How many running backs does it take to make a successful team? If you’re Mike Shanahan, I'm not sure because I can't count that high. If you’re a fantasy owner, the answer’s usually about three solid backs.
There are always injury concerns with every running back—as a Jamaal Charles owner last season, I gained 10 pounds between Weeks 2 and 5 thanks to my feel-better friends Ben and Jerry. And in many systems, there are concerns about the dreaded “C Word”—committee. This is especially true in Rounds 1, 2 and early in Round 3, where all of the backs on this list should be drafted.
The key then is to minimize that risk. Go ahead, take a chance on Matt Forte if he’s there in the late third round. But do you want to sacrifice your first- or second-round pick for a guy you can’t trust? I’m not so sure.
(Warning: Math alert. Skip ahead if you want to see the predictions.)
What follows are the top 10 fantasy backs this year according to numberFire.com’s draft kit. NumberFire draws their numbers very heavily on the idea of Net Expected Points (NEP) and successes.
The idea of NEP is simple. You want your back to help the team score points, right? The guys who put their team in a better position to score when compared to the average NFL back get bumps, while the guys who are only successful in leading to three-and-outs get knocked down. Often, this is measured in NEP per play; for instance, DeMarco Murray increased his team’s chance of scoring by 0.04 points per time he rushed the ball last season.
Successes are similar. What percent of the time did your player increase your team's chance of scoring when compared to the average player? For Murray, that number was 44 percent of the time. Then, with the players ranked from there, numberFire can predict how that will affect fantasy teams.
So with that out of the way, let's start scoring fantasy points.