FanDuel Running Back Pricing & Performance Review
The salary cap influences every decision you make in daily fantasy, yet there hasn't been much big-picture research done that analyzes player performance relative to the cap. For every cap dollar you spend, what is the return on investment? Do returns vary based on position, price point, or even individual player?
I compiled data on how every player performed relative to their salary in 2014. In the coming weeks, I will be taking a position-by-position look at player performance relative to the FanDuel and DraftKings salary caps. Links to each report can be found below as they become available.
Editors Note: If you open a new account with FanDuel with a minimum $10 deposit, you’ll receive a free one-year subscription to 4for4! Details here.
FanDuel Running Back Value vs. Other Positions
|Salary||QB Avg||RB Avg||WR Avg||TE Avg||K Avg||D/ST Avg|
Running back returned less value per dollar than quarterback at nearly every price point. Above $8,500, running backs did offer a slightly greater return on investment than wide receivers. At under $6,000, running back value begins to lag behind wide receiver value since running backs in the lower pricing tiers tend to not see a full compliment of snaps, while many wide receivers in these tiers are starters, affording the receivers the opportunity to produce more value relative to the running backs.
FanDuel Running Back Cash Game Value
Looking at average value per game is a solid starting point, but doesn't necessarily paint a clear picture of the risk/reward involved with a pick. To get a better sense of the risk/reward, it's helpful to know what percentage of the time a player "hit value". First, lets take a look at what percentage of the time running backs returned at least 2x (cash game) value:
|QB 2x %||RB 2x %||WR 2x %||TE 2x %||K 2x %||D/ST 2x %|
Above $9,000, running backs were riskier than quarterbacks but safer than wide receivers. This trend continued in the $8,500-$8,900 tier, except that running backs were safer than quarterbacks in this range (I explained why quarterbacks in this tier aren't good values in section 3 here).
Running backs and wide receivers are the only positions where you need to roster multiple options, so it's very important to note that running backs above $8,500 have been much better cash game building blocks. Running backs priced $8,500 and above hit 2x value 46 out of 97 times (47 percent), while wide receivers priced $8,500 and above hit 2x value just 42 out of 112 times (38 percent).
In the middle tiers, running backs and wide receivers were both equally risky, lagging way behind quarterbacks.
Below $6,500, it can again be seen that a lower percentage of running backs hit 2x value than wide receivers because the receivers tend to be starters who play more snaps than running backs, who are often part of a committee if they are in that price range.
The running back sample includes 532 backs priced under $5,000, but a lot of those backs wouldn't have been considered startable. While I attempted to weed out as many of the minimum-priced backs that weren't considered startable (as detailed in footnote no. 2), many still remained, so let's take a new approach and see what we can glean from looking at Table 3 below, which lists all running backs who returned at least 2x value on FanDuel in 2014 at a price of under $5,000.
|1||Davis, Knile||2||kan||@ den||25.5||$4,500||5.67|
|2||McKnight, Joe||3||kan||@ mia||21.7||$4,500||4.82|
|3||Blount, LeGarrette||3||nwe||v. oak||17.8||$4,600||3.87|
|4||Taylor, Stepfan||7||ari||@ oak||18.9||$4,900||3.86|
|5||Asiata, Matt||2||min||v. nwe||16.9||$4,500||3.76|
|6||Blue, Alfred||17||hou||v. jac||16.6||$4,500||3.69|
|7||Riddick, Theo||6||det||@ min||16.6||$4,500||3.69|
|8||West, Terrance||17||cle||@ bal||17.6||$4,900||3.59|
|9||Washington, Leon||16||ten||@ jac||16.8||$4,700||3.57|
|10||Williams, Damien||16||mia||v. min||15.8||$4,500||3.51|
|11||McKinnon, Jerick||4||min||v. atl||15.7||$4,500||3.49|
|12||Freeman, Devonta||16||atl||@ nor||15.9||$4,600||3.46|
|13||Forsett, Justin||1||bal||v. cin||16.9||$4,900||3.45|
|14||Hill, Jeremy||2||cin||v. atl||16.6||$4,900||3.39|
|15||Crowell, Isaiah||1||cle||@ pit||15.2||$4,500||3.38|
|16||Taliaferro, Lorenzo||3||bal||@ cle||15.1||$4,500||3.36|
|17||Reece, Marcel||14||oak||v. sfo||16.1||$4,800||3.35|
|18||Robinson, Khiry||5||nor||v. tam||16.2||$4,900||3.31|
|19||Todman, Jordan||16||jac||v. ten||14.6||$4,500||3.24|
|20||Cunningham, Benny||5||stl||@ phi||14.6||$4,500||3.24|
|21||Randle, Joseph||17||dal||@ was||13.7||$4,500||3.04|
|22||Young, Darrel||16||was||v. phi||13||$4,500||2.89|
|23||Juszczyk, Kyle||3||bal||@ cle||12.9||$4,500||2.87|
|24||Sims, Charles||17||tam||v. nor||14||$4,900||2.86|
|25||Smith, Antone||1||atl||v. nor||12.6||$4,500||2.80|
|26||Turbin, Robert||13||sea||@ sfo||12.5||$4,600||2.72|
|27||Whittaker, Fozzy||6||car||@ cin||12.2||$4,500||2.71|
|28||Stewart, Jonathan||2||car||v. det||12.4||$4,600||2.70|
|29||Gerhart, Toby||16||jac||v. ten||12.5||$4,700||2.66|
|30||Riddick, Theo||17||det||@ gnb||11.9||$4,500||2.64|
|31||Williams, Andre||4||nyg||@ was||12.6||$4,900||2.57|
|32||Turbin, Robert||2||sea||@ sdg||11.2||$4,500||2.49|
|33||Randle, Joseph||10||dal||@ jac||11.6||$4,700||2.47|
