Running Back Selection
Game flow is important to all positions on the field, but running backs rely on it most. When a team builds a lead (especially a large one), it wants to run the clock, minimize mistakes, and keep the ball out of the opposing offense’s hands. The best way to do that is with a solid ground game that can help put together 10-minute drives and protect the lead.
Vegas lines are great indicators of expected game flow. The larger the favorite, the more likely it is that the team will build a big lead. This typically benefits the main workhorse or the between-the-tackles running back. Conversely, when a team is expected to play from behind, we often see more snaps for the pass-catching back. A great example of this is the Bengals. When they are ahead, they like to pound the rock with Jeremy Hill. However, when they fall behind and start to air it out, they typically give more snaps to Giovani Bernard, who is quicker and better catching the ball out of the backfield.
Running backs who are favored perform better than running backs who are underdogs, and it’s not very close. Running backs also perform better at home than they do on the road, largely thanks to positive game flow. If everything else is equal, we want to target the running backs favored and at home. Sounds pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, the “everything else” part isn’t always equal.
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