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Fantasy Football Index publisher Ian Allan answers your questions about fantasy football. Click here to submit a question.

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Mailbag for July 25, 2022

Ian Allan answers your fantasy questions. In this edition. Identifying the best backup running backs. Hitting on running backs in the middle rounds. Is there a Super Bowl hangover? Success rates of younger running backs. And more.

Question 1

Which backup running backs could be league winners if the team’s starting RB misses extended time?

Jim Higgins (Lafayette, CA)

To clarify, Jim’s question isn’t, “Rank the backup running backs.” He’s instead looking for a list of running backs who might really light things up if given the chance to move into the featured role. It’s a little different.

I would begin with Rhamondre Stevenson (pictured). If he becomes a starter, I think he’ll be as good (maybe better) than Damien Harris. Tony Pollard isn’t as rugged as Ezekiel Elliott but is more explosive; I could see Pollard stringing together some good games if given the chance. And the list must also include Kareem Hunt, though with a slight asterisk, given how well D’Ernest Johnson played last year (Johnson ran for over 120 against the Broncos and Bengals, making is reasonable to wonder if he’s as good as Hunt). And let’s put a couple of rookies on the list: Ken Walker and Brian Robinson. Walker was really explosive at Michigan State, with some potential to start ripping off big plays if Rashaad Penny gets hurt. Robinson doesn’t have that kind of big-play potential, but Washington has an offense that seems to be friendly to running backs – Robinson’s production (if he starts) might not be much different than Antonio Gibson’s. Alexander Mattison and Darrell Henderson both look like above-average backup choices, but neither is a top-5 kind of guy, given their limitations and the offenses they’re in.

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Question 2

I've been loyally with FFI since the 90s - love everything you do. There was a fact you covered a few weeks ago that was quite striking to me - I believe it was that each of the last eight No. 1 overall RBs were in the age range of 21-25. Feeling like the most valuable asset in fantasy is to have the No. 1 RB overall, how do you feel about focusing on a WR in round 1 and then stacking as many as you can get of the RBs in that age range - AJ Dillon, Javonte Williams, Akers, Etienne, etc. - and figuring that even though the path for them to top 5 at the position isn't clear now, history suggests at least one of them will wind up there?

Jay Giampietro (Brooklyn, NY)

It’s a young man’s position. Consider the chart below. It shows the 50 backs in the last 10 years who’ve finished with top-5 numbers (PPR scoring). Only 12 of these backs were older than 26 at the end of the year. Another 8 were 26 years old. So 60 percent of these running backs were younger. I don’t know about drafting those guys exclusively, but you shouldn’t hesitate to draft a running back because you don’t feel he’s proven enough. It’s a position where things are always changing.

In the chart below, the 26-year-olds are tagged with black dots. The older guys are bolded, and there aren’t a lot of them.

