Fantasy Football: Value of Underachieving Rookie RBs
At RotoWire, I took a look at how to project the play of second-year running backs.
I recently collected data on rookie running backs, grading them in terms of how their rookie stats – carries, yards, and YPC – affected their career approximate value. Career AV uses bulk stats to rank players, and thus it’s a good measure for fantasy owners to consider.
I sorted rookie running backs since 2000 by career AV, splitting them into either above or below the median. The rookie running backs who rushed for the most yards have gone on to have the most career success, which isn’t really surprising. In general, the best rookie backs see the heaviest workloads in their first season. Plus, since rookie rushing yards add to career AV, there’s a selection bias at play.
In reality, rookie YPC seems to be the best indicator of long-term success at the running back position. You can see that the rookie runners who have posted the highest YPC have gone on to have nearly just as much success as the running backs who have generated the most yards. And since YPC isn’t a component of career AV, it won’t naturally inflate the measure.
On top of that, since rookie rushing yards are obviously strongly correlated with heavy workloads, the fact that there’s only a weak relationship between rookie carries and career success suggests that yards are inferior to YPC as a predictor of future production for non-rookie running backs.
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