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Fantasy Football: Predicting 2012 Running Back Yards

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Jonathan Bales

Many of you like to play fantasy football. If you don’t, BEAT IT!

I just posted a pretty cool article over at Pro Football Focus detailing with how to project running back yards-per-carry. The formula I used is to create basic projections that incorporate regression toward the mean into statistics. Here’s part of the analysis:

After all is said and done, we can accurately predict running backs’ YPC with the following formula:

YPC_x+1 = 0.59*(AvgYPC) + 0.41*(YPC_x)

In layman’s terms, this means multiplying the league average YPC (4.3) by 0.59, then adding it to the player’s YPC from the previous season (which is multiplied by 0.41).

Let’s use Reggie Bush as an example. Bush averaged 5.03 YPC last season. To obtain a baseline projection of Bush’s 2012 YPC, we can first multiply 5.03 by 0.41 (getting 2.06 as a result). When we multiply the league average YPC (4.3) by 0.59, we get 2.54. Adding the two figures together, we see Bush’s initial projected YPC in 2012 is 4.60. That figure is a lot closer to Bush’s 4.29 career YPC mark than his 2011 rate.

To save you some time, I projected the YPC for the top 20 backs (in terms of rushing yards) from 2011. Then, I projected their carries using a myriad of factors, including 2011 carries, scheme alterations, personnel switches, and so on. Without further ado, here are your 2012 rushing leaders (with YPC in parentheses):

1. Maurice Jones-Drew: 300 carries for 1,338 yards (4.46)

2. Adrian Peterson: 300 carries for 1,335 yards (4.45)

3. Ray Rice: 290 carries for 1,316 yards (4.46)

4. Ryan Mathews: 280 carries for 1,274 yards (4.55)

5. Michael Turner: 280 carries for 1,224 yards (4.37)

6. Arian Foster: 275 carries for 1,194 yards (4.34)

7. LeSean McCoy: 260 carries for 1,170 yards (4.50)

8. Chris Johnson: 275 carries for 1,150 yards (4.18)

9. Matt Forte: 250 carries for 1,138 yards (4.55)

10. Fred Jackson: 225 carries for 1,078 yards (4.79)

11. Marshawn Lynch: 250 carries for 1,068 yards (4.27)

12. Shonn Greene: 250 carries for 1,063 yards (4.25)

13. Reggie Bush: 220 carries for 1,012 yards (4.60)

14. Frank Gore: 230 carries for 989 yards (4.30)

15. Steven Jackson: 220 carries for 955 yards (4.34)

16. Willis McGahee: 210 carries for 949 yards (4.52)

17. Beanie Wells: 210 carries for 901 yards (4.29)

18. Cedric Benson: 150 carries for 621 yards (4.14)

19. Ben Tate: 125 carries for 594 yards (4.75)

20. Michael Bush: 100 carries for 411 yards (4.11)

You can read the whole thing here. By the way, I just finished up my fantasy football e-book, and it will be published soon. If you guys are interested, I will let you know more details later.

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