TOP-5 RUNNING BACKS (last 10 years)
YearPlayerAgeRunRecTotTDPPR
2019Christian McCaffrey, Car.231,3871,0052,39219471.2
2016David Johnson, Ariz.251,2398792,11820413.8
2018Christian McCaffrey, Car.221,0988671,96513388.0
2017Todd Gurley, LAR231,3057882,09319387.3
2018Saquon Barkley, NYG211,3077212,02815385.8
2013Jamaal Charles, K.C.271,2876931,98019382.0
2020Alvin Kamara, N.O.259327561,68821377.8
2021Jonathan Taylor, Ind.221,8113602,17120377.1
2018Todd Gurley, LAR241,2515801,83121374.1
2014LeVeon Bell, Pitt.221,3618542,21511370.5
2014• DeMarco Murray, Dall.261,8454162,26113361.1
2018Alvin Kamara, N.O.238837091,59218354.2
2012Adrian Peterson, Min.272,0972172,31413351.4
2014Matt Forte, Chi.291,0388081,84610350.6
2021• Austin Ekeler, LAC269116471,55820349.8
2017LeVeon Bell, Pitt.251,2916551,94611345.6
2020Dalvin Cook, Min.251,5573611,91817343.8
2013Matt Forte, Chi.281,3395941,93312341.3
2020• Derrick Henry, Ten.262,0271142,14117337.1
2013LeSean McCoy, Phil.251,6075392,14611332.6
2018Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.231,4345672,0019331.1
2016Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.211,6313631,99416327.4
2017Alvin Kamara, N.O.227288261,55414322.4
2015Devonta Freeman, Atl.231,0565781,63414320.4
2016LeVeon Bell, Pitt.241,2686161,8849319.4
2019Aaron Jones, G.B.251,0844741,55819318.8
2019Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.241,3574201,77714315.7
2012Doug Martin, T.B.231,4544721,92612313.6
2019Austin Ekeler, LAC245579931,55011313.0
2014Marshawn Lynch, Sea.281,3063671,67317306.3
2012• Arian Foster, Hou.261,4242171,64117306.1
2021Najee Harris, Pitt.231,2004671,66710300.7
2019Derrick Henry, Ten.251,5402061,74618300.6
2016LeSean McCoy, Buff.281,2673561,62314298.3
2017Kareem Hunt, K.C.221,3274551,78211297.2
2013• Knowshon Moreno, Den.261,0385481,58613296.6
2016DeMarco Murray, Ten.281,2873771,66412295.9
2021Joe Mixon, Cin.251,2053141,51916289.9
2017Melvin Gordon, LAC241,1054761,58112288.1
2012Ray Rice, Balt.251,1434781,62110283.1
2014Arian Foster, Hou.281,2463271,57313277.6
2013Marshawn Lynch, Sea.271,2573161,57314277.3
2012Marshawn Lynch, Sea.261,5901961,78612273.6
2020David Montgomery, Chi.231,0704381,50810266.8
2015Adrian Peterson, Min.301,4852221,70711266.7
2020• Aaron Jones, G.B.261,1043551,45911258.9
2021• James Conner, Ariz.267523751,12718257.7
2015Danny Woodhead, S.D.303367551,0919243.1
2015• Doug Martin, T.B.261,4022711,6737242.3
2015DeAngelo Williams, Pitt.329073671,27411235.4

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Question 3

I'm in a standard 3-man keeper league. Keeping 3 out of: Prescott, Ekeler, Penny, D.Adams, McLaurin, D.Cook, Barkley, T.Lawrence, C.Davis and D.Henderson. Adams is the no-brainer. Leaning Ekeler and Cook with the other 2 spots. I've kept wishing Barkley's natural athletic talent would show up - but alas only injuries. And with him being stuck on a bottom-10 team. What do you think?

Jeff Zwiers (Bellingham, WA)

I think Ekeler, not Adams, is the No. 1 keeper. But regardless, you’re not letting either of those guys go. Prescott might be a top-5 quarterback, but given the supply-demand of the position, I don’t think he gets into the conversion. It will be another running back. Penny was really good for the final month of last year, but he’s had a lot of injuries, and I don’t think he’ll be much of a factor as a receiver. Maybe something happens with the Giants in August that causes you to go with Barkley. He’s got a better offensive line in front of him, and maybe the coaching switch has a sizable impact. But if we’re making the decision today, I think it has to be Cook.

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Question 4

The RB dead zone is generally referred to as rounds 3-6 in fantasy drafts where RB hit rates have been historically poor. What are your thoughts on this school of thought?

Andy Whaley (Papillion, NE)

Running back is a volatile position. There will be a lot of backs chosen in the first two rounds who will miss. We know that. So you would think that some chosen in the third and fourth rounds will move up to fill that void. By definition, there will be 10 running backs who finish the season with top-10 numbers – they have to come from somewhere.

Below see a chart that shows the best of the last 100 running backs to finish outside the top 20. That is, I looked at the 10 best running backs from the last 10 years who finished outside the top 20 (using PPR scoring). These are player who ranked between 21st and 30th in scoring, so I would think a good number of them were picked in the third, fourth and fifth rounds of drafts the next year. The chart shows the 34 (about one in 3) who finished with top-30 numbers. Only 19 (about 1 in 5) finished with top-20 numbers.

Not all of the running backs in this chart, of course, last until the third round. Austin Ekeler, for recently, was a top-5 back on my board last year; I don’t think he made it to the middle of the second round in many drafts.

