The Fantasy Mythbusters: Are Insurance RBs Worth a Roster Spot?

For fantasy professionals that make investments significant draft capital in a running again, a well-liked…

The Fantasy Mythbusters: Are Insurance RBs Worth a Roster Spot?

For fantasy professionals that make investments significant draft capital in a running again, a well-liked strategy can be to roster an ‘insurance RB’ as perfectly. These are, basically place, the genuine-lifestyle NFL backups to stud football functioning backs, and hence are in line to obtain a main workload if the starter goes down. This period, we’ve experienced some examples of notable insurance policies backs coming to the fore: Alexander Mattison saved Dalvin Cook fantasy supervisors with the sixth-very best RB overall performance of Sunday, Chuba Hubbard will likely be the top rated waiver focus on this 7 days with Christian McCaffrey sidelined, and Tony Pollard may possibly even finish up outproducing Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas.

Even while these insurance plan backs may not be as talented as the starter (normally they would be the starter) volume is king in fantasy. When thrust into a starting part, backups ought to be in a position to deliver sound functionality for your fantasy roster. Additionally, it signifies that you never have to get worried about a calamitous damage to one of your stud RBs wrecking your overall fantasy season you have the backup that will slide into the workhorse spot.

Having said that, this is not a strategy without the need of controversy. Roster places are unbelievably valuable in fantasy leagues, specially in-season. You may be clogging a place on your bench for a operating again that will never ever be precious: accidents, in the end, are relatively unheard of. In addition, there is no promise that if the starter goes down the backup will really conduct properly: you may recall the aforementioned Alexander Mattison putting up a measly 26 speeding yards from the sieve-like Atlanta Falcons when Dalvin Cook dinner sat out in Week 6 past yr.

With this in head, we can check out to solution a easy question: is it truly worth it to roster an insurance coverage back? Fantasy info will come from nflfastR, ADP data from the fantasy football calculator.


We will take into account working backs drafted in the very first or next spherical because 2015 this is about the amount of functioning back the place you may possibly look at investing in the backup. This calendar year, it was Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and it is attainable as the CEH supervisor that you would want to slot Darrel Williams into the final spot on your bench.

Then, we can obtain the greatest-scoring operating back – exterior of the actual stud RB drafted early – on the similar group that yr. There are rare situations, as we will see, wherever the backup actually ends up outperforming the starter drafted early on the time (generally due to injury or a holdout). We can then assess the functionality of these backups all over the year:

I have labeled the top three backup functioning backs listed here. Tarik Cohen had a great ‘gadget’ yr at the rear of starter Jordan Howard in 2018: he ran for 3 touchdowns, caught 4 much more and even handed at the time for a rating. The other two backs were beneficiaries of the similar player – Le’Veon Bell – lacking time: DeAngelo Williams experienced his vocation swan tune in 2015 when Bell went down with an MCL damage and, of class, James Conner compensated off in a large way when Bell sat out for the entirety of the 2018 year. These have been all fundamentally league-winners (or year-savers): they delivered massively on a negligible financial investment (last decide on in the draft or a waiver wire incorporate).

One particular aside: two of the top ‘insurance backs’ have been Steelers backups that grew to become the starter early on. In addition to player ability, this is very likely owing to head mentor Mike Tomlin’s propensity to operate the ball, and to operate it mostly through a solitary player. This speaks volumes for Najee Harris‘ upside this year – who finally ‘broke out’ in Week 3 – as well as for any Steelers back that can choose charge of the backfield.

Still, though, most of the lines show up to stop up with somewhat lower scoring totals there are also plenty of flat sections (wherever no games had been played) and early cutoffs (the place the close of the season was skipped). Let’s quantify what some of these backups performances truly appeared like

Backup General performance

Here’s a histogram of the precise factors scored by backups when the starters really do not participate in. This can make feeling in a fantasy context: you very likely are not beginning the backup when the stud starter is actively playing, so it tends to make more sense to feel about backup general performance when the starter is out (and you will commence the backup). Here’s the chart, with the crimson line demonstrating the median:

The median points when backups start off is 10.9 points, with a necessarily mean of 13.3 (many thanks to some right skew). If we just take out James Conner and DeAngelo Williams, who are truly excellent circumstances, the chart appears to be like like this:

With these two players taken off, the median is just beneath 10. points a video game.

