Proposing The Mixon Formula

Every year we play fantasy football and are in search of that game-changing breakout player that can help us beat our friends, family, or co-workers and win a fantasy title. But if you’ve played fantasy football before, actually finding that game-changing player is much more difficult than it seems. Through much research, I’ve created a formula (much like the Kluber Formula which was successful in fantasy baseball a few years ago) to make it easier to find the #1 RB in fantasy next season.

Here are the criteria to my newly proposed “Mixon Formula”

  • The RB must have had 30 or more receptions the previous year
  • The RB must be age 26 or younger by the start of the upcoming fantasy year
  • The RB must have had 65 or more rushing attempts the previous year
  • The RB must have had over 200 rushing yards the previous year
  • The RB has played three seasons or less prior to the start of the upcoming fantasy year
  • The RB can’t be on a team that drafted a RB in the 1st round of the most recent NFL draft
  • The RB must have only played for one NFL team
  • The RB averages at least 5.5 yards per reception
  • The RB averages greater than three yards per carry

 

Reasoning Behind Criteria

 

The RB must have had 30 or more receptions the previous year

The NFL has evolved into having more of a focus on passing over the past few years, and with how the NFL has evolved, the top running back has to be effective in the passing game and be a true dual threat. Thirty receptions is set as the baseline because this means that the previous year, the RB was involved in the pass game averaging near 2 receptions (or more) a game. 

The RB must be age 26 or younger by the start of the upcoming fantasy year

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Running backs have a shorter shelf life than most other positions, so you need to get a player in their physical prime. 

The RB must have had 65+ rushing attempts the previous year

This part of the criteria eliminates a few of the 3rd down backs who don’t really have a role in the rushing game, and therefore cannot reach the same ceiling as other backs. Sixty-five rushing attempts is set as the baseline because this means that in the previous year, the RB was at least getting an average of 4 carries per game. 

The RB must have had over 200 rushing yards the previous year

This is to make sure they have at least some talent (it’s pretty difficult to not get 200 yards on 65+ carries, regardless of offensive line play).

The RB has played three seasons or less prior to the start of the upcoming fantasy year

A players’ potential can only bring them so far. If they’ve already played 4 seasons, they are official a proven commodity and are unlikely to breakout any further. 

The RB can’t be on a team that drafted a RB in the 1st round of the most recent NFL draft

If a team drafts an RB in the 1st round, that means that they believe that they really need an upgrade at the position, and they will typically get their 1st round RB involved in the offense. The opportunity simply will not be there to be an RB1 if a 1st round RB is in the fold. This eliminated guys like Benny Cunningham (Rams drafted Todd Gurley round 1 of 2015), Branden Oliver (Chargers drafted Melvin Gordon round 1 of 2015), etc. in previous years. 

The RB must have only played for one NFL team

When a player is cut or traded that early into their career, it means that an NFL team does not believe they are missing out on a potential game changing talent. While there are occasional guys that do breakout after being cut early in their career (Dion Lewis, Justin Forsett, and Alex Collins are a few examples in recent years), they are exceptions to the rule and generally never reach RB1 status. 

The RB averages at least 5.5 yards per reception the previous season

This metric is included to make sure that the RB is effective in open space and is actually doing something with the receptions they receive. Talent is necessary for a breakout.

The RB averages greater than three yards per carry the previous season

Similar to the “RB averages at least 5.5 yards per reception” metric, this is to make sure the RB is not completely terrible. Three yards per carry is used as the baseline because many of the major game changing candidates that were successful (Le’Veon Bell in 2014, Devonta Freeman in 2015, Melvin Gordon in 2016, Todd Gurley in 2017, Joe Mixon in 2018, etc.) struggled initially and averaged under four YPC. But, if a player is unable to even get three yards per carry, they are not worth your time.

