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Fantasy Football: Overvaluing Rookie Runners

Do the thirty running backs that have been selected make the 2017 NFL Draft especially deep? Well, seeing as a third of the selected running backs are expected to have an immediate and drastic impact on fantasy football, this is definitely one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, at least for the running back position. The NFL sports betting odds for 2017 season are definitely something to gawk at.

People won’t stop screaming over names like Jamaal Williams and Kareem Hunt, just two amongst a collection of youngsters that will supposedly dominate their team’s top spots in the coming season.

And clearly, no one can deny the fact that Alvin Kamara, Marlon Mack, and Le’Veon Bell deserve the hype. But, then again, why all the hype? None of these players have played a game on an NFL Gridiron.

How can so many people make so many excited prognostications about untested rookies? The running back position is especially exaggerated. And it isn’t like this is the first time. Everyone was ready to see DeMarco Murray fall just because Heisman Winner Derrick Henry had been drafted.

However, not only did the rookie fail to live up to expectations, but Murray delivered his best season yet. Murray isn’t the first prognostication analysts have gotten wrong. The number of rookie runners that have been represented in the top 25 in fantasy points in standard scoring leagues stands at 26. That number takes into account all the rookies from the last ten years.

In other words, you have an average of only three players exceeding expectations in fantasy football every year. There are years where the number is slightly bigger. For instance, 2012 saw Doug Martin, Vick Ballard, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson break into the Top 25 in Fantasy points. That makes four runners, one more than the average.

Of course, for every Martin, Morris, and Ballard, you have Lamar Williams, Isaiah Pead and David Wilson picks that everyone thought would exceed expectations but who only brought disappointment.

Things only grow direr when one takes an even closer look at the numbers. If you have a situation where only twenty-one running backs have finished in the Top 10 in points out of 108 picks from the first four rounds of the NFL draft in the last decade, why are running backs still such a hot commodity?

It’s almost as if there is a lesson to be learned here, but no one is learning it. Certainly, one cannot ignore the fact that rookie runners have always made a quick fantasy impact. But maybe one shouldn’t rely so heavily on such historical occurrences when the data presented today paints a different picture.

Rookie runners are, without a doubt, being overvalued. It is easy to see why some of the athletes seem so lucrative. After all, they are young and they were such high picks in the draft. But when you look at some of these rookies, it isn’t even that hard to see the obstacles waiting ahead of them.

No one hands rookie runners anything. They usually have to overcome so much competition just to get their chance on the field. For that reason, one would be encouraged to be more cautious with rookie runners. No one is saying that you should ignore them. Just take more time with your picks. Don’t let the hype sway you.

Photo By User eschipul on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons