The demise of the stud RB theory shrinks the pool of RB regression candidates, right? The answer is no.
The fact that so many Fantasy players incorrectly define regression doesn’t change the correct definition. Yes, many owners interpret “regression candidate” as a player who is going to be worse than he was last year. Some even get carried away and think said player is going be worthless. Well, neither is true.
Regression simply means a shift toward the mean, or average. Let’s assume, for example, that a player finished with 300 yards less than the league average. They could be a “regression candidate” and move in a positive direction towards the league average. Also, just because a player might move negatively if they regress, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gonna be worthless. They could perform worse than whatever average we are considering, but still be start-worthy.
Additionally, there are so many types of regression possibilities. A player can regress positive or negatively toward the league average, toward their own career levels, or even a specific subset—for example they could regress toward the mean for “years in which they were healthy.”
Below are five of my favorite RB regression candidates, and just to prove the point, we will start with one you probably hadn’t considered.
RB Regression Candidates
Positive regression towards career trend in YPC
Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
Many are expecting a decline in production from Gore this year. The reasoning is that much of his production last year was volume driven and he should see less carries this year….
Finally, @MikeWellsNFL said the Colts want to lighten Frank Gore’s load this year, but the #2 back is unclear. He mentioned Ferguson first.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) July 19, 2016
To make matters worse, Gore had his worst YPC mark at 3.7. Even if we include last year, Gore’s average YPC is nearly 3/4 of a yard higher at 4.4. Do I think he will actually hit that average? No. But you can smell the regression to the mean, can’t you?
Plus, here’s an interesting stat: Since 2011, when a team reduced Gore’s carries by 20 or more, his average YPC always shot up at least a fifth of a yard. Let’s reduce Gore’s carries by more than double than that, giving Gore just 220 vs. last year’s 260. Despite that lofty 4.4 career YPC, we will split the difference and increase his YPC to an even 4.0
You now have a RB with 880 yards. That makes him a high-end RB2. Given that he’s not even one of the Top 30 RBs being drafted and has an ADP after the sixth round, that’s a steal. But if you think Gore is a steal, consider the next regression candidate….
Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens
Everyone seems to be predicting the demise of Forsett, but to quote Eric Idle, he’s “not dead yet.”
Baltimore saw multiple injuries on offense last year, including the offensive line. That in part is what led to Forsett’s lowest average yard per carry in five years. If we give Forsett 200 carries and an even five yards per carry (which is lower than any of his three years YPC previous to last), the math is simple—1,000 yards. You think you’re gonna find many RBs available in the eighth round who will rush for a grand?
But positive regression is not limited to mid-round RB regression candidates. Of course, there is at least one “RB1” who should see positive regression too….
Regression towards career trend in games played
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
So last year, McCoy played in only 12 games and couldn’t manage to hit even 900 rushing yards. The previous two years he played 16 games and had nearly 1,500 and 2,000 combined yards, respectively. Expecting McCoy to regress positively is a reasonable expectation, especially given the lack of competition in Buffalo and Rex Ryan’s inclination to run the ball often.
Now, let’s flip things toward the negative side…..
Negative Regression Toward League Average
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
First we begin with an absolutely obvious choice. If we look at just the Top 36 RBs point outputs from last year, Freeman’s position is so far above the trend line it stick outs like a sore thumb:
I’ve stated already that I don’t believe in Devonta Freeman and I am buying shares of Tevin Coleman. But let’s take my opinion out of it and just crunch some numbers shall we?
Freeman was obviously good at running the ball last year. He saw his number of carries quadruple, but actually increased his YPC slightly from 3.8 to 4.0. That’s not necessarily where the regression is going to happen. The most likely regression will be in Freeman’s contributions to the passing game.
With Roddy White and Harry Douglas essentially non-factors last year, the Falcons were forced to get Freeman involved. Freeman saw not only his catches double, but his receiving yards per games nearly triple. If we average his two years, we get 46 receptions with a catch average of 7.7 yards per reception. That is 354 yards or more than 200 yards less than last year.
It still makes him potentially worthy of a first round pick, but expecting him to be the Top RB in a PPR league is foolhardy.
Negative Regression Toward Number of Carries
Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys
Running behind one of the best OL in football obviously helped McFadden. So we will keep his YPC average where it was from last year. And let’s assume that despite everything you have read, Elliott is not the complete back and McFadden still manages to get 150-plus carries. In fact, let’s give him his previous three year average of 162.
162 carries at his remarkable 4.6 YPC last year still gives him 745 yards. That’s pretty solid for a handcuff and would still have ranked him the 22nd highest rushing RB last year. It’s a negative regression, and keep your expectations in check, but his regression is not as great as you might think.
However, if you’re one of those ignorant fools just looking for players who won’t do as well this coming year as they did last, here are a few quick ones for you….
Other RB Regression Candidates
Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars
If he stays healthy, he’ll get more carries than T.J. Yeldon. But he’s not getting 247 carries again. Less carries, less production.
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals
Hill tied with four other RBs for the most TDs last year. The other three finished in the Top 10 and Hill barely cracked the Top 20. Expect others to have more TDs than Hill this year.
Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys
Last year, Morris had 202 attempts. Currently third on the Dallas depth chart, if Morris gets half that amount, I’ll be shocked.
Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs
Because Jamaal Charles should play more than five games this year.
We’ll discus WR regression candidates in the next piece, but for those of you wondering whom the RB regression candidates are, now you know.
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