Fantasy Football: The TRUTH About Fantasy RBs in 2018, Part 1

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Every year The Fantasy Footballers take a deep dive into the TRUTH behind fantasy football finishes from the previous year. Which players were actually consistent? Who provided week-winning performances and who killed fantasy football teams everywhere? All this and more revealed!

Get the full RB breakdown from Andy, Mike, and Jason on the podcast: Part 1 / Part 2.

The TRUTH Scoring

Player finish, fantasy points, and consistency percentages are based on Half PPR scoring.

Great Games are more than 22 points (top 5 on average)
Good Games are more than 10 points (top 24 on average)
Bust Games are fewer than 7 points (outside top 50 on average)

Below are the Top 10 RBs for 2018. For the rest of the pack, see Part 2.

1. Todd Gurley – Consistency Rank #2

14 games — 256/1251/17 — 59/580/4 on 81 targets
Great 79% | Good 93% | Bust 0%
Defenses: -1.54 vs Top 16 Rush DEF
Home (23.83) /Road (24.54)  Split: -0.71 at Home

Todd Gurley was simply incredible once again in 2018, finishing as the RB1 overall for the second straight year. What’s amazing about that is the fact that he missed Weeks 16 and 17 and still finished ahead of all other running backs. Each and every week, Gurley showed up for you. He found the end zone 17 times, averaging more than one touchdown per game. Gurley scored double-digit points in a whopping 93% of his games, making him an extremely reliable option every week in your lineup. Combine that with his “Great” weeks at nearly 80%, and it’s no surprise Gurley finished with the most fantasy points at the position. How dominant was he in 2018? Todd Gurley scored the 10th most PPR points per game for running backs in NFL history.

2. Saquon Barkley – Consistency Rank #4

16 games — 261/1307/11 — 91/721/4 on 121 targets
Great 38% | Good 94% | Bust 0%
Defenses: -9.51 vs Top 16 Rush DEF
     8 games vs Top 16 (16.39)
     8 games vs Bot 16 (25.9)
Home (20.99)/Road (21.3) Split: -0.31 at Home

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At the start of the season, no one was questioning whether or not Barkley had the talent to succeed in the NFL. The question surrounding Barkley was whether or not his draft price was too high for a rookie. It’s safe to say Barkley quieted those concerns emphatically, finishing as the second-best running back in fantasy. The most amazing thing about the way Barkley succeeded in 2018 was the fact that he played behind a subpar offensive line and still finished just one spot behind Todd Gurley. If the Giants can improve their quarterback play and their offensive line in 2019, there’s no reason to believe Saquon can’t finish as the RB1 overall next season. Even scarier for opposing defenses is the fact that it’s possible that Barkley is just scratching the surface. He led running backs in scrimmage yards (2,028), which is third most ALL-TIME for a rookie behind only Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James.

3. Christian McCaffrey – Consistency Rank #1

*Week 17 not counted in consistency rank due to only playing a handful of snaps

16 games — 219/1098/7 — 107/867/6 on 124 targets
Great 47% | Good 100% | Bust 0%
Defenses: -6.3 vs Top 16 Rush DEF
     7 games vs Top 16 (16.96)
9 games vs Bot 16 (23.36)
Home (22.69)/Road (18.31) Split: +4.38 at Home

Christian McCaffrey took a huge step forward in 2018, proving that he can be an absolute workhorse for the Carolina Panthers. Excluding Week 17, McCaffrey was on the field for almost every single snap in 2018, missing only 30 snaps the ENTIRE SEASON (credit to Kyle Borgognoni for this stat). McCaffrey’s value was excellent on the ground, but his consistent production week in and week out came from his usage in the passing game, hauling in a total of 107 receptions, the most by a running back in NFL history. The former Stanford product was incredible in 2018, finishing as the most consistent back in fantasy football.

4. Alvin Kamara – Consistency Rank #5

15 games — 194/883/14 — 81/709/4 on 105 targets
Great 47% | Good 93% | Bust 7%
Defenses: +2.92 vs Top 16 Rush DEF

Home (19.9)/Road (20.99) Split: -1.19 at Home

Super Kamario provided fantasy football owners with another awesome season, finishing as the RB4 in fantasy. The only problem with Alvin Kamara was that the vast majority of his “Great” games came during the first four weeks of the season when Mark Ingram wasn’t on the field due to suspension. When Ingram returned, Kamara was still a very good player, but his fantasy production certainly dipped. From Weeks 1-4 without Ingram, Kamara was the RB1 overall, averaging 28.7 fantasy points/game. From Weeks 5-16, he averaged 17.6 fantasy points/game. The thing to consider with Kamara is whether or not Ingram will return to New Orleans in 2019 as he prepares to become a free agent. If Kamara returns as the workhorse for the Saints without Ingram, we’ve already seen what he could be for fantasy owners next year. Regardless of what team Mark Ingram plays for in 2019, Kamara will once again be an elite option at the running back position.

