Saturday, July 6, 2013

Why Adrian Peterson Won't Be The #1 Fantasy Running Back in 2013

Article submitted by
@slim4MVP








Adrian Peterson is a freak.  How many human beings are capable of coming off major reconstructive knee surgery and dominating many of the best athletes on the planet?  It doesn’t happen very often.  Now I want to preface this article by saying that I am not going to try and prove that Peterson isn’t going to be any good in 2013.  I still think that he is going to be one of the safest picks you can get at the position and he is a supremely talented player.  All I am going to do is present some evidence that might make you think twice about spending the dollar amount he will probably demand come draft day.


Now we are probably all familiar with what Peterson did last season.  He was the leading fantasy running back with 309.4 points.  He played in all 16 games and rushed for 2097 yards, caught 40 passes and scored 13 total touchdowns.  And, like I said before, all this was done coming back from knee surgery on months before the season started.  Pretty incredible.  In 2013, Peterson is currently sitting atop most running back ranking lists, and I have consistently seen him go for over $60, sometimes over $70, in auction mock drafts.  Is one running back worth 30-35% of your budget on draft day?  Let’s take a closer look at why you may want to save your money and spend less on other running backs this year.


In any sport it is damn hard to be the best year in year out whether it’s repeating as champions or being the most productive at your position.  In 2012, Peterson rushed for the second highest single season rushing total in NFL history.  There are only 6 additional players to rush for over 2000 yards in a season.  Below is a table that shows what each of these runners did to follow up their monster seasons.


NAME
AGE
RUSHING TOTAL (yards)
FOLLOWING YEAR RUSHING TOTAL (yards)
FOLLOWING YEAR DECLINE (%)
Eric Dickerson
24
2105
1234
41
Jamal Lewis
24
2066
1066
48
Barry Sanders
29
2053
1491
27
Terrell Davis
26
2008
211
89
Chris Johnson
24
2006
1364
32
OJ Simpson
26
2003
1125
44
 
This table illustrates just how hard it is to produce at the previous year’s level.  It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is going to be a decline in production the following year after a 2000 yard season.  However if you look, some of the declines are quite drastic.  If you take out Davis (since I think barring some serious injury early on, he won’t dip by 89%), the average is a 38% decline the following season.  That would mean Peterson would end up with 1300 yards in 2013 if the averages play out, which is still a great season.  However, that number would have put Peterson 6th in rushing yards for 2012.  So you can see that historically speaking, there potentially won’t be much separating Peterson from many of the other top runners in 2013 in terms of yardage.  


The previous table showed us yardage only, which is definitely a major component in fantasy scoring.  However, what fantasy owners are usually concerned about most is fantasy points, so yardage plus touchdowns and maybe even receptions if you’re in a PPR.  For example, in 2003, when Jamal Lewis broke the 2000 yard barrier, he finished as the fourth leading rusher in terms of fantasy points.  Obviously yardage isn’t the end all and be all.  So let’s take a closer look at the fantasy points for running backs from the last few seasons then.


YEAR
PLAYER
TOTAL FANTASY POINTS
FANTASY POINTS PER GAME
POINT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN #1 AND #2 BACKS
POINT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN #1 AND #5 BACKS
2012
Adrian Peterson
309.4
19.3
44.6
63.1
2011
Ray Rice
296.8
18.6
14.4
77.2
2010
Arian Foster
329.8
20.6
86.4
96.9
2009
Chris Johnson
346.9
21.7
56.4
116.3
2008
DeAngelo Williams
283.9
17.7
7.9
42.0
2007
LaDanian Tomlinson
302.9
18.9
20.5
71.8
2006
LaDanian Tomlinson
418.3
26.1
84.4
150.7
2005
Shaun Alexander
363.8
22.7
28.5
95.5
2004
Shaun Alexander
306.6
19.2
7.0
45.0
2003
Priest Holmes
373.0
23.3
28.0
98.5
2002
Priest Holmes
372.7
26.6
49.1
102.7
2001
Marshall Faulk
340.7
24.3
63.8
98.4
2000
Marshall Faulk
374.9
26.8
36.6
123.5


So what exactly does all this data mean? One thing that I noticed was just how many fewer fantasy points per game the #1 back for the season was averaging now as opposed to the early 2000’s.  We’ve seen a steady decline since Tomlinson’s record 2006 season.  What that says to me is that the monster seasons by running backs like Faulk, Holmes and Tomlinson that we became used to seeing just aren’t happening as frequently.  There were 18 running backs that broke the 300 fantasy point mark from ‘00-’06 but only 4 that did it from  ‘07-’12.  If it’s not as common for a running back perform head and shoulders above everyone else at his position then why should you have to spend 20% or $10 more than any other running back goes for, to get him?


