Runningback Fantasy Points 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 PPR season totals? Was Danny Woodhead's impressive 2010-2012 in part responsibe 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, quick, “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 touches to be fantasy relevant. Smaller RB’s or third down backs depend on big plays and a minimum of 50 receptions just to be anything more than a bye week fill in.
The graph below displays the 2017 success rate of PPR runningbacks broken down into different weight classes. As you can see the success rate of the twitchy quick runningbacks under 200 pounds is the exact same as it is for the 230 plus pound plodders. Yet most times dynasty startup ADP does not reflect this at all. A prime example is last fall 176 pound backup Tarik Cohen had a dynasty startup ADP of 68. Meanwhile starting runningbacks who would easily double him in touches such as Mark Ingram (ADP-73), Isaiah Crowell (ADP-74), Doug Martin (ADP-75), and Rob Kelly (ADP-127) all were being drafted later than Cohen. Last season 12.0% of the top fifty PPR runningbacks were under 200lbs, whereas runningbacks weighing between 210-219 accounted for 32% of the top fifity.
2017 RB Fantasy Points Scored
2016 RB Fantasy Points Scored
In 2016 as the below graph illustrates there was an even lower success rate for the change of pace backs under 200 pounds. As only two of them were able to crack the top 50 in runningback PPR scoring. A big part of the low success rate is the obvious reasons that a they simply aren't getting the same amount of touches as the bigger backs. Also a player that is only 5'8, 175 pounds simply can't stand up to the rigors of an every down role in the NFL. They are often injured on plays where they are tackled by players who outweigh them by 100 pounds or more. There are athletic defensive lineman who weigh well over 300 pounds running 4.80, 40's, so it's not hard to see why the injury rate for smaller players is considerably higher. 2016 was not a good year for undersized runningbacks as they only represented 4% of the top 50, conversely backs weighing between 220-229 were responsible for 36% of the top 50 in PPR points.
2015 RB Fantasy Points Scored
The 2015 graph which can be seen below looks very similar to the 2016 graph in regards to runningbacks under 200 pounds being the lowest on the chart. While RB's that weigh between 220-229 lead the way once again with 32%. The 2015 group of "scat" backs had slightly better numbers than the 2016 contingency having 3 the of the top 50 in PPR scoring representing 6%. The group weighing between 200-209 pounds came in second representing 24% of the top 50, with the 210-219 pound grouping not far behind with a 22% representation in the 2015 PPR scoring leader board.
2015-2017 RB Fantasy Points Scored
The next graph displayed below sums up the fantasy points scored by 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 7.3% of the annual top 50 in PPR scoring. Runningbacks weighing between 200-209 pounds are responsible for 21.3% of the top 50 in PPR scoring over the past three years. Backs that weigh between 210-219 pounds were the second highest scoring group as they account for 26.0% of PPR scoring. The premier PPR scoring group weighs 220-229 pounds and yearly they represent on average 30.6% of the PPR scoring leaders. The one that stood out to me is that the "plodders" or big backs had exactly double the success rate of the small backs. They annually occupy 14.6% of the top 50 in PPR scoring leaders since 2015.
In conclusion it's not hard too see which weight class you should be targeting in your startup and rookie drafts, as the numbers simply don't lie. With that being said 194 pound Nyheim Hines, 192 pound Akrum Wadley, 194 pound Ito Smith, 196 pound Justin Jackson, and 196 pound Roc Thomas are regularly being drafted ahead of Jordan Wilkins (219lbs), Josh Adams (222lbs), Bo Scarbrough (228lbs), and Demario Richard (221lbs). Now I am fully aware that landing spot, draft capital invested, and depth chart all factor into runningback success as well. But the past three years of data suggest drafting Nyheim Hines over Jordan Wilkins in your rookie draft has a NEGATIVE 18.7% chance of success from a size perspective alone. Not too metion after watching the film Wilkins is simply the better back and possesses a potential three down skillset. Sorry Marlon Mack owners, but I firmly beleive Wilkins is currently the most talented runningback on Indy's depth chart. Another issue with smaller backs is pass protection. Other than just chipping a pass rusher or taking out his knees with a chop block just looking at it from a physics stand point how the hell is a 5'9, 180 pound RB supposed to effectively stop a 6'5, 295 pound defensive end? So despite what you have been told, size does matter, especially at the runningback position.