5. Ezekiel Elliott – Consistency Rank #6

15 games — 304/1434/6 — 77/567/3 on 95 targets
Great 40% | Good 93% | Bust 7%
Defenses: -1.07 vs Top 16 Rush DEF
Home (20.57)/Road (18.3) Split: +2.27 at Home

Ezekiel Elliott was the definition of a workhorse in 2018, rushing the ball 304 times, more than anyone else in the league. Surprisingly this 304 rush attempts was the LOWEST for a league-leader since 2000. The days of running backs rushing more than 350 times are probably over in today’s NFL, but for Elliott, it didn’t matter. He took a huge step forward in the passing game in 2018, reeling in a career-high 77 receptions on a career-high 95 targets. If Zeke can continue to provide this usage in the passing game, he will continue to dominate for fantasy owners in 2019. One thing to consider with Elliott is that despite finishing as the RB5, he only scored six rushing touchdowns after scoring 15 touchdowns in 2016 and 7 in 2017 (just 10 games). If he can find the end zone a few more times in 2019, Elliott could easily finish as the RB1 overall.

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6. James Conner – Consistency Rank #8

13 games — 215/973/12 — 55/497/1 on 71 targets
Great 38% | Good 77% | Bust 0%
Defenses: -4.91 vs Top 16 Rush DEF
     4 games vs Top 16 (16.02)
     9 games vs Bot 16 (20.93)
Home (19.24)/Road (19.63) Split: -0.39 at Home

James Conner absolutely ran away with his opportunity in 2018 after Le’Veon Bell decided to hold out all year. Conner provided a tremendous return on investment, finishing as the RB6 overall despite being drafted as the RB55 in drafts. Only Zeke had more games over 180 yards from scrimmage than Conner’s three. You can’t argue with Conner’s production and consistency in 2018, but the thing to consider in 2019 is whether or not Conner’s production is more a result of the Steeler’s offensive scheme, offensive line, and coach or his true talent and opportunity. Maybe it doesn’t matter given that we’ve seen the Pittsburgh starting running back has been a fantasy weapon each and every year. With Le’Veon Bell set to hit free agency, Conner will likely have the opportunity to be the starter for the Steelers, but Antonio Brown may not be in town, Ben Roethlisberger is another year older, and there’s been some negative news coming out of Pittsburgh as of late. Conner should be a polarizing player to talk about once the draft season hits this summer.

7. Melvin Gordon – Consistency Rank #3

12 games — 175/885/10 — 50/490/4 on 66 targets
Great 42% | Good 92% | Bust 0%
Defenses: -2.12 vs Top 16 Rush DEF
Home (19.6)/Road (21.48) Split: -1.88 at Home

The truth about Melvin Gordon is this: When he’s on the field, he’s an elite fantasy running back, but unfortunately Gordon let owners down most when it mattered most due to his missed time with injury. In his 12 games played, Melvin Gordon ranked third in consistency, producing at a high level in each and every game he played. Gordon has been elite over the past three years. In fact, only Todd Gurley has more total touchdowns over the last 3 seasons (Gordon: 38, Gurley: 46). If Gordon can put together a 16 game season with greater consistency, he’ll deserve to be talked about with the top dogs at the running back position.

8. James White – Consistency Rank #12

16 games — 94/425/5 — 87/751/7 on 123 targets
Great 19% | Good 75% | Bust 19%
Defenses: -0.29 vs Top 16 Rush DEF

Home (17.39) /Road (11.75) Split: +5.64 at Home

James White’s receiving ability throughout the year propelled him into RB1 territory, finishing as the 8th best back in fantasy in 2018. His 87 receptions ranked ___ in the league among running backs. However, the truth about White is that he was thrust into his increased workload when others in the New England offense were missing. Julian Edelman missed the first four weeks, Sony Michel missed time with injury, and Burkhead spent time on injured reserve, allowing White to maintain a secure role in the Patriots offensive scheme. However, once these guys returned to the lineup, his production really suffered. White’s receiving ability will also have him on the RB2/Flex radar in your lineup, but it’s unlikely he finishes in the top 10 again next season. Regardless, he should still be a value in drafts next year.

9. Joe Mixon – Consistency Rank #10

14 games — 237/1168/8 — 43/296/1 on 55 targets
Great 29% | Good 71% | Bust 7%
Defenses: -0.45 vs Top 16 Rush DEF
Home (17.11)/Road (14.17) Split: +2.94 at Home

Mixon had a really solid year in 2018, especially on a bad offense. The Bengals were without Andy Dalton and A.J. Green for the majority of the year. However, when Dalton was in the lineup through Week 12, he was the RB12. Mixon averaged the third most rush yards per game in the league at 83.4. Coming off his best season yet, Mixon should be a very safe pick in drafts next season. Dalton and Green will be back, the offensive line should improve, and there will be a new coaching staff in Cincinnati next year. These factors point to an improved Bengals offense in 2019, and Mixon can only benefit.

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10. David Johnson – Consistency Rank #11

16 games — 258/940/7 — 50/446/3 on 76 targets
Great 6% | Good 75% | Bust 6%
Defenses: -2.06 vs Top 16 Rush DEF
Home (13.46)/Road (14.5) Split: -1.04 at Home

It probably doesn’t feel like it, but David Johnson finished as a top-10 running back in 2018. Given his average draft position, if you owned David Johnson, you were probably disappointed. He only had one “Great” game in 2018 and provided very little upside, likely due to his lack of proper utilization in the Cardinals offense in 2018. His average depth of target (aDOT) in Mike McCoy‘s offense was a measly 0.8 yards. For reference in 2016 when Johnson finished as the RB1 overall in fantasy, his aDOT was 4.7, best in the NFL among running backs. In order to Johnson to return to fantasy glory in 2019, his usage in the passing game will need to improve. This could certainly happen in Kliff Kingsbury‘s offensive scheme. Since 2014, his running backs have received 372 targets, 6th most in college football.

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