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Game Script Dependent and Independent Running Backs



By Steve Schwarz | 9/3/20

Are you worried about selecting a running back on a team that is frequently behind on the scoreboard? Do you fear your running back will be stuck standing on the sidelines if his team gets too far behind while a receiving specialist takes his place?

Fear not, I have the information you need.

In the chart below are the total fantasy points earned for the top-60 running backs when their team was behind on the scoreboard last season. The far right column represents total fantasy points earned in full one-point PPR leagues when their team was down at least one point. (For non-PPR leagues, the column ďFPtsĒ is for you).

Of course, some teams spent a lot more time playing from behind which skews the numbers in their favor. There are also a number of players who had extenuating circumstances which should have you ignoring the chart.

For instance, Nick Chubb ranks ninth on the list, but for the first half of the season, he didnít have to share time with Kareem Hunt. Or that James Conner ranks 30th. He missed six full games and additional time in others due to injury. Had Conner played a complete 16-game schedule, at an average of 6.39 FPts/G while behind, you could imagine he might have scored just over 102 points. Iím also ignoring Alvin Kamaraís No.34 rank because the 13-3 Saints werenít behind often and he wasnít healthy for most of the season.

But letís check out some of the numbers anyway.

As you would expect, Christian McCaffrey was the best. Of course, his team was behind a lot, but nevertheless he produced far more than everyone else in the NFL. No surprise there. Similarly, Saquon Barkley, Kenyan Drake and Joe Mixon can all score when their team is behind, which was often last season, so no need to fear drafting them at their current ADP.

Josh Jacobs

The opposite is true for Josh Jacobs. I found Jacobsí statistics disappointing considering the Raiders were a -106 net points. He obviously had plenty of opportunity to be productive when behind but heís got to be more effective or his upside will continue to be limited because I donít see this team winning this season. Given Jacobsí 9.1 ADP and the likelihood that Las Vegas will continue to struggle Iím shying away from Jacobs as a first-rounder.

What was a surprise, at least to me, is how well Derrick Henry performed. For a guy who doesnít catch many balls out of the backfield (18 total receptions, 15 while behind), he maintained his elite rank. So even if the Titans play poorly in 2020 and they havenít been better than 9-7 since 2008 (77-99 combined over the last 11-year span), as long as Henry is healthy the team is going to call running plays and Henry should be a solid producer. Despite his 7.4 ADP I wouldnít be afraid to pull the trigger on Henry.

Melvin Gordon also impressed, ranking in the top-10 despite having to share time with ďpass-catching extraordinaireĒ Austin Exeler. Perhaps heíll be better in Denver where he may see more third-down situations since Ekeler catching abilities are certainly better than that of Phillip Lindsay.

Another back Iím not going to worry about is Chris Carson. Iíll take him at his word that his hip is ď100 percentĒ and heís set to be a workhorse. As his No.13 rank shows, even when the Seahawks are behind, they arenít going away from the ground game. He caught a career-best 37 balls last season on 47 targets and half of those were when the team was behind, so Iím not going to be concerned by Carlos Hyde, Rashaad Penny or rookie DeeJay Dallas.

Speaking of Dallas, the Cowboys that is, considering they were +113 net points, Ezekiel Elliottís total is excellent. I donít expect Dallas to be behind a lot this season with their offensive weapons, but ďZekeĒ is an elite running back no matter whether the Cowboys are ahead or behind on the scoreboard.

Itís very interesting to note that two of the 2019 top-10 are currently unemployed. The just-waived Leonard Fournette simply hasnít been effective since his rookie season, particularly in getting into the end zone (just three rushing touchdowns). While heís likely to land on his feet with another team, he wonít be on my fantasy roster.

Meanwhile, Iím at a loss as to why Freeman isnít on a roster. Freeman evidently is too, which is likely why he has new agent representation. Freeman can help a team (are you listening Eagles?) and if he gets a chance to start, even on a losing team he can be a fantasy asset.

Yes, running backs can still be effective when their team is behind and the statistics show that.

