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The Decade's Most Consistent Fantasy Running Backs

A list of the most consistently high-performing fantasy running backs since 2007 and its 2017 implications.

What makes a running back a consistent fantasy producer? Is it his vision? Acceleration and agility? Offensive line? Receiving skills?  This article is a list of the most consistent, high-performing fantasy running backs since 2007.

Consistency can be measured a number of ways. Some use standard deviation. I prefer creating tiers based on the average value of fantasy production (fantasy points per game). Tiers don't punish players for production well above their average the way that standard deviation can.

My consistency tiers based on the span of seasons measured in a 12-team league:

  • Elite: Weekly performances that meet or exceed the average fantasy points per game of the top two overall RBs.
  • No. 1 RB: Weekly performances that meet the average fantasy points per game of top 12 running backs.
  • Sub Par: Weekly performances that are below the average baseline of the lowest-ranked starter spot in a league.

In this article, I'm measuring running backs in 12-team PPR leagues that field two starters. It means the No.1 RB tier spans the averages of the top-12 backs, the No. 2 RB tier spans backs in the range of 13-24, and the Sub-Par tier begins with performances below the 24th-ranked starter's average.

For those of you willing to do the extra work to customize consistency data for your league format that starts additional backs, I'm including average tiers for RB3 and RB4. When I focus on consistency specifically for this season (later this summer), I will adjust the Sub Par Tier to the average production of the 37th ranked RB because many leagues that readers tell me about (and I participate in) have at least one flex option at RB.   

The averages at the bottom of the table below are the fantasy points that define each tier.

YearEliteRB1RB2RB3RB4Subpar
2007 22.7 13.1 11.5 10.3 7.1 11.5
2008 19.1 14.8 12.1 10.9 7.6 12.1
2009 20.8 13.8 12.3 10.9 6.5 12.3
2010 19.0 15.3 12.4 10.1 6.6 12.4
2011 20.6 14.0 12.1 10.4 5.8 12.1
2012 19.1 13.8 11.1 9.3 4.6 11.1
2013 20.8 14.1 11.1 9.9 5.4 11.1
2014 21.7 12.9 9.6 9.3 5.1 9.6
2015 16.7 12.5 10.2 8.1 6.8 10.2
2016 20.4 13.5 10.1 8.6 6.3 10.1
Average 20.1 13.8 11.2 9.8 6.2 11.2

With the process explained, here's the quickest way to think of this information:

  • The Elite tier measures the percentage of a running back's games between 2007-16 where he scored at least 22.7 fantasy points.
  • The #1RB Tier measures the percentage of a running back's games between 2007-16 where he scored between 13.1-22.69 fantasy points.
  • The #2RB Tier measures the percentage of a running back's games between 2007-16 where he scored between 11.5-13.09 fantasy points.
  • The Sub-Par tier measures the percentage of a quarterback's games between 2007-16 where he scored less than 11.5 fantasy points.

The players below are sorted by the following priority:

  • The lowest percentage of Sub Par games. 
  • The highest percentage of No.1 games. 
  • The highest percentage of Elite games. 

 "Max" and "Min" are the highest and lowest fantasy performances during their decade of play. There are a few tables below filtered by minimum games.

TOP 36 HIGH-PERFORMING FANTASY Running BACKS (2007-2016) And No Minimum Games

There are some worthwhile differences to consider when comparing running back consistency with quarterbacks. It's common sense, but still worth noting that quarterbacks with a track record of quality games have the longer careers on average.

Still, players like  LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, and Chris Johnson have quarterback-like longevity. It's one of the reasons why dynasty and keeper leagues target running backs early in rookie drafts.

The top running backs have a lower percentage of sub-par games than the top quarterbacks. There were 15 quarterbacks on last week's list with a sub-par percentage of at least 50; only 4 running backs on this list are in this range.

Although these runners didn't bottom out as often as passers, quarterbacks have a higher percentage of quality games (elite and top 12) than their running back counterparts. In most formats, the ratio of startable running backs to quarterbacks is at least 2:1, if not 3:1, and NFL teams rarely manage their offenses with a committee of quarterbacks in the same way they do with runners.     

Players in bold are notable options who won't qualify in the second table because they lack the minimum game requirements.  

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