In this week's Varsity Numbers, Bill Connelly takes a page out of baseball's playbook and attempts to isolate power from efficiency.
22 Jun 2009
by Bill Barnwell
In this latest Wisdom of Crowds feature, we take a look at running backs -- examining strictly their rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing TD. While some backs will form a good chunk of their value from their receiving ability, it would be far harder to gain a consensus on a player's likelihood of becoming active in the receiving game than it would to gain a consensus on the running game.
You can see why with our first candidate.
Monday: Knowshon Moreno
Average Prediction: 226 attempts, 1004 rushing yards, 7 TD
Maximum Prediction: 300 attempts, 1500 rushing yards, 10 TD
Minimum Prediction: 162 attempts, 726 rushing yards, 4 TD
Moreno's role with the Broncos seems impossibly difficult to predict; as you can see from the min and max predictions above, he could either be one of the league's elite backs or a fantasy non-factor as a rookie. No pressure.
Of course, Josh McDaniels rotated his backs in and out regularly with New England, carving out roles for limited players like Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and LaMont Jordan. Unlike those players, though, Moreno was a lottery pick; McDaniels, already struggling in the court of public opinion, undoubtedly needs to see Moreno succeed to take the minds of Denver fans off of Jay Cutler and a botched offseason.
Most rookie backs struggle with the more delicate aspects of being an NFL halfback, resulting in a first half dedicated to extra reps as a receiver and a pass blocker in practice, but Moreno comes billed out of Georgia as a back capable of producing professional grade work at those tasks. If he can do so, and the offensive line in front of him stays healthy, I believe he can run past that average prediction.
Tuesday: Maurice Jones-Drew
Average Prediction: 281 attempts, 1267 rushing yards, 13 TD
Maximum Prediction: 369 attempts, 1500 rushing yards, 20 TD
Minimum Prediction: 215 attempts, 1000 rushing yards, 7 TD
One intrepid follower projected MJD at 369/1500/7, which would be a touchdown fluke (as another follower suggested) on the order of Thomas Jones in 2007.
The biggest concern about MJD's 2009 is that he won't be able to handle the expanded workload he's getting with the departure of Fred Taylor. As we asked people to contribute 16-game predictions, that possibility isn't included in this analysis.
If he does stay healthy for 16 games, I think the average prediction here is just about right on, since we're expecting somewhat of a Jaguars bounceback in 2009.
Wednesday: Matt Forte
Average Prediction: 299 attempts, 1304 rushing yards, 10 TD
Maximum Prediction: 340 attempts, 1630 rushing yards, 14 TD
Minimum Prediction: 212 attempts, 980 rushing yards, 7 TD
Another high-riser, Forte was taken first in the RotoWire experts draft I participated in a while back. Of course, a good chunk of his value is derived from his receiving totals, as he led the Bears in catches a year ago.
I don't think that we'll see Forte pace Chicago receivers this year; his presence and role in a mediocre offense reminds me a lot of how the Chargers used LaDainian Tomlinson back in 2003, when he had 100 catches for the 23rd-ranked pass offense in football.
As a runner, though, Forte should have an improved line in front of him in 2009, while the arrival of Jay Cutler should at least deter teams from pushing eight or nine men into the box on a regular basis. I think his average prediction is just about right, with maybe a few more rushing touchdowns thrown in.
Thursday: Darren McFadden
Average Prediction: 205 attempts, 876 rushing yards, 6 TD
Maximum Prediction: 280 attempts, 1107 rushing yards, 9 TD
Minimum Prediction: 145 attempts, 520 rushing yards, 4 TD
I think everyone has their guy(s) heading into their fantasy draft that they want to come away with. Last year, for me, that guy was Thomas Jones, based upon my (then-unpublished) research into his impossibly-fluky performance inside the 5. In the NL-only 24-man auction keeper league that myself, Aaron, Ian Dembsky, Al Bogdan, Vivek Rampogal, and others participate in each year, the guys I needed to get -- and got -- were Justin Upton (hooray!) and Brandon Webb (whose absence led me to trade Stephen Strasburg and Dexter Fowler in a deal for Jake Peavy literally hours before Peavy was walking around in a cast).
This year, for me, McFadden is that guy. I believe that the Raiders offensive line will be better. I believe that he won't be splitting time with Justin Fargas and Michael Bush; they'll be splitting time behind him. I believe that he's fully recovered from his turf toe concerns, and the fact that he managed to be the Raiders' best back as a rookie despite that turf toe is impressive. I believe in his 120 Speed Score. My prediction for Darren McFadden's 2009 actually surpasses the maximum prediction given by our readers. But that is just me and my opinion.
Friday: Marion Barber III
Average Prediction: 228 attempts, 1029 rushing yards, 10 TD
Maximum Prediction: 330 attempts, 1250 rushing yards, 13 TD
Minimum Prediction: 181 attempts, 800 rushing yards, 7 TD
MBIII is another back stuck in a timeshare, splitting time with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.
The thing I think people are missing about Barber is the context of how his season played out. He played 15 games, but realistically, about eight of them are meaningful. He dislocated his toe during the Seahawks game in Week 13, and carried the ball 13 times for 15 yards afterwards, while he played three games as the Cowboys' only offensive threat when Brad Johnson was at quarterback (albeit rushing for 225 yards in the process).
If you take his performance over the other eight games, Barber carried the ball 153 times for 613 yards and five touchdowns. Extrapolate that out to a 16-game season, and cut 15 percent off of it for the carries he'll be giving to Jones and Choice (assuming all stay healthy, which we are in this scenario), and Barber's at 260 carries for 1042 yards and eight scores. That's close to his average prediction, and I think it's a reasonable expectation for Barber's 2009.
As always, you can follow us on Twitter to participate in the Wisdom of Crowds predictions. Today's player up for discussion is LaDainian Tomlinson, and we'll be going through more running backs this week.
66 comments, Last at 04 Oct 2009, 3:42am by Ketch Rudder