Last week, I reviewed QB fantasy performance in 2016 after adjusting for their strength of schedule (SoS) in standard formats. In this article, I’m going to apply the same method to last year’s RB fantasy scoring (in point-per-reception (PPR) formats).

RB Scoring used: Rushing/Receiving TD = 6 Fantasy Points (FP); 10 Rush/Receiving Yd = 1 FP; Reception = 1 FP; Turnovers = minus 2

Here’s the top 75 RBs. The table includes the actual PPR FP totals and ranks as well as the Strength of Schedule Adjusted (SOSA) FP figures (how this is calculated can be found in the QB article on this topic ). The final column is a percentage (SOSA Factor) that equals the SOSA FP divided by Actual FP. A SOSA Factor of 100% would mean that a player had an exactly average schedule. If the percentage is over 100%, it means he played a harder than average schedule and that his Actual FP understate how well he played. On the other hand, a percentage less than 100% means an RB had an easy schedule and his scoring was inflated.

Actual vs. Strength of Schedule Adjusted (SOSA) RB Fantasy Points and Ranks, PPR Scoring

Player

Actual FP

Actual Rk

SOSA FP

SOSA Rk

SOSA Factor

Johnson, David

407.8

1

410.2

1

101%

Elliott, Ezekiel

325.4

2

323.1

3

99%

Bell, Le'Veon

317.4

3

326.2

2

103%

McCoy, LeSean

298.3

4

303.9

4

102%

Murray, DeMarco

295.8

5

303.8

5

103%

Freeman, Devonta

284.1

6

289.0

6

102%

Gordon, Melvin

250.6

7

252.6

7

101%

Ingram, Mark

242.2

8

240.6

8

99%

Blount, LeGarrette

232.9

9

238.4

9

102%

Howard, Jordan

230.1

10

237.9

10

103%

Ajayi, Jay

215.3

11

212.3

12

99%

Gore, Frank

214.2

12

234.2

11

109%

Murray, Latavius

208.2

13

208.9

14

100%

Crowell, Isaiah

205.1

14

205.1

15

100%

Gurley, Todd

198.2

15

192.2

18

97%

Powell, Bilal

197.0

16

189.1

19

96%

Ware, Spencer

193.8

17

183.1

20

94%

Hyde, Carlos

192.1

18

211.9

13

110%

Coleman, Tevin

191.1

19

194.3

17

102%

Miller, Lamar

191.1

19

195.5

16

102%

Forte, Matt

183.6

21

180.9

21

99%

Hill, Jeremy

176.3

22

169.3

24

96%

West, Terrance

171.0

23

174.6

22

102%

Sproles, Darren

162.5

24

169.1

25

104%

Riddick, Theo

161.8

25

170.7

23

105%

White, James

161.7

26

159.3

27

99%

McKinnon, Jerick

148.4

27

161.1

26

109%

Thompson, Chris

147.5

28

159.3

28

108%

Stewart, Jonathan

146.4

29

139.8

35

95%

Mathews, Ryan

144.6

30

150.4

29

104%

Johnson, Duke

144.2

31

147.9

30

103%

Booker, Devontae

142.7

32

137.4

36

96%

Jennings, Rashad

138.4

33

139.8

34

101%

Yeldon, T.J.

137.7

34

141.7

33

103%

Michael, Christine

137.0

35

127.0

39

93%

Kelley, Rob

132.6

36

147.2

31

111%

Asiata, Matt

132.5

37

144.0

32

109%

Hightower, Tim

126.8

38

136.0

37

107%

Gillislee, Mike

125.7

39

129.5

38

103%

Bernard, Giovani

122.3

40

119.8

41

98%

Richard, Jalen

115.5

41

112.8

44

98%

Draughn, Shaun

108.9

42

120.9

40

111%

Turbin, Robert

108.3

43

116.6

42

108%

Henry, Derrick

105.7

44

113.8

43

108%

Anderson, C.J.

102.5

45

101.3

46

99%

Dixon, Kenneth

102.4

46

103.1

45

101%

Williams, DeAngelo

100.1

47

92.9

51

93%

Ivory, Chris

94.5

48

101.2

47

107%

West, Charcandrick

94.1

49

89.6

52

95%

Cadet, Travaris

94.0

50

100.5

48

107%

Williams, Damien

93.4

51

93.2

50

100%

Zenner, Zach

93.0

52

100.0

49

108%

Rodgers, Jacquizz

90.8

53

82.7

54

91%

Martin, Doug

85.5

54

82.7

55

97%

Washington, DeAndre

85.2

55

84.0

53

99%

Perkins, Paul

76.8

56

79.2

56

103%

Burkhead, Rex

75.9

57

78.6

57

104%

Rawls, Thomas

75.5

58

75.8

60

100%

Jones, Matt

75.3

59

77.3

59

103%

Juszczyk, Kyle

73.8

60

73.9

61

100%

Langford, Jeremy

73.2

61

78.2

58

107%

Whittaker, Fozzy

72.1

62

64.2

64

89%

Sims, Charles

67.9

63

65.4

62

96%

Blue, Alfred

62.0

64

64.6

63

104%

Forsett, Justin

61.6

65

60.3

67

98%

Prosise, C.J.