If you were to average the differences in the scoring between the top 5 running backs in each year you will see that becoming smaller too as you get closer to the present.  For example, the average difference between the top 5 in the years 2000-2006 is 102 points per year.  Compare that to the same average from 2007-2012, which is 78 points per year.  This illustrates the trend where there are presently more top tier running backs that are producing more equally as a group than ever before.


If there are more top tier running backs than ever before and there is less of a chance of one of them really outscoring the others, then it simply doesn’t make sense to spend roughly 5% of your overall budget just to try and get only one of them.  Right now I see arguably 10 running backs that I would feel comfortable having as my RB1 this year - they are Peterson, Martin, Spiller, Rice, Foster, Charles, Lynch, Richardson, Morris and McCoy. You could even make a case to throw Steven Jackson into that group now that he’s in a prolific offense.  I currently have them going from $58 (Peterson) to $41 (McCoy), however I’ve seen them all go for over $50 in mock drafts, some for over $60.  It’s all going to come down to how you rank your players before your draft.  Again, my point is if there are 10 or 11 running backs that you feel that you can win a fantasy pool with as your RB1 then why spend between to $60-$65 or 30% of your overall budget on Peterson when he only has maybe slightly better than a 10% chance to lead his position in fantasy points?  Even if he does lead his position, will it be by a wide enough margin to justify that extra spending?  Would you consider DeAngelo Williams an elite runner at any point in his career?  Probably not, however he was the leading fantasy running back in 2008.  That illustrates that in recent years, any given top tier runner can potentially lead his position in fantasy points.  Why not buy another running back other than Peterson for $50-$55 or 25% instead of 30-35% of your overall budget and use the remainder to beef up your Flex or wide receiver position?


Another thing to consider is the fact that no running back since 2007 has repeated as the leading fantasy point producer at the position.  Again, this goes to show that there are just more and more running backs that are capable of leading the way.  Now of course it could happen again, but if you look at the probability, then it seems unlikely it will happen.  In my opinion it’s simply not worth the extra money to take the guy that led the previous year if you have to pay 15-25% more than other “equal” running backs.


So, we’ve seen that based on history, Peterson is due to have a fairly sizeable decrease in production from 2012, but yet his auction value will probably be inflated.  We’ve also seen that there are more running backs than ever before that are capable of leading your fantasy league in points at the position, so Peterson has more competition in order to be the best again.  Finally, we’ve also saw that in recent years no running back has successfully been able to defend his fantasy points title from the previous year.  Now, believe me, I’m not rooting against Peterson.  In my opinion he’s the most gifted back in the NFL.  If I can get him for $55 I would take that but I can’t justify spending $65 on a running back that statistically speaking, doesn’t have that much higher of a ceiling in comparison to other running backs.  


Auction style fantasy football is all about percentages, stats and determining values.  If I can look at the numbers and figure out a way to give myself a mathematical edge against my competitors when we all are working with the same tangible budget, then odds dictate that I will win more time than my competitors.  Sometimes the probabilities don’t always pan out like the math says they should, that’s how life works.  However, the more times you can put yourself in a position to have greater success, the more often you will succeed.


I believe that by letting someone else in my draft overspend on Peterson I will not only be increasing my odds of purchasing a statistically better running back in 2013 but I will also be minimizing the chances of that other owner beating me.  Fingers crossed.


Slim

Follow me on Twitter @slim4MVP and send me a comment/question/critique/hate mail

2 comments:

  1. The odds of the number one fantasy player repeating that feat are quite long, but that’s the only reason I can come up with to not rank Peterson as the best back in standard leagues.

    fantasy football running backs

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's not that I don't agree with many of these reasons as reasons why AP won't repeat it's just that the majority of reasons that you (as well as other sites) list can be said of every other back. Some say losing Harvin will hurt. Harvin basically hasn't been there since they drafted him. Some say no one has ever repeated a 2000 yard season. No one is supposed to break records either. Also, did everyone conveniently forget that he was playing 100% when he started the first two games? Injuries? EVERY running back is a huge injury risk that's why we spend so many high picks on them.
    Unless you point to Foster's consistency (which you would have to include AP's solid resume as well) or to Martin getting back two All pro linemen to help even out his point totals from week to week there has yet to be any solid reason to NOT draft him #1.

    As safe a pick as Foster with a very recent track record of putting up points against 8 in the box.

    ReplyDelete