ADPs hold up. I know some are quite bullish on SJax and Bush in particular, but I’ll grab Matt Forte instead of Jackson and Murray in place of Bush.
More Quick Thoughts:
- Knowshon Moreno has found his way onto more and more of my mock draft rosters. The football community has largely just handed Montee Ball the lead back duties because he’s an unknown commodity, while Moreno’s career has been somewhat underwhelming. But throw in Ronnie Hillman, and the Denver backfield becomes increasingly murky. Generally, in a successful offense where the beneficiaries aren’t clear, I’ll take the cheapest player and in this case that’s Moreno.
- Does Shonn Greene have some 2008 LenDale White potential? He may not find pay dirt 15 times, but the Greene Machine has actually plodded his way to back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including touchdown totals of six and eight. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but I am saying there’s a chance.
- Mikel Leshoure is in a very similar situation to Shonn Greene. He’s by no stretch of the imagination going to lead the league (or even his team) in rushing, but if Calvin Johnson decides to get tackled at the one-yard line five more times this year, Leshoure will be there to poach Megatron’s touchdowns all the same.
- Bryce Brown and Bernard Pierce are the two trendiest handcuffs in fantasy football. Many believe Brown will be the beneficiary of a run-heavy, spread the ball around Chip Kelly offense and that Pierce can seriously push Ray Rice for carries. Both Brown and Pierce have solid ceiling projections and sit one torn ACL away from a full-time gig.