61.0

66

63.0

65

103%

Starks, James

58.9

67

61.5

66

104%

Olawale, Jamize

57.4

68

57.2

68

100%

Kuhn, John

56.7

69

57.0

69

100%

Lewis, Dion

54.7

70

54.5

70

100%

Smallwood, Wendell

52.7

71

53.1

71

101%

Drake, Kenyan

49.5

72

50.1

73

101%

Washington, Dwayne

48.7

73

51.6

72

106%

Ripkowski, Aaron

46.6

74

47.8

74

103%

Lacy, Eddie

42.8

75

46.3

75

108%

Some observations:

  • As with QBs, RB scoring was not as affected by SoS as in 2015. Only 4 RBs had a SOSA Factor greater than 110% or less than 90% in 2016, compared to 13 in the previous year. An additional 20 RBs had SOSA Factors more than 5 percentage points stronger or worse than 100% but not 10 points (90-95% or 105-110%) in 2016, vs. 27 in 2015.
  • The average RB PPR FP allowed by NFL defenses in a game was 23.1 FP, within two-tenths of a point of the 2015 average (RBs caught 2523 passes in 2016, down from 2678 receptions in 2015 and almost identical to the 2540 RB receptions in 2014). This includes all FP allowed to all the RBs on an opposing team, not just their top RB.
  • The Cardinals had the toughest defense for fantasy RB PPR scoring (18.6 FP/game, almost a point and a half easier than the 2015 Seahawks were).
  • For the 2nd year in a row, the 49ers were the worst (31.2 FP/G allowed, even more than 2015's 29.7 – Kyle Shanahan better plan to score a lot in 2017).
  • The Falcons again gave up the most catches to opposing RBs, 6.8 per game (an improvement from 7.4). Interestingly, the Patriots allowed the 2nd most, 6.4. This should be a checkdown Super Bowl; I hope you have Dion Lewis on your team. The Raiders only allowed 3.3 RB catches per game.
  • Le'Veon Bell's Week 14 performance was the best SOSA FP game, 50.0 against Buffalo (down from 51.8 Actual FP, also the best actual score).
  • David Johnson finished #1 in Actual and SOSA FP, as his slightly difficult schedule (101% SOSA PCT) was not a factor in budging his ranking when he had 80+ more Actual FP than the #2 back.
  • Ezekiel Elliott was #2 in Actual FP but a basically average SoS (99% SOSA Pct) dropped his SOSA FP just enough that Bell passed him, thanks to a 103% SOSA Pct.
  • That was the only movement in the Top 10 rankings.
  • Frank Gore had one of the hardest schedules of any Top 75 RB, with a 109% SOSA Pct. Only Carlos Hyde (110%), his teammate Shaun Draughn (111%), and Fat Rob Kelley (111%) had tougher fantasy slates. Unfortunately for Hyde, he still has to play tough intra-divisional foes and his out-of-division opponents get harder next year (based on 2016, which will change somewhat of course).
  • Spencer Ware was the Top-20 back in Actual FP who benefitted the most from an easy schedule (94% SOSA Pct), dropping from 17th in Actual Rank to 20th in SOSA Rank.
  • Fozzy Whitaker's 89% SOSA Pct was the easiest schedule for any Top 75 RB; his teammate Jonathan Stewart also had an easy SoS (95%), although it was much harder by comparison.
  • For the two fantasy owners remaining on the Christine Michael bandwagon, note that his Actual FP were inflated by an easy SoS (93%).

Looking to 2017, it's a bit earlier to say much about SoS until off-season moves are completed, from coaching to free agency and the draft. In 2016, the NFC North, NFC East, and AFC South were the three toughest divisions for RBs to face – the NFC West was one of extremes, with the easiest and toughest defenses for RBs (SF and ARI) and SEA almost as difficult a matchup as ARI – the Rams were about average. The NFC South was by far the easiest division to face, followed by the AFC North. The AFC West was about a point a game tougher than the AFC North, but still easier than average.

If things stayed the same, David Johnson could see a somewhat tougher schedule as the average AFC East and easy NFC South leave his schedule and are replaced by the AFC South and NFC East, both tough foes. Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott drops the AFC North (easy) and NFC North (hard) for the AFC West (easy) and NFC West (mixed). I don't know if that shift in SoS in Elliott's favor is enough to make up for an 80-point gap in determining which RB to take first. And Le'Veon Bell gets a tougher slate (AFC South and NFC North vs. the two East divisions) – and I'd expect his divisional opponents to improve on defense too. In fact, NFC West and AFC North RBs probably have the hardest looking 2017 schedules, at this point. So based on a very tentative SoS analysis, at this point, I'd expect the Top 3 to rank in the same order in 2017. And #4 LeSean McCoy and the other AFC East backs look to have one of the easiest 2017 schedules.