Who Are the Most Consistent Fantasy Football Running Backs?

Who Are the Most Consistent Fantasy Football Running Backs?

By John Paulsen (Senior Editor), last updated Jun 7, 2016

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in both 2012 and 2015 for a total of five Top 5 seasons in the last six years. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-15 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

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In an effort to identify the most consistent running backs, I’m using the same process as I used in the quarterback study. Utilizing the Coefficient of Variation (CV), which is the ratio of the player’s standard deviation to his per game average, I can calculate his overall consistency.

CV = standard deviation / PPG

Standard deviation measures the amount of variation within a data set, and dividing it by the mean allows us to compare two players with very different levels of production (e.g. LeVeon Bell and Charles Sims).

CV is typically expressed as a percentage, and the lower the CV the more consistent the player.

Below is a table with the top 70 running backs (according to their two-year PPG average in PPR formats), two-year CV and 2015 CV. I excluded Week 17 since teams often rest starters that week and I didn’t want that to throw off our numbers. Otherwise, all regular season games are included, including injury-shortened games since injuries/durability are part of a player’s overall consistency.

 

RB Consistency: 2014-15
Player Name Team 2-YR PPG PPG RANK CV 2015 CV
Mark Ingram NO 15.9 10 34% 24%
T.J. Yeldon JAX 13.0 18 38% 38%
Arian Foster HOU 21.5 2 38% 55%
Dion Lewis NE 17.2 6 40% 40%
Matt Forte CHI 19.5 3 44% 42%
Jonathan Stewart CAR 12.1 24 44% 42%
LeVeon Bell PIT 22.2 1 45% 47%
LeSean McCoy BUF 13.7 13 45% 38%
Mike Gillislee BUF 12.7 20 47% 47%
Charles Sims TB 9.6 42 48% 44%
Jamaal Charles KC 18.4 4 48% 38%
Giovani Bernard CIN 12.7 19 49% 40%
Justin Forsett BAL 14.1 12 49% 54%
Melvin Gordon SD 7.7 60 50% 50%
Adrian Peterson MIN 16.1 8 51% 51%
DeMarco Murray PHI 17.7 5 51% 70%
Marshawn Lynch SEA 16.7 7 54% 41%
Duke Johnson CLE 10.4 36 55% 55%
Darren McFadden DAL 9.8 39 56% 47%
Todd Gurley STL 16.0 9 56% 56%
Khiry Robinson NO 8.0 57 58% 46%
Chris Ivory NYJ 11.7 26 59% 53%
Lamar Miller MIA 14.3 11 59% 69%
Steven Jackson NE 8.9 47 60% -
Frank Gore IND 11.1 30 60% 49%
Ryan Mathews PHI 10.5 35 60% 70%
Joique Bell DET 11.2 29 60% 57%
Rashad Jennings NYG 10.9 32 61% 50%
Andre Ellington ARI 12.1 23 62% 69%
Ahmad Bradshaw IND 12.6 21 62% 101%
Jeremy Hill CIN 11.7 25 64% 65%
Karlos Williams BUF 11.3 28 65% 65%
Eddie Lacy GB 13.6 14 66% 81%
Darren Sproles PHI 9.6 41 67% 59%
Fred Jackson SEA 9.2 44 67% 59%
Ronnie Hillman DEN 10.7 34 69% 62%
Ameer Abdullah DET 7.4 65 70% 70%
Shane Vereen NYG 10.2 38 72% 83%
Doug Martin TB 11.4 27 72% 62%
Chris Johnson ARI 8.5 53 72% 77%
Theo Riddick DET 9.0 46 72% 40%
Chris Thompson WAS 7.6 62 73% 76%
Alfred Morris WAS 8.9 48 74% 78%
Danny Woodhead SD 13.5 15 76% 66%
Isaiah Crowell CLE 8.5 54 78% 87%
David Johnson ARI 13.4 16 79% 79%
Latavius Murray OAK 9.1 45 82% 45%
Denard Robinson JAX 7.7 61 82% 94%
Pierre Thomas SF 9.5 43 84% 154%
Antonio Andrews TEN 6.9 67 85% 62%
Devonta Freeman ATL 13.3 17 88% 55%
Carlos Hyde SF 7.5 64 91% 87%
C.J. Anderson DEN 11.0 31 92% 85%
Jeremy Langford CHI 10.3 37 94% 94%
DeAngelo Williams PIT 12.3 22 95% 84%
LeGarrette Blount NE 8.0 56 96% 90%
James Starks GB 7.8 59 96% 82%
Branden Oliver SD 8.7 51 97% 86%
Lance Dunbar DAL 5.2 69 101% 55%
Bilal Powell NYJ 7.0 66 102% 62%
Matt Jones WAS 8.8 50 102% 102%
Spencer Ware KC 8.7 52 102% 102%
James White NE 8.1 55 109% 107%
Matt Asiata MIN 7.8 58 112% 67%
Javorius Allen BAL 8.9 49 112% 112%
Tim Hightower NO 10.8 33 113% 113%
Thomas Rawls SEA 9.8 40 121% 121%
Charcandrick West KC 7.6 63 125% 90%
Joseph Randle DAL 5.6 68 125% 79%
Shaun Draughn CLE 4.2 70 154% 82%

 

A few thoughts…

  • Productive players tend to be consistent. The top 10 PPG backs all have a CV of 56% or less, and the least consistent top 10 back, Todd Gurley, had a relatively high CV because he didn’t start the season fully healthy. Devonta Freeman falls into a similar category since he didn’t win the job until 2015. His CV was 55% when we only look at 2015.
  • No back has been more consistent than Mark Ingram (34%) over the past two seasons.
  • Don’t worry about David Johnson, who didn’t play consistent snaps as a rookie due to the presence of Chris Johnson. His CV should drop significantly this year as he assumes the RB1 role.
  • Generally, pass-catching backs tend to be more consistent since receptions are easier to get than touchdowns, which is something that non pass-catching backs have to rely on to score fantasy points. Still, we can divvy the pass-catching group into the consistent (Dion Lewis, Matt Forte, Charles Sims, LeVeon Bell, Giovani Bernard) and the inconsistent (Bilal Powell, Danny Woodhead, Darren Sproles, Shane Vereen, Theo Riddick). Though it should be noted that Riddick was particularly consistent (40%) in 2015.
  • On the flip side, Jonathan Stewart and Adrian Peterson do not catch many passes, but they’re relatively consistent due to their regular workloads.
  • Eddie Lacy was all over the place (81%) in 2015, but when we look at 2014 only, he posted a relatively consistent CV of 48%. With this reported weight loss, I’m expecting a return to form in 2016.
  • I believe C.J. Anderson will become more consistent in 2016, provided he can stay healthy. He hasn’t put together a full season but has shown that he can be an elite RB1 in stretches over the past two seasons.
  • Thomas Rawls’ CV should drop below 60% as he takes over for Marshawn Lynch and begins to see a more consistent workload.

Season-long owners in regular formats will want to favor more consistent players, while a higher CV may actually be more desirable in deep best ball formats since you can cash in on the big games without being hurt by the duds. In DFS, higher CVs are better for big contests while consistent backs are more appropriate for cash games.

Filed Under: Preseason, 2015

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