 PPR Fantasy Points Earned While Team is Behind
Rk Player Tm Att Yds TDs Rec Yds TDs Tot Yds FPTs PPR Pts Tot FPTs
1 Christian McCaffrey CAR 137 657 8 71 609 1 1266 180.6 71 251.6
2 Leonard Fournette JAX 171 741 3 62 376 0 1117 129.7 62 191.7
3 Derrick Henry TEN 122 582 9 15 98 1 680 128.0 15 143.0
4 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 128 494 5 33 211 0 705 100.5 33 133.5
5 Saquon Barkley NYG 117 438 2 41 304 1 742 82.2 41 123.2
6 Kenyan Drake AZ 97 461 2 36 265 0 726 84.6 36 120.6
7 Devonta Freeman ATL 100 354 0 40 254 3 608 78.8 40 118.8
8 Joe Mixon CIN 173 713 1 15 127 2 840 102.0 15 117.0
9 Nick Chubb CLE 141 718 2 20 129 0 847 96.7 20 116.7
10 Melvin Gordon LAC 100 379 6 29 197 0 576 87.6 29 116.6
11 Austin Ekeler LAC 56 183 0 45 376 2 559 67.9 45 112.9
12 Miles Sanders PHI 84 373 1 26 231 2 604 78.4 26 104.4
13 Chris Carson SEA 111 479 3 18 109 1 588 82.8 18 100.8
14 Le'Veon Bell NYJ 115 387 1 34 202 0 589 64.9 34 98.9
15 Adrian Peterson WAS 135 588 3 12 99 0 687 86.7 12 98.7
16 Dalvin Cook MIN 70 342 4 23 155 0 497 73.7 23 96.7
17 Marlon Mack IND 107 516 5 4 20 0 536 83.6 4 87.6
18 Aaron Jones GB 86 347 3 18 94 1 441 68.1 18 86.1
19 James White NE 33 154 1 25 196 3 350 59.0 25 84.0
20 Carlos Hyde HOU 93 458 4 9 30 0 488 72.8 9 81.8
21 Todd Gurley LAR 54 186 5 17 68 1 254 61.4 17 78.4
22 Duke Johnson HOU 35 245 0 24 191 3 436 51.6 24 75.6
23 David Montgomery CHI 100 353 3 11 103 0 456 63.6 11 74.6
24 Ronald Jones II TB 67 285 3 19 173 0 458 53.8 19 72.8
25 Phillip Lindsay DEN 82 328 2 16 89 0 417 53.7 16 69.7
26 Josh Jacobs LV 71 390 3 8 43 0 433 61.3 8 69.3
27 Chris Thompson WAS 29 117 0 31 258 0 375 37.5 31 68.5
28 Royce Freeman DEN 55 241 1 19 117 0 358 47.8 19 66.8
29 Raheem Mostert SF 45 322 3 5 46 1 368 60.8 5 65.8
30 James Conner PIT 52 244 1 13 85 2 329 50.9 13 63.9
31 David Johnson AZ 47 170 1 15 138 2 308 48.8 15 63.8
32 Devin Singletary BUF 53 323 0 19 64 1 387 44.7 19 63.7
33 Jamaal Williams GB 36 214 0 18 117 2 331 45.1 18 63.1
34 Alvin Kamara NO 37 218 1 22 131 0 349 40.9 22 62.9
35 Jaylen Samuels PIT 33 99 0 30 167 1 266 32.6 30 62.6
36 Peyton Barber TB 54 190 3 10 76 1 266 50.6 10 60.6
37 Tarik Cohen CHI 32 136 0 33 129 0 265 26.5 33 59.5
38 DeAndre Washington LV 36 152 0 23 204 0 356 35.6 23 58.6
39 Giovani Bernard CIN 36 130 0 21 133 0 263 26.3 21 47.3
40 Damien Williams KC 30 169 2 11 70 0 239 35.9 11 46.9
41 LeSean McCoy KC 33 167 3 8 12 0 179 35.9 8 43.9
42 Nyheim Hines IND 25 102 0 22 114 0 216 21.6 22 43.6
43 J.D. McKissic DET 24 98 0 14 106 1 204 26.4 14 40.4
44 Mark Ingram BAL 31 159 2 6 56 0 215 33.5 6 39.5
45 Kerryon Johnson DET 35 129 1 5 79 1 218 33.8 5 38.8
46 Patrick Laird MIA 25 108 1 12 76 0 184 24.4 12 36.4
47 Boston Scott PHI 29 129 1 9 66 0 195 25.5 9 34.5
48 Frank Gore BUF 55 216 1 4 26 0 242 30.2 4 34.2
49 Latavius Murray NO 25 144 1 9 36 0 180 24.0 9 33.0
50 Sony Michel NE 46 195 1 4 23 0 218 27.8 4 31.8
51 Mark Walton MIA 28 151 0 9 73 0 224 22.4 9 31.4
52 Ty Johnson DET 29 100 0 15 60 0 160 16.0 15 31.0
53 Jordan Howard PHI 50 173 1 4 19 0 192 25.2 4 29.2
54 Brian Hill ATL 23 88 1 9 51 0 139 19.9 9 28.9
55 Kareem Hunt CLE 8 27 0 14 121 0 148 14.8 14 28.8
56 Rex Burkhead NE 20 100 1 5 74 0 174 23.4 5 28.4
57 Tevin Coleman SF 25 89 1 5 38 0 127 18.7 5 23.7
58 Rashaad Penny SEA 25 88 1 4 21 0 109 16.9 4 20.9
59 Bo Scarbrough DET 37 178 0 1 5 0 183 18.3 1 19.3
60 Matt Breida SF 23 101 0 4 41 0 142 14.2 4 18.2