Welcome back to the Data Viz DFS NFL Preview utilizing data science & data visualizations. Today we will be previewing the RB position utilizing rushing attempts per game, red zone rushing attempts, & TDs. If for some reason you missed the WR Preview or the TE Preview make sure to check those out before you keep reading.
Before we can get into the fun part (winning you money) we have a very light homework session. Go over the key definitions below so it is easier to navigate this article. If you understand the key concepts it will lead to more money which leads to happiness & who among us don’t want to be at least a little more happy.
Outlier: If a value is more than 2 standard deviations away from the mean, that data point is identified as an outlier. Basically a person or thing that differs significantly from the other members of that data set.
Standard Deviation: Standard deviation is a number used to tell how measurements for a group are spread out from the mean, or expected value.
1 Standard Deviation: Data within 1 standard deviation of the mean can be considered fairly common and expected. Essentially it tells you that data is not exceptionally high or exceptionally low. 68% of the population falls within 1 standard deviation.
2 Standard Deviations: Data that lies within 2 standard deviations of the mean accounts for 95% of the population. Basically the majority of the population (95%) will fall within 2 standard deviations of the median. All values outside 2 standard deviations are the outliers of the group.
Median: The value or quantity lying at the midpoint of a data set. Basically there is an equal probability of falling above or below the median.
Emmit Smith’s longevity, Darren Sproles height, Jerome Bettis’ weight, Mike Alstotts skin color – these are all examples of historical outliers for the running back position. All of these players have a certain characteristic that differs significantly from the other members of the data set (NFL RBs in this case). Obviously some of these you cannot control (s/o Mike Alstott) but there is no denying that these specific characteristics made these RBs outliers. Well we are going to take a little different look at RB outliers. Instead of utilizing attributes or characteristics – we will be utilizing hard raw stats. Specifically fantasy points per game, red zone rushing attempts & rushing attempts per game.
I’m going to reinsert a part of the WR preview because I think it is important for this audience to read. If you are a steady reader and have already seen it – skip down to the visual.
“Outliers are those who have been given opportunities and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.” – Malcolm Gladwell
I doubt Gladwell was talking about fantasy football when he said the above quote – but man it feels like he was. Let’s reword it so it makes sense when analyzing fantasy football. So instead of saying ‘Outliers are those who have been given opportunities” let’s re-word it to say ‘Outliers are those who have been given high targets per game & high red zone targets.” And instead of saying “who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them” lets say “who have had the strength to convert these to TDs.”
We will be utilizing this new quote as the foundation of this article: “Outliers are those who have been given high targets per game / high red zone targets and who have had the strength to convert these to TDs.”
The purpose of our first visual is to show what RBs are outliers when looking at fantasy points per game. This was executed utilizing a dot plot where the y-axis is fantasy points per game (PPR) & each dot represents a different TE. The size of the circle is based on total TDs & the color is based on rush attempts per game (blue is good & orange is bad). The grey shaded area represents 2 standard deviations from the mean.
Fantasy Points Per Game Outliers (PPR): Christian McCaffrey | Dalvin Cook | Aaron Jones
McCaffrey is a monster – literally 5 pts more than 2nd place.
If McCaffrey didn’t exist we would be talking about how big a beast Dalvin Cook is this year.
Jones is 3rd overall even though he averages < 14 attempts per game – Jones is TD reliant for his points.
The purpose of our next visual is to show what RBs are outliers when looking at rush attempts per game & red zone rush attempts. This was executed utilizing a scatter plot where the y-axis is rush attempts per game & the x-axis represents red zone rush attempts. Each circle represents a different RB, the size of the circle is based on total TDs, & the color is based on fantasy pts per game (PPR) – blue is good & orange is bad. The grey shaded area represents 2 standard deviations from the mean.
Only 2/3 of the points per game outliers from the previous viz (Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, & Aaron Jones) are outliers in this scatter plot. I would have expected all 3 to be on this list, but this is more eveidence that Jones is very TD reliant & should not be considered in the same breath as McCaffrey & Cook due to this.
Zeke is the outlier of the outliers. Zeke is by far and away the leader in red zone rushing attempts (37 to 32). Zeke has had some trouble converting these to TDs but I expect that to change going forward. Zeke should be scoring like McCaffrey & Cook based on his attempts per game & red zone attempts but has fallen just short up to this point. He has a tough matchup vs the Vikings this week – making me hesitant to start him. I probably will pass this week but one thing you can know for sure is that he will be pounding the rock when the Cowboys are in the red zone – that has been proven.
Leonard Fournette will eventually score TDs. Leonard just cannot break the seal – only 1 TD on the season. It is really unbelievable that this is the case given he is 2nd among RBs with 32 red zone attempts. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Fournette will definitely not get in the red zone this week, but look for him to break that streak once he comes off a bye. With Big Nick Foles coming back – it should open up the offense a little more and give Fournette more room to get in the red zone.
McCaffrey is a workhorse, a stud, & a god. He is by far and away the leader in attempts per game & when you factor in receiving targets – his numbers are even more ridiculous. He is the obvious #1 RB & well worth the price.
Dalvin Cook would be the best RB in the league if McCaffrey didn’t exist. Cook is having an unbelievable season – 20 ppg (PPR), 9 TDs, & 3rd in red zone touches. Cook would be in discussions for RB1 & MVP if McCaffrey wasn’t doing his thing. None the less – Cook is an unbelievable player week in and week out. The Cowboys are average vs RBs so I feel very comfortable starting Cook this week.
Josh Jacobs is the real deal. He continues putting up points week in and week out (71 yds / 1 TD last night vs LAC). Jacobs is the main RB in Oakland & he is fed the ball in the red zone. Jacobs will continue being an RB1 week in and week out. Count on Jacobs for the rest of the season.
Chris Carson is the only RB worth anything on SEA. He is clearly the number 1 option in Seattle & that in itself has tremendous value. With Russ Wilson slinging the ball around the field – the box is wide open for Carson to attack. Carson will always have the carries to put up points – count on him to keep up his production. He’s facing a tough 49ers run defense, but we have seen in past weeks that the 49ers rush D can be exploited (s/o McCaffrey). I think Carson will have a good week this week but be cautious if you decide to play him.
Nick Chubb is a stud – but in a confusing spot. His team is a mess, his coach is a joke, his QB stinks, his WRs are divas, & we haven’t even gotten to the part where another stud RB is coming back. Nick Chubb is a beast but man I do not feel comfortable starting him week in and week out. He has obviously had tremendous value this year, but I feel like it’s finally time for Chubb to come back to reality. Think about it, the Brown’s aren’t allowed to have nice things & this won’t be the exception. Chubb is talented enough to put up numbers, but its going to be much more random & hard to predict. I will be staying away indefinitely.