If a Team Trades Up for an RB, Is It More Likely That He’ll Produce?

If a Team Trades Up for an RB, Is It More Likely That He’ll Produce?

We hear it all the time—the team traded up to get this player, they really must want him. But does it actually translate to increased fantasy production?

Third rounders Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt are the two latest examples of this—I’m going to refer to them as Trade Up RBs—who went on to have great rookie seasons. Kamara posted 1,556 total yards in 13 touchdowns once the Saints decided to jettison Adrian Peterson. Hunt took advantage of a season-ending injury to Spencer Ware and went on to rack up 1,782 total yards and 11 scores.

Background

Since we have a couple of Trade Up RBs this year—the Bears’ David Montgomery and the Rams’ Darrell Henderson—I thought it would be interesting to study recent history to see if Trade Up RBs really do produce at a higher rate as rookies than their counterparts.

I went back to 2008 and manually compiled a list of all the running backs selected in the first four rounds whose picks were traded for (i.e. the team moved up) after the draft had begun and prior to being selected, so pre-draft trades weren’t included. I came up with a list of 27 players, 25 of which you’ll see below. (Joe Williams and Donnel Pumphrey didn’t play as rookies, so they aren’t included.) As I said, I compiled this data manually, so if I’m missing anyone, let me know.

Trade Up RBs & Rookie Stats (2008-2018)
Year Player Round G Touches/G Yards/G TD/G FP/G (PPR)
2015 Melvin Gordon 1 14 15.5 59.5 0.00 8.3
2012 Trent Richardson 1 15 21.2 87.8 0.80 17.0
2012 Doug Martin 1 16 23.0 120.4 0.75 19.6
2011 Mark Ingram 1 10 13.3 52.0 0.50 9.3
2010 Ryan Mathews 1 12 15.0 68.6 0.58 12.2
2010 Jahvid Best 1 16 14.3 65.1 0.38 12.4
2018 Kerryon Johnson 2 10 15.0 85.4 0.40 14.1
2017 Dalvin Cook 2 4 21.3 111.0 0.50 16.9
2014 Carlos Hyde 2 14 6.8 28.6 0.29 5.4
2011 Mikel Leshoure 2 14 17.8 72.3 0.64 13.5
2011 Daniel Thomas 2 13 13.6 50.2 0.08 6.4
2010 Toby Gerhart 2 15 6.8 32.6 0.07 5.1
2010 Ben Tate 2 15 12.5 69.3 0.27 9.4
2010 Montario Hardesty 2 10 10.2 38.8 0.00 5.3
2017 Alvin Kamara 3 16 12.6 97.1 0.81 19.7
2017 Kareem Hunt 3 16 20.3 111.4 0.69 18.6
2014 Terrance West 3 14 13.0 52.6 0.36 8.2
2012 Ronnie Hillman 3 14 6.8 28.0 0.07 3.9
2012 Bernard Pierce 3 16 7.2 36.2 0.06 4.4
2009 Shonn Greene 3 14 7.7 38.6 0.14 4.7
2008 Kevin Smith 3 16 17.3 78.9 0.50 13.3
2013 Johnathan Franklin 4 11 2.1 12.5 0.09 2.2
2012 Lamar Miller 4 13 4.4 22.7 0.08 3.2
2011 Roy Helu 4 15 13.3 67.9 0.20 11.3
2010 Joe McKnight 4 9 4.7 23.2 0.00 2.7

Then I compiled a dataset including all the rookie seasons of running backs drafted since 2008, filtering them by round and whether or not they were a Trade Up RB.

Here’s a summary of how each group of running backs fared against their counterparts, by round. I used PPR points per game as the standard.

Summary by Round: Trade Up vs. No Trade Up
Round Trade Up No Trade Up Diff
1 13.1 11.5 14.4%
2 9.5 9.1 4.3%
3 10.4 6.8 54.1%
4 4.8 4.6 5.2%
All Rounds 9.9 7.5 30.9%

Findings

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