It’s easy to take a snapshot of a running back’s season as a whole and assume they were a running back 1, 2, or 3 by looking at their point total, but if you really want to get a feel for how much a player helped or hurt you throughout the season, you must look at things on a per week basis. I decided to do this research and put this article together for the purpose of highlighting the league’s most consistent runners while pointing out some players who were more boom or bust type options. Since I play in a combination of standard and PPR leagues, and most leagues use a variety of different scoring formats, I used half PPR scoring for these stats. Let’s take a look at the top 24 backs and see which ones were the true models of consistency and which ones left you riding the emotional rollercoaster all season.
The RB1’s - Gurley, Bell, Kamara, Zeke
Each of these 4 backs finished in the top 12 at their position at least 60% of the time. You were able to fire them up with full confidence whenever they were on the field this year. Gurley was clearly the best, averaging an absurd 23.4 points per game. Bell was almost as good, but had one less top 12 week compared to Gurley’s 12. It’s a shame Zeke’s time off came when it did, he was playing some of the best football in the league prior to his 6-game suspension and would likely have been one of the top backs on the year had he played 15 games. Elliot’s 19.4 points per game ranks third behind Gurley and Bell. Kamara came on a bit later but led the league in points per touch. He was by far the most efficient runner and received just enough volume to make him a must start option. Anyone who landed Kamara at the end of the first or beginning of the second last year got a steal.
The RB2’s - Hyde, Coleman, Lynch, Duke Johnson
These 4 runners finished with more games in the 13-24 range than they did anywhere else. Tevin Coleman lead the league with a 50% RB2 rate. He had very few dominating finishes, but was a solid play while Devonta Freeman was on and off the field with injuries. Hyde was similar to Coleman, but had a few more top-12 finishes. Duke Johnson, like Kamara, was an extremely efficient runner on a per touch basis. He averaged 1.13 points every time he got his hands on the ball. It’ll be interesting to see what the Browns backfield will look like next year, but Duke isn’t the kind of player that requires a ton volume to be successful. Lynch was a pretty good option too, but when he let you down it hurt a little more than the other three. I almost included him in the next category, but I feel he earns his title of RB2.
Boom or Bust guys – Howard, Gordon, Alex Collins
Howard and Gordon were great this year, they each had nearly a 50% RB1 rate, unfortunately they also let you down big in their worst games. Collins was a solid option too, but was either putting up huge numbers or hardly anything. He didn’t have one single RB2 finish. When these guys hit, you probably won, but when they let you down, they didn’t let you down easy.
This next chart gives a breakdown of when throughout the season each player scored their points:
Jump starters - Fournette, Hunt, Elliot
If you had either of the three runners above you got a good shot out the gate, but was left wanting more as the season progressed. Each situation was different. Elliot’s electrifying season was cut short do to suspension, but otherwise was a rock for your team, Fournette came out strong but struggled to stay healthy, and Hunt was shot out of a cannon weeks 1-7 but almost disappeared until it was time for the fantasy playoffs. Of the 3, Hunt was the most likely to have won you a championship.
Bye week winners - Kamara, Engram, Demarco Murray
Kamara and Ingram both had slow starts, combing for only 3 top-24 finishes in the first 5 weeks, but provided owners with a much-needed push come mid-season. Murray was pretty pedestrian throughout most of the year; he wasn’t a league winner, but was definitely someone who helped you through the bye weeks. Murray averaged 13.06 points per game from weeks 6-11.
League Winners – Gurley, Bell, Dion Lewis
Gurley and Bell defined consistency all season long. They were top options nearly every week and played their best football down the stretch when we needed it the most. Gurley, especially, was off the charts for the playoffs. I debated whether or not to add Lewis to this category, but I think he fits. He was in the top 24 three of the last five weeks and had a floor of 9.2 points over that span. Dion’s best game of the year came in week 16 when you were probably only hoping for flex numbers. I can’t be the only one who won a championship thanks to Lewis.
It’s been a really fun year tracking these runners. I hope the charts above help give you a visual that you can use to make your own conclusions on this season. I will leave you with a few more charts to round out the top 48. Thanks for reading and sharing, happy offseason.