|34||Darkwa, Orleans||16||nyg||@ stl||10.8||$4,500||2.40|
|35||West, Terrance||9||cle||v. tam||11.5||$4,800||2.40|
|36||Robinson, Khiry||17||nor||@ tam||10.7||$4,500||2.38|
|37||Robinson, Khiry||4||nor||@ dal||11.5||$4,900||2.35|
|38||Polk, Chris||9||phi||@ hou||11||$4,800||2.29|
|39||Redd, Silas||2||was||v. jac||10.1||$4,500||2.24|
|40||Herron, Dan||12||ind||v. jac||10.1||$4,500||2.24|
|41||Dixon, Anthony||17||buf||@ nwe||10||$4,500||2.22|
|42||Rodgers, Jacquizz||12||atl||v. cle||10.2||$4,600||2.22|
|43||Young, Darrel||2||was||v. jac||9.7||$4,500||2.16|
|44||Crowell, Isaiah||10||cle||@ cin||10.1||$4,700||2.15|
|45||Rodgers, Jacquizz||1||atl||v. nor||10||$4,700||2.13|
|46||Greene, Shonn||17||ten||v. ind||9.4||$4,500||2.09|
|47||Cadet, Travaris||5||nor||v. tam||9.4||$4,500||2.09|
|48||Blue, Alfred||3||hou||@ nyg||9.3||$4,500||2.07|
|49||Thomas, Daniel||12||mia||@ den||9.9||$4,800||2.06|
|50||Taylor, Stepfan||1||ari||v. sdg||10.1||$4,900||2.06|
|51||Miller, Bruce||17||sfo||v. ari||9.2||$4,500||2.04|
|52||Hillis, Peyton||9||nyg||v. ind||9.5||$4,700||2.02|
|53||Hill, Jeremy||3||cin||v. ten||9.9||$4,900||2.02|
There were 53 running backs in total, which works out to 3.1 running backs per week that hit at least 2x value at a cost of under $5,000. If you remove the five fullbacks (including infamous goal-line vulture Darelle Young twice), there are 48 halfbacks in total, or 2.8 per week. What types of players made up those 48 backs?
By my count, there were six running backs that entered the week as clear starters due to injury and returned 2x value: Matt Asiata (Week 2), Jonathan Stewart (Week 2), Alfred Blue (Week 3), Khiry Robinson (Weeks 4 and 5), and Toby Gerhart (Week 16). It's no coincidence that most of the backs who hit 2x value under $5,000 did so early in the season, so be sure to take advantage of these opportunities as they arise; once a player's price goes over $5,000, it rarely dips back under. Branden Oliver (Week 15) was the only back I found that entered the week as the clear starter yet failed to return 2x value - he returned 9 FanDuel points at a cost of $4,800 for 1.88x value.
The remaining 42 backs who hit 2x value under $5,000 were made up mainly of backups who got goal-line work (Jeremy Hill early in the season, Stepfan Taylor, LeGarrette Blount, Chris Polk, Isaiah Crowell, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Anthony Dixon, etc.), and full-time third down backs (Theo Riddick with Reggie Bush out, Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Leon Washington, Benny Cunningham, etc). A running back with a clear role as either a goal-line or third-down back would be your best bet at a cheap contrarian tournament dart-throw, if you so choose to dip into the sub-$5,000 price range at running back and there are no clear starters available.
FanDuel Running Back Tournament Value
How often running backs hit 3x (tournament) value compared to the other positions in shown in Table 4 below.
|QB 3x%||RB 3x%||WR 3x%||TE 3x%||K 3x%||D/ST 3x%|
Because most of the cheap value plays got drowned out by the large overall sample as discussed above, let's focus on the top tiers of pricing. When comparing running backs wide receivers in the $8,500-plus pricing tiers, the data is consistent with research3 I've done which shows that stud wide receivers tend to have more upside when compared to stud running backs.
Running backs priced $8,500 and above hit 3x value 11 percent of the time, while wide receivers hit 3x value 16 percent of the time. This is in stark contrast to how often the two positions each hit 2x value, remember, where running backs had the advantage over wide receivers 47 percent to 38 percent.
Individual Running Back Performance vs. FanDuel Salary Cap
A list of the average value returned of all running backs in 2014 (minimum six games played, eight FDP/Game) is shown below in Table 5.
|Rk||RB||Avg. Value||Avg. FDP||Avg. Salary||Games|
There were eight running backs who averaged a salary of over $8,000, and six (75 percent) averaged over 2x value on the season -- paying up for a stud running back is generally a safe bet.
Eight of the top 10 running backs were on winning teams, including seven on teams who won 10-plus games. This reinforces the notion that game script is crucial to a running back's success.
1. Value = Fantasy points per one thousand salary dollars, or [fantasy points/ [salary / 1,000].
2. The sample size is in Appendix 1 below. For quarterbacks, only starts were used. For running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, the challenge was eliminating minimum-priced players from the sample who wouldn't have been considered as fantasy starters, such as fullbacks or wide receivers who played only on special teams. Ultimately, I settled on removing all players at the minimum price who registered zero points. This method isn't perfect, as some players who wouldn't have been considered viable at minimum price remain if they registered any stats, but it was the most consistent way to eliminate many of the irrelevant data points at minimum salary while keeping the research process sane.
|Salary||QB Avg||RB Avg||WR Avg||TE Avg||K Avg||D/ST Avg|
3. This research will be published in the Daily Fantasy Playbook 2015: Wide Receiver Strategy article on 4for4.com on August 25, 2015.