 

Historical Data

 

Let’s take a look at the candidates in each of the previous 5 seasons who met this criteria (link to data collection) and the season that followed to gauge the success of this formula. ADP data is based on data from fantasy football calculator for 12 team standard leagues.

 

2014 Candidates

 

The candidates for the 2014 season were Eddie Lacy, DeMarco Murray, Giovani Bernard, Andre Ellington, Le’Veon Bell, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Bilal Powell.

Player Rush Attempts Rush Yards Receptions Receiving Yards Total Touchdowns ADP
Eddie Lacy 246 1139 42 427 13 9th overall
DeMarco Murray 392 1845 57 416 13 13th overall
Giovani Bernard 168 680 43 349 7 18th overall
Andre Ellington 201 660 46 395 5 25th overall
Le’Veon Bell 290 1361 83 854 11 29th overall
Jacquizz Rodgers 58 217 29 173 2 NA (>163rd overall)
Bilal Powell 33 141 11 92 1 NA (>163rd overall)

From the 2014 candidates, Le’Veon Bell and DeMarco Murray were the biggest hits of the year, finishing as the #1 overall RB and #2 overall RB in fantasy during the season (Bell was #1 in PPR leagues, and Murray #1 in standard leagues).

*Other Note(s): Giovani Bernard became firmly entrenched in a committee with Jeremy Hill this year, with Hill getting 222 carries for 1124 rushing yards.

 

2015 Candidates

 

In 2015, we saw Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Andre Ellington, and Giovani Bernard return as candidates and have CJ Anderson, Lamar Miller, and Devonta Freeman join them. Let’s see how they all ended up performing.

Player Rush Attempts Rush Yards Receptions Receiving Yards Total Touchdowns ADP
Le’Veon Bell 113 556 24 136 3 2nd overall
Eddie Lacy 187 758 20 188 5 3rd overall
CJ Anderson 152 720 25 183 5 7th overall
Lamar Miller 194 872 47 397 10 23rd overall
Andre Ellington 45 289 15 148 3 53rd overall
Giovani Bernard 154 730 49 472 2 85th overall
Devonta Freeman 264 1061 73 578 14 104th overall

Yikes. This was one of the roughest years for running backs in recent memory with only 7 running backs running for over 1000 yards: Adrian Peterson  (1485), Doug Martin  (1402), Todd Gurley (1106), Darren McFadden (1089), Chris Ivory (1070), Latavius Murray (1066), and the #1 PPR fantasy back Devonta Freeman (1061). But on the bright side, so far the formula is 2/2 on having the #1 overall fantasy back on its list.

*Other Note(s): Le’Veon Bell was injured after just 6 games. Eddie Lacy put on significant weight this season and never returned to his original form. CJ Anderson played through the season with an injury and split carries with Ronnie Hillman. Andre Ellington ended up losing the starting job to Chris Johnson and then later rookie David Johnson.

 

2016 Candidates

 

Luckily, the dip in overall fantasy RB production from 2015 proved to only be temporarily, and we had some major breakout performances. In 2016, the returning candidates were Devonta Freeman and Giovani Bernard, and a bunch of newcomers in David Johnson, Latavius Murray, Melvin Gordon, Duke Johnson, TJ Yeldon, Charles Sims, and Javorius Allen join them. Here’s a look at how they all performed.

Player Rush Attempts Rush Yards Receptions Receiving Yards Total Touchdowns ADP
David Johnson 293 1239 80 879 20 5th overall
Devonta Freeman 227 1079 54 462 13 18th overall
Latavius Murray 195 788 33 264 12 31st overall
Melvin Gordon 254 997 41 419 12 47th overall
Giovani Bernard 91 337 39 336 3 70th overall
Duke Johnson 73 358 53 514 1 81st overall
TJ Yeldon 130 465 50 312 2 92nd overall
Charles Sims 51 149 24 190 2 102nd overall
Javorius Allen 9 34 3 15 0 NA (>168th overall)

This season was a pretty strong one for the four highest drafted “Mixon formula” backs (David Johnson, Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, and Melvin Gordon), with David Johnson finishing as the #1 overall fantasy back (making this formula go 3/3 on having the #1 fantasy back on the list). Melvin Gordon was also a major success, putting up over 1400 yards from scrimmage in just 13 games.

