Runningback Snap Count In Relation To Weight


I’m not sure when the dynasty community’s current love affair with undersized runningbacks truly began. Did Darren Sproles start this nonsense with his incredible 2011-2013 season totals? Was Danny Woodhead's impressive 2010-2012 run in part responsible for this? With Tarik Cohen’s recent flash in the pan season getting people back on the diminutive runningback bandwagon? Or has there always been an affinity to smaller, quicker, “gadget” or “scat” backs? This problem is not only plaguing the dynasty and redraft fantasy communities. As it appears that even NFL executives seem to occasionally forget that it is incredibly rare for a runningback to succeed at the next level who weighs under 200 pounds. Citing such recent examples as Dri Archer being drafted 97th overall by the Steelers in 2014, at the time weighing just 171 pounds. Despite having incredible college success Donnell Pumphrey has done absolutely nothing at the NFL level to justify being drafted in the fourth round. Tyler Ervin is another example, drafted by the Texans in 2016, 119th overall weighing in at 176 pounds. The bottom line is fantasy points are scored as a result of touches, and the majority of runningbacks 200lbs or less just don’t see the volume of playing time or touches to be fantasy relevant. Smaller RB’s or third down backs depend on big plays and a minimum of 50 or more receptions just to be anything more than a bye week fill in.

The graph below displays the 2017 snap counts by runningbacks, broken down into different weight classes. As you can see the results somewhat mirror the success rates graphs in my previous article which makes sense. It's difficult if not impossible to score fantasy points without receiving ample opportunity to do so. The data says runningbacks under 200 pounds are not just the smallest group (no pun intended) represented in top 50 PPR scoring, but aren't playing the same snaps as their larger counterparts are playing.

2017 Runningback Snap Counts

2016 Runningback Snap Counts

In 2016 as the below graph illustrates there was an even lower amount of snaps played by change of pace backs under 200 pounds. As only three of them or 6% were able to crack the top 50 in runningback snaps played. What I found interesting that the bruising 230 plus pounds "plodders" were playing significantly more snaps than the smaller backs were at 22%. As was the case in 2017 it appears blatantly obvious that the scat backs just simply aren't getting the opportunities to be on the field consistently. There are several reasons for this as smaller backs just can't hold up to a three down role in the NFL. Another reason that often gets overlooked is that smaller backs often struggle in pass protection, and understandably so. I'm 5'10, 185 pounds I couldn't possibly imagine trying to effectively block a 6'4, 295 pound pass rusher. I mean as I previously mentioned it's simple physics. The 200-209 pounds RB's accounted for 20% of 2016 snaps, the 210-219 pound group had 24% of the leader board and the 220-229 pound grouping led the way with 30% of the top fifty in runningback snaps.

2015 Runningback Snap Counts

The 2015 graph which can be seen below, has its similarities to the 2016 and 2017 graphs above in the sense that the change of pace backs just aren't getting on the field with any regularity. Which is also reflected in my 2015 runningback success rate versus weight article. The smaller backs are too dependent on big plays due to the lack of volume they receive, they can hold more value in leagues that reward punt and kick return yardage. Personally I prefer a bigger back who will grind out fantasy points with 20 touches a game over hoping my undersized back goes for a big play in his limited opportunities. Durability is always a concern with any NFL runningback, but when that runningback weighs under 200 pounds those concerns are greatly increased. However as you can see the top four groupings were reasonably close with the big backs at 18%, the 200-209 pound backs and 220-229 pound each at 245 and the group weighing 210-219 barely leading the way with 265 of the top fifty.

2015-2017 Runningback Snap Counts

The next graph displayed below sums up the snap counts of runningbacks in relation to weight from 2015-2017, as you can see there is a distinct gap from the top of the group to the bottom. From the past three years runningbacks weighing under 200 pounds accounted for only 8.0% of the annual top 50 in snaps played. Runningbacks weighing between 200-209 pounds are responsible for 20.7% of the top 50 in snaps over the past three years. Backs that weigh between 210-219 pounds were the highest scoring group as they account for 26.7% of RB snaps played. The premier PPR scoring group weighs 220-229 pounds but played less snaps yearly they represent 26.0% of runningback snaps. Once again the one that stood out to me is that the "plodders" or big backs had more than double the snaps played of the small backs. They account for 18.6% of the top 50 annually in snaps leaders since 2015.

As I pointed out in my previous article the graphs highlight which weight class of runningbacks to target when drafting or acquiring talent. Even though it can be fun to watch a smaller back go full "video game" mode and bust off a big play give me the bigger more consistent back any day. The terms "Prototypical Workhorse Size" or "Three Down Size" are proving to be more than just terms and may indeed be the new standard for acquiring the most efficient and effective fantasy runningbacks for your dynasty team.