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Five bold statements: Fantasy running backs

New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis runs against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

At Pro Football Focus, we have access to a host of data. When applied in the correct context, these numbers can be very helpful in finding an edge in fantasy football.

Today, I’m focusing on PFF’s signature stats to dive in to the running-back position. I looked at the running backs through the following measures:

  • Elusive rating
  • Yards after contact per attempt, to determine a player’s impact independent of his blocking
  • Yards per route run
  • Forced missed tackles on rushes and receptions
  • Breakaway percentage, to show what a player can do in the open field
  • Pass-block efficiency
  • Drop rate

Sifting through the data brought me to the following observations about five different running back situations heading into 2016. These stats don’t tell the entire story, but when used in the proper context, they are a valuable resource for projecting a player’s outlook.

Dion Lewis is the real deal

From Kevin Faulk to Danny Woodhead, to Dion Lewis, and then James White, a common theory has developed that each Patriots’ passing-down back is one and the same. That’s simply not true. The scheme is certainly friendly to running backs who excel in the passing game, but some players take better advantage of it than others. After Lewis tore his ACL in 2015, James White took over his role, and we saw a sharp decline in raw numbers, fantasy numbers and advanced stats from what Lewis had put up.

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