Anyhow, an RB were being to engage in the total period with a median PPG of 10.9 factors (so which include Conner and Williams in the info), they would end at about the RB15 or RB16 over-all. The implication is that, when your backup will get the start, they are a good RB2 in your lineup. This is intuitive: they may well not be as very good as the stud starter, but the workload they acquire will still add worth to your roster.

Backup Usage

We’ve found some illustrations of famous backups, and have looked at the performance of backups when they do get to start. On the other hand, just one significant problem stays: how often does having this coverage shell out off? How normally will the starter go down, and the backup be thrust into the limelight?

Here’s a chart that presents the starts off built by a backup – in a whole season – on the x-axis, and the quantity of these occurrences – given that 2015 – on the y-axis:

This chart could be a bit shocking, in particular considering that we tend to remember the outlier circumstances when a starter is injured or sits out. Nonetheless, in the large majority of circumstances, the backups basically will not get that lots of starts. This is since starters practically often make it by means of most of the season, and since backups could possibly not have a potent declare to the career and could simply reduce their place to somebody else on the depth chart. Even DeAngelo Williams described earlier mentioned as an exemplary backup situation, only started off nine games all through the fantasy time.

Anyhow, to place quantities on it, this chart tells us that backups make far more than 1 start out in a time just 41{6654ab549aea683dfb163c18f2e935eca578ab77e61967d7a8b1932c06e74d91} of the time. They make additional than two commences just 32{6654ab549aea683dfb163c18f2e935eca578ab77e61967d7a8b1932c06e74d91} of the time, and make no begins 42{6654ab549aea683dfb163c18f2e935eca578ab77e61967d7a8b1932c06e74d91} of the time! Mainly, the bulk of backups will see the subject (as a starter) as soon as or much less, and the large the greater part won’t see it much more than 2 times. We can now switch to our summary:



In most instances, BUSTED. Backups are ok when they get to commence, putting up first rate RB2 numbers on average. Even so – much more importantly – they scarcely get to start. It is not at all frequent for a backup to begin additional than two times it’s a lot more likely that they never ever start off at all. In addition, this assessment ‘guesses’ almost perfectly who the second fiddle RB is because we glance put up-hoc at whichever back actually scored the most (outside the house of the starter). In real-lifestyle scenarios, this may not be so apparent: for muddled backfields, it can be hard to project who will get most of the operate if the starter goes down.

This is not completely busted mainly because there is some level of nuance below. The problem to roster an insurance policy back or not all will come down to equivalent worth: which player are you losing out on by clogging a roster place with a backup? This relies upon on a whole lot of things: dimensions of the league, desires for your workforce, waiver wire action, and so forth. that are hard to deal with in a wide and typical way in this short article. Nonetheless, I imagine it’s safe to say that, in most instances, your last bench spot would be better loaded than with an coverage RB who is anticipated a single or two (or zero) starts with RB2 output.

Also, there is some true upside to rostering insurance policies backs. The said illustrations of James Conner, DeAngelo Williams, and Tarik Cohen – as very well as Mike Davis filling in for an wounded CMC last year – all manufactured significant price for generally no draft cash. These gamers characterize a extensive ‘right tail’: they conclude up starting off many online games and providing a ton of output for your staff. For that explanation, it might be sensible to shoot for the stars (or shore up your crew) with a backup, especially if the starter is injury inclined and the bell-cow backup circumstance is secured.

Finally, when it comes to Tony Pollard, Alexander Mattison, and Chuba Hubbard at this second in time, don’t hear what I’m not indicating. All a few of these backs have the context that supersede some of the broad strokes of this assessment. For Mattison and Hubbard, the setting up RB is possibly certain to be sidelined for a couple months or has a real probability of lacking more game titles this implies a heavier backup use than usual for an insurance coverage back. It’s like acquiring fireplace coverage on a burning property: the starters are previously injured, so if you can get the coverage for a great price tag, you ought to! For Pollard, we’re not even certain if he is a true backup to Zeke, or playing a function comparable to Kareem Hunt – the RB1 this previous Sunday – in Cleveland. This evaluation applies additional to common backups with now wholesome starters: Tony Jones Jr. in New Orleans, Devontae Booker in New York and Jeremy McNichols in Tennessee are superior examples.


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