RUNNING BACKS FROM OUTSIDE THE TOP 20
YearPlayerRunRecTotTDPPRRk
2021• Austin Ekeler, LAC9116471,55820349.82
2019Aaron Jones, G.B.1,0844741,55819318.82
2019Austin Ekeler, LAC5579931,55011313.04
2020David Montgomery, Chi.1,0704381,50810266.84
2021• James Conner, Ariz.7523751,12718257.75
2019Dalvin Cook, Min.1,1355191,65413296.46
2012C.J. Spiller, Buff.1,2444591,7038261.36
2013DeMarco Murray, Dall.1,1213501,47110260.16
2020Josh Jacobs, L.V.1,0652381,30312235.38
2018Tarik Cohen, Chi.4447251,1698240.011
2015Chris Ivory, NYJ1,0702171,2878206.711
2013Danny Woodhead, S.D.4296051,0348227.412
2020Melvin Gordon, Den.9861581,14410206.413
2013Joique Bell, Det.6505471,1978222.714
2015Frank Gore, Ind.9672671,2347199.414
2013Ryan Mathews, S.D.1,2551891,4447212.417
2018Tevin Coleman, Atl.8002761,0769193.618
2020Ronald Jones, T.B.9781651,1438190.319
2014Andre Ellington, Ariz.6603951,0555181.519
2012BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cin.1,0941041,1986177.821
2015Rashad Jennings, NYG8632961,1594168.922
2014Darren Sproles, Phil.3293877168159.622
2015Jonathan Stewart, Car.989991,0887166.823
2016Darren Sproles, Phil.4384278654162.524
2021• Myles Gaskin, Mia.6122348467175.625
2013DeAngelo Williams, Car.8433331,1764167.625
2015Darren Sproles, Phil.3173887056161.526
2017Theo Riddick, Det.2864447305156.026
2012DeMarco Murray, Dall.6632519144150.426
2017Chris Thompson, Was.2945108046155.427
2016Jonathan Stewart, Car.824608849150.427
2012DeAngelo Williams, Car.7371879247147.427
2012Willis McGahee, Den.7312219524147.228
2014Rashad Jennings, NYG6392268654140.529

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Question 5

I play in a 16-team keeper league where we can keep up to five players. The best unprotected players go back into the auction each fall. Rookies can be kept up to four years. Franchise players can be kept for only one year at an established cost (think $25 out of $100 annual budget), and only one franchise player is allowed per team. My question is whether to hang onto aging franchise-level players (I have Henry and Kupp), or am I better off trading them for exciting young players still under rookie status (like Tee Higgins or Javonte Williams)? What would your strategy be?

Sam Pickering (Oak Park, IL)

Kupp would be one of the top few players on the board; maybe the No. 1 wide receiver. So I would bring him back on the franchise tag. If you could also dish off Henry while getting either Higgins or Williams in return, that would be good. Either would probably be a keeper for you for the next three-four years. (But I’m not sure you’ll be able to find an owner that would be willing to give either of those guys up for 28-year-old Derrick Henry.)

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Question 6

A couple of us were talking about the whether there is really a Super Bowl hangover. Of course, this discussion was over a couple of beers. That got me wondering whether there is a difference in performance/results between the winner and loser the next season? I would think the loser might have a chip on their shoulder and work hard for another trip to the championship game. Is there a difference good or bad?

Frank Catalano (Houston, PA)

Back at the start of the century, there was a five-year run where the team that lost in the Super Bowl finished with a losing record. More recently, teams have done a better job of keeping things going. All but one of the last 15 Super Bowl winners have finished with a winning record. All but two of the last 14 losers have again had a winning record.

SUPER BOWL TEAMS (next year)
YearWinner (record)Loser (record)
2000St. Louis (10-6)Tennessee (13-3)
2001Baltimore (10-6)• NY Giants (7-9)
2002New England (9-7)• St. Louis (7-9)
2003• Tampa Bay (7-9)• Oakland (4-12)
2004New England (14-2)• Carolina (7-9)
2005New England (10-6)• Philadelphia (6-10)
2006• Pittsburgh (8-8)Seattle (9-7)
2007Indianapolis (13-3)• Chicago (7-9)
2008NY Giants (12-4)New England (11-5)
2009Pittsburgh (9-7)Arizona (10-6)
2010New Orleans (11-5)Indianapolis (10-6)
2011Green Bay (15-1)Pittsburgh (12-4)
2012NY Giants (9-7)New England (12-4)
2013• Baltimore (8-8)San Francisco (12-4)
2014Seattle (12-4)Denver (12-4)
2015New England (12-4)Seattle (10-6)
2016Denver (9-7)• Carolina (6-10)
2017New England (13-3)Atlanta (10-6)
2018Philadelphia (9-7)New England (11-5)
2019New England (12-4)LA Rams (9-7)
2020Kansas City (14-2)• San Francisco (6-10)
2021Tampa Bay (13-3)Kansas City (12-4)
2022LA Rams (?-?)Cincinnati (?-?)

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