Using FireFactor to Dominate Your Fantasy Football League: Running Back Edition

Running backs are a tough nut to crack, but here's what the math says about them in fantasy football.

Fantasy football is all about numbers.

You can watch film to help get a feel for how good a player is, and you can read the tea leaves to understand the latest coachspeak -- but it always comes down to stats.

You don't win because your quarterback showed good heart or because your running back toughed out a big first down on a fourth-and-short situation.

But numbers also dictate how important players are to begin with. That is to say that not all positions are created equally, and you should keep that in mind when targeting the hot commodities this offseason.

That's part of why -- even though quarterbacks fill the fantasy leaderboard each and every year -- running backs and receivers are the key cogs to your fantasy lineup. You need more of them in your lineup (in most leagues at least), and sometimes a 15-point performance from a running back is worth more than 20 points from a quarterback.

To put specifics on this, we have a mechanism called FireFactor, which is found in our our customizable cheat sheet and in our brand new draft kit app.

Here's what you need to know about FireFactor and running backs this season.

FireFactor Explained

FireFactor is a Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) formula that relies on your specific league settings to identify how valuable a player is in your given league.

You might want to target Rob Gronkowski early in your draft because he's awesome and fun, but what if your league doesn't even require you to start a tight end? Is he still worth it? Maybe, maybe not. That's why drafting specific to your league settings and scoring is paramount.

Sometimes a player such as Duke Johnson has more value than an elite player such as Gronk if your league dictates it.

Name value doesn't get your fantasy points, but it's easy to get caught up in the fun of rostering the best players imaginable.

FireFactor and Running Backs

Again, you can head to our customizable cheat sheet or download our draft kit app to tailor your FireFactor scores to your specific league, but we'll keep things pretty standard.

We'll analyze the numbers for a 12-team, 1-quarterback, 1-tight end, 2-running back, 2-receiver, 1-running back/receiver/tight end flex league that rewards no points for receptions and 4 points for passing touchdowns while subtracting 2 points for an interception. That's about as "default" as it gets.

Based on that, FireFactor tells us that Antonio Brown is the most valuable player in the league with a FireFactor score of 160.98.

After that, though, it's still some running backs: Adrian Peterson (157.5), Jamaal Charles (151.17), and David Johnson (143.99). In all, 6 of the 10 most valuable players in this format -- and 16 of the top 25 -- are running backs.

That's not how your draft is going to shake out as receivers are climbing up the average draft position ranks. That doesn't make drafting running backs safe by any means, but by season's end, the majority of the most valuable assets in such a league will be the top-scoring running backs. Remember, this is for a standard league where you can play three running backs.

You'll always want to run the numbers for your own league in order to make the most of FireFactor.

What's a Running Back Worth?

By comparing FireFactor scores across positions, we can get a rough value chart to see how important the position is relative to others. In terms of the singular positions (quarterbacks and tight ends -- even though we can flex a tight end in this league if we wanted), they just don't stack up, making an early-round choice of Aaron Rodgers or Rob Gronkowski hard to justify.

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There's a cavernous drop in our projections between our fourth-ranked receiver (DeAndre Hopkins) and our fifth-ranked receiver (Jordy Nelson), and our projection for the RB11 this year falls pretty much in the middle of the two.

And it's important to note that you don't have to agree with who we rank where. What matters here is finding out how valuable positions are within your league. So long as you're expecting a somewhat similar range of outcomes, the positional importance will remain mostly intact.

Put another way: unless you're projecting something anomalistic like no running backs to score 100 fantasy points or that five tight ends top 250 fantasy points, the positional value that FireFactor identifies throughout your customized rankings will, overall, remain useful.

Implementing FireFactor Into Your Season

The most obvious place to use FireFactor is in your draft because it helps break down the whole not-everybody-plays-the-same-position dilemma, but you can also use the principles during the season.

You can make a nifty value chart from your personalized FireFactor rankings to figure out if trading a starting running back for Jordan Reed is worthwhile (it's probably not) or if flipping your starting quarterback for a flex-worthy receiver is a good deal on your end.

You'll have to factor in other variables, and no metric is going to let you avoid players who bust or get hurt, but seeking the most valuable types of players in your league is a big part of building a winning roster. FireFactor makes that part easy.