In your fantasy football drafts, don’t overlook strength of schedule when picking running backs

August 22, 2014

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Six of the top 10 picks in your fantasy football draft are likely to be running backs, so if you decide to get one that early you need to be sure it works out. By looking at strength of schedule, you could help put the odds in your favor.

Strength of schedule gauges how tough or easy the opposing defenses are in terms of yielding points. For example, the Giants running backs face the easiest slate of games, while Indianapolis, Philadelphia, the Jets and Houston round out the top five easiest schedules based on last year’s results. Atlanta’s running game faces the toughest. (You can dive in deeper with the Post’s interactive graphic below.)

 

That’s good news if you are looking at drafting Rashad Jennings (who has spiked from a fifth-round pick to a late third-rounder in just a few weeks), Trent Richardson (5.11 ADP), LeSean McCoy (1.02 ADP), Chris Johnson (5.10 ADP) or Arian Foster (2.09 ADP).

On average, a running back selected among the top 12 of his peers has averaged 14 points per game against one of the five weakest defenses — 4.3 points more than when they face one of the five toughest.

One running back to keep an eye on is Jacksonville’s Toby Gerhart, whose team has the sixth-easiest schedule for the position. He spent his first four seasons of his career in Minnesota, largely in the shadow of Adrian Peterson, but averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Project that over the 240 carries Maurice Jones-Drew got in Jacksonville last season (he has since moved on to Oakland) and you have a 1,100-yard season. The Jaguars scored on just seven of their 378 rushing plays, so that equates to a mere four touchdowns, but a poor third-down conversion percentage could rebound and we could see Gerhart’s touchdown tally rise closer to the league average, putting a seven-touchdown campaign within reach. Not bad for a back going in the fourth round, on average.

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Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Neil Greenberg · August 22, 2014