It's not going out on a limb to say running back is fantasy football's most important position. Because of that, it's fair to say RB is also the most frustrating position. Whether it's injuries, ineffectiveness, or a time share, it's hard to predict who will produce from year-to-year. Consistency is one of the keys to a frustration-free season at any position, and this piece will help you rank players based on their consistency. It's another pre-draft tool to tuck into your cheat sheet, right next to the sleepers and busts.
Running back is one of the least consistent positions in fantasy. A guy will be great one week and a dud the next. Matchups are certainly a major factor, but touches, TD opportunities, injury, and weather also have an effect on production. Regardless of the reason, there are players who tend to be more reliable than others, and that reliability should factor into your draft strategy and rankings.
At BigGuyFantasySports.com, I've come up with a "Clutch Report" that calculates a player's "Clutch Factor" (consistency level). The Clutch Factor is determined by the size of your league and the scoring format. For example, in a 12-team PPR format, an RB needs 11 fantasy points or more each week to earn a "Clutch Game." Consistently good players will have a CF of more than 70 percent; consistently great players will normally be at 80 or 90 percent.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2018 fantasy football cheat sheet
After looking at the results, I've spotted several players who weren't necessarily the top guys in total fantasy points last year but were notably consistent. Conversely, some players stand out as being overvalued in 2018 drafts because of their lack of consistency.
Here's a look at the top of my Clutch Report for RBs, which factors in consistency data and projected overall performance, as well as my picks for the most underrated and overrated RBs heading into this year's draft.
1. RB1A Todd Gurley, Rams
2. RB1A Le'Veon Bell, Steelers
3. RB1A David Johnson, Cardinals
4. RB1A Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
5. RB1A Alvin Kamara, Saints
6. RB1B Melvin Gordon, Chargers
7. RB1B Kareem Hunt, Chiefs
8. RB1B Leonard Fournette, Jaguars
9. RB1B Saquon Barkley, Giants
10. RB1B Dalvin Cook, Vikings
11. RB1B Jordan Howard, Bears
12. RB1B Devonta Freeman, Falcons
13. RB2A Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
14. RB2A Jerick McKinnon, 49ers
15. RB2A Lamar Miller, Texans
16. RB2B Kenyan Drake, Dolphins
17. RB2B Alex Collins, Ravens
18. RB2B Joe Mixon, Bengals
19. RB2B Derrick Henry, Titans
20. RB2B Duke Johnson, Browns
21. RB2B Carlos Hyde, Browns
22. RB2B Dion Lewis, Titans
23. RB2B Rashaad Penny, Seahawks
24. RB2B LeSean McCoy, Bills
To clarify, if a player has "RB1A" by his name, it means I expect them to earn an 80 percent or higher Clutch Rate in 2018. Only a handful get that designation (Todd Gurley, LeVeon Bell, David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott). The other remaining top-12 running backs are all ranked as RB1Bs. You can reasonably count on them to exceed 70 percent or higher. It's probable that guys like Alvin Kamara and Melvin Gordon will earn much higher than a 70 percent CR, but 80 percent might be a bridge too far. The guys in the RB2 tier certainly could exceed 70 percent CR, but obviously they'll have a tougher time for a variety of reasons.
Only Christian McCaffrey, Jerick McKinnon and Lamar Miller qualify as RB2A backs. McCaffrey was consistent last year and Miller has been consistent in the past, and I like both to have between a 65-70 percent CR this season. McKinnon should be very consistent in a PPR format, especially as part of the 49ers offense. The RB2B tier is a collection of running backs who have the potential to earn over a 60-percent CR. LeSean McCoy has the potential to earn a much higher CR, but his offseason troubles make me very nervous at this point.
With all that said, here are my picks for the most undervalued and overvalued based based on their current ADPs.
Undervalued – Alex Collins, Ravens
Someone finally broke out at RB in Baltimore last year. Over the final seven games, Collins earned five Clutch Games for a 71 percent CR (RB11). Project that over 16 games and we have a solid, every-week starter. He’s a great value based on his RB17 spot heading into this year’s drafts.
Overvalued – Jay Ajayi, Eagles
After his horrible, inconsistent 2016, I told everyone to stay away from Ajayi. Hopefully, you listened. His '17 was a nightmare for fantasy owners. He was so bad that Miami traded him midseason; then, he went to the Super Bowl champs and still wasn't good or consistent! With LeGarrette Blount leaving, Ajayi seemingly has the starting job, but there’s no way I’m drafting him early, if at all.
If players don't score points on a consistent basis, you could easily wind up as the high-scoring team that doesn't make the playoffs (there is at least one in every league). You don't want that distinction, so make it a priority to find players who get the job done week-in and week-out. My consistency projections can help you do that.