I’ve already released my running back rankings, but here I am going to go through the top 12 running backs by average draft position, and doing an objective analysis of their outcomes using historical comps.
For most, I found the 12 most similar players by stats from their 2017 season using PPR scoring, rushing yards, receiving yards, rushing attempts, receptions, and total touchdowns scored. I limited all similar players to those within one year of age of each of our backs.
That worked for most. However, Dalvin Cook is pretty impossible to draw a comparison: a second round rookie who looked good but tore his knee and only played six games. In fact, only Cook and Julius Jones played 10 or fewer games, averaged more than 13 points (non-PPR) and were drafted in the top three rounds. As for Saquon Barkley, I found the most similar backs by draft position, BMI, and age (all 22 or younger). For David Johnson, since he only played one game a year ago, I used the 2016 season and found the results two years later for his comps. (since we don’t know how his 2017 season would have gone if he played more).
All data was courtesy of Pro Football Reference. Here they are, in order of the average PPR points per game by their comps:
TODD GURLEY (19.8 PPG)
Gurley’s comps got hurt a little more frequently than Bell’s, but they are both right there together. You can expect over 1,600 yards if he stays healthy.
LE’VEON BELL (19.8 PPG)
Bell of course has the lockout that could impact his draft outlook, but he’s in his prime, is a monster in the passing game, and could be in store for another big season.
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT (19.0 PPG)
I used Zeke’s prorated stats from last year since he wasn’t injured (like most players with 10 games played). Injury is about the only thing that can hold him back. He’s not far behind the top two because of his likelihood of producing double digit rushing touchdowns.
DAVID JOHNSON (18.7 PPG)
Are we going to get the David Johnson of two years ago? There were a few collapses but enough guys that were still on top of their game that he’s a good choice at the top of a draft. The nature of his injury–unlike say a knee injury at his age–shouldn’t be concerning.
ALVIN KAMARA (17.0 PPG)
Kamara is a really hard one without many truly similar players. He only had 120 rush attempts a year ago but is going in the Top 6, because of his receiving value and big play ability. I guess the closest thing is being a better receiving version of a young Maurice Jones-Drew (who was platooning with Fred Taylor his first few years).
Most of his closest comps were at least productive again, and a few had volume breakouts like many are expecting with Kamara.
LEONARD FOURNETTE (17.0 PPG)
Leonard Fournette is kinda being overlooked entering year 2. His comps were pretty safe to be good, with the only downside being touchdown dropoffs. But I don’t expect the Jaguars to suddenly stop using a pound it in the red zone and play great defense philosophy that carried them last year.