100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 65: How to Spot an Undervalued RB
At the New York Times, I broke down how I search for undervalued running backs.
Look at Age as a Predictor
It would be easier to find overlooked midround running backs if you know what type of back you want. Owners can typically find value by emphasizing predictors of success over past production. Most owners tend to pay for past stats; you can acquire value by accurately predicting it to get future production at a discount.
And the running backs that offer the most value are youngsters. In my book, I tracked historic running back production by age. The results were surprising.
In terms of fantasy scoring on a per-touch basis, running backs are basically at the height of their efficiency when they enter the N.F.L. The most common age for peak efficiency is 22, the rookie year for many backs. By 25, the average back is producing less than 90 percent of his career peak. By 29, the back’s production can fall to 70 percent. Simply put, there’s no factor that you should weigh more than age in your running back rankings, and if you’re ever unsure who to draft at any given spot, remember these three words: youth, youth, youth.
Total running back production tends to peak a little later — around 26 — because most backs see more carries as they gain experience. But you aren’t looking for that. You’re searching for young players who will play at peak efficiency and see a surge in their workload. That way, you won’t pay for past production, but you can still obtain the value of optimal expected output.