Hello Fantasy Faithfuls, we are in full swing with the off-season and today I will be looking at correlations for Running Backs. As I did with Quarterbacks, I will look at rushing trends to see what trends that correlates most with fantasy scoring. The two trends I will be looking at are Rushing Patterns and Rushing Productivity. That means, what running lane impacts fantasy scoring the most and does the production in different lanes impact fantasy scoring more than others?
I have measured everything today with a Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient test, which measures if two samples move in the same direction.
A positive correlation, when the correlation coefficient (r) is above 0, it signifies that both variables move in the same direction. When (r) is +1, it signifies that the two variables have a perfect positive relationship and when one of them move, up or down, the other variable moves in the same direction with the same speed, if one variable move up 2, the other one move up 2 as well.
As an example, the price of gas is directly related to the price of a bus ticket. With a correlation coefficient (r) of +0.8. The relationship between gas price and bus tickets have a very strong positive correlation since the value is close to +1. So if the price of gas decreases, bus tickets will follow. If the price of gas increases, so does the prices of the bus ticket. Let's dig in!
In the scatter plot above you can see the two most polarizing running lanes (for you that are not familiar with the rushing lanes please check out my analysis of James Conner). These two lanes represents when the Running Backs carries the ball outside the Right Guard and outside a potential Right Tight End that has lined up.
The blue line is the trend line for Right Guard runs. As a Running Back sees more carries outside the Right Guard his fantasy scoring per game tends to go down. The Correlation Coefficient (r) is -0.16. That means that when you increase the percentage of a Backs runs in this lane you decrease his fantasy scoring.
Compare that to the red line, the trend line for Right End. The Correlation Coefficient (r) for Right Tight End is 0.21. That is a not the highest of correlation but compared to the Right Guard it is a big difference. Running Backs that have a higher percentage of their runs bounce outside the Right Tight End will tend to score more fantasy points.
You have plenty of outliers for each sample but you can see that the high blue dots on are more to the left on the X-axis (the horizontal line) while the red dots tends to go more to the right as they go higher on the Y-axis (the vertical line). For example, Duke Johnson, Jamaal Williams and Carlos Hyde all have some of the highest percentages of their runs go outside the Right Guard while Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Matt Breida, James Conner and many more top backs have high percentages outside the Right Tight End.
This scatter plot measures if productivity in a certain rushing lane correlates with fantasy scoring. Meaning, if a Running Back is especially productive with runs on either side of the Center, does that correlates more with fantasy scoring compared to Running Backs that are more productive in runs outside the Left Tackle?
Runs outside the Left Guard and up the middle to either side of the Center are the two most polarizing rushing lanes even if the numbers are not as different as above. That is because positive yardage have a hard time having a negative correlation with fantasy scoring.
Productivity on runs up the middle is on average the best indicator for fantasy scoring for Running Backs. The Correlation Coefficient (r) is 0.373 for this. That is not a strong correlation compared to other metrics such as carries but in this regard it is the strongest we have. A back that is very efficient on his runs up the middle will be the best option for fantasy.
A back that has his most productive runs outside the Left Guard will have a harder time scoring a lot of fantasy points. That is very interesting and as we look deeper we can see that many of the top backs actually struggle when they run outside their team's Left Guard. A player like Saquon Barkley only averages 2.4 yards per carry on those runs, Kareem Hunt 1.9 while only James Conner is the only top 15 back with a below 3.8 yards per carry up the middle.
As a conclusion, when you are looking at trends to figure out what Running Backs are on the rise, the trends you should look for is productivity up the middle and how many of their runs go outside the Right Tight End. These two trends will give you an edge in figuring out who has a good chance to take the next step in their scoring in 2019, I'm looking at you Kerryon Johnson and Phillip Lindsay, but more on them in the Fantasy Snapshot Bundle, and speaking of that.
All the Running Backs rushing trends will be in the Fantasy Snapshot Bundle that will release in May so you don't have to wonder how to get these stats in time for your drafts!
On Thursday I will look into Baker Mayfield and learn more about his passing trends and fantasy scoring for 2018.
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The spreadsheets are dark and full of terror // CSD