Running Back Correlation Analysis

Hello Fantasy Faithfulls, today I am analyzing the data from the 65 top ranked fantasy Running Backs from the 2017 season. I hope you enjoyed my latest correlation post that looked at the best fantasy Quarterbacks. We still have some positions to look at but this series is taking a short break after this article to focus on the Free-Agency Market, before coming back in late April with Tight Ends and Receivers. Below is a quick reminder how my Correlation Test but if you read it last week you can skip it. Let’s dig in!

Correlation Test
I have measured everything with a Correlation Test, which measures if two samples move in the same direction. Answers vary from +1 Perfect Positive Correlation to -1 Perfect Negative Correlation. If the answer is +1 it means that when one sample gains 1 so does the other and vice versa. As an example, when the entire stock market goes up 1 % your company’s value goes up 1 % and when the market goes down 1 % so does your company.

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First off I looked at rushing yards per attempt. The only pre-requisite was that the Running Back had at least 40 carries over the year, otherwise your data would not be accounted for. The Correlation between yards per attempt and Fantasy Points is only 0.21 which is not too good. I would have guessed that Running Backs that gain a lot of yards per carry would gain a lot of Fantasy Points, but that is not the case.

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Next up is a classic, how much does rushing touchdowns correlate with Fantasy Points, and as always it is a strong correlation with, 0.847. This number alone is not as interesting as when you put it in relation to the other metrics below. It is when you compare the correlations with each other you can make a decision of what stat you will value more in a tough draft decision, the Running Back with the higher Touchdown potential or the Running Back with a larger share of the carries.

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Now the first big comparison comes up in front of us. Rushing attempts or touchdown potential, which has the stronger correlation? Well, why drag it out more? Attempts have a correlation coefficient of 0.786 which is weaker than touchdowns.  So if you are facing a decision of drafting a Running Back that you believe will score more touchdowns or one that you believe will have more rushing attempts, you should pick the one that has the touchdown upside.

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This has no connection to PPR at all but the Running Backs that see a lot of targets just score more Fantasy Points than backs that just run. The correlation between targets and Fantasy Points is not as strong as the previous two but it is still strong with 0.631. It is still a much more important metric to take into consideration when drafting than the yards per attempt.

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As a fun side correlation, I wanted to show the age of all the Running Backs I looked at and how they produced. So instead of having a positive correlation, this will be our first negative one with, -0.058. This means, when a Running Back’s age goes up his Fantasy Production goes down. The edge is the 25-year mark, after that, it goes somewhat downhill. This is not rocket science and the correlation is only a weak one, but I thought it was a fun stat to end the article with.

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The spreadsheets are dark and full of terror // CSD


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