*Other Note(s): Javorius “Buck” Allen was a healthy scratch in many games, failing to get playing time over Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon.

 

2017 Candidates

 

If there was one thing I was proud of in the 2017 season, it was predicting a major bounce-back year for Todd Gurley and watching him carry my team to my first fantasy championship. Overall, this year was particularly interesting. We saw a couple pairs of teammates make the list (Devonta Freeman+Tevin Coleman and Isaiah Crowell+Duke Johnson) for the first time, as well as seven other candidates in David Johnson, Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, Ty Montgomery, Devontae Booker, and Jerick McKinnon. Gurley was the big hit from the 2017 candidates, but how did the rest of the candidates fare?

Player Rush Attempts Rush Yards Receptions Receiving Yards Total Touchdowns ADP
David Johnson 11 23 6 67 0 1st overall
Devonta Freeman 196 865 36 317 8 6th overall
Melvin Gordon 284 1105 58 476 12 8th overall
Ezekiel Elliott 242 983 26 269 9 10th overall
Todd Gurley 279 1305 64 788 19 17th overall
Isaiah Crowell 206 853 28 182 2 25th overall
Ty Montgomery 71 273 23 170 4 37th overall
Tevin Coleman 156 628 27 299 8 75th overall
Duke Johnson 82 348 74 693 7 119th overall
Devontae Booker 79 299 30 275 1 NA (>211th overall)
Jerick McKinnon 150 570 51 421 5 NA (>211th overall)

Todd Gurley made this formula 4/4 on having the #1 overall fantasy back on this list and helped many teams win championships with his fantasy playoff performance. This season also saw a few players drafted after pick 100 return great value in Duke Johnson and Jerick McKinnon.

*Other Note(s): The #1 fantasy RB of the 2016 season, David Johnson, only played in 1 game after fracturing his wrist in week 1. Despite a solid year, Devonta Freeman missed 2 games due to a concussion. Ezekiel Elliott put up over 1200 yards from scrimmage in just 10 games despite a 6 game suspension. Ty Montgomery only played in 8 games, losing his starting job and finishing 3rd on the Packers in carries behind Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones.

 

2018 Candidates

 

2018 was the year where we saw ADP begin to catch up with the “Mixon formula” candidates and epitomizes the importance of the formula with how the game of football has evolved in recent memory. Seven of the eleven players who made the list last season ended up having an ADP in the top 25. The candidates? Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette, Melvin Gordon, Kareem Hunt, Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon, Kenyan Drake, Tarik Cohen, Duke Johnson, and Devontae Booker. Here’s how they fared.

Player Rush Attempts Rush Yards Receptions Receiving Yards Total Touchdowns ADP
Todd Gurley 256 1251 59 580 21 1st overall
Alvin Kamara 194 883 81 709 18 7th overall
Leonard Fournette 133 439 22 185 6 8th overall
Melvin Gordon 175 885 50 490 14 9th overall
Kareem Hunt 181 824 26 378 14 10th overall
Christian McCaffrey 219 1098 107 867 13 14th overall
Joe Mixon 237 1168 43 296 9 21st overall
Kenyan Drake 120 535 53 477 9 37th overall
Tarik Cohen 99 444 71 725 8 98th overall
Duke Johnson 40 201 47 429 3 135th overall
Devontae Booker 34 183 38 275 1 150th overall

Overall, it was a very strong year for the candidates. We saw the formula go 5/5 on having the #1 fantasy RB, with Christian McCaffrey in PPR and Todd Gurley in standard format.

*Other Note(s): Leonard Fournette struggled through injury and suspensions, appearing in only 8 games. Melvin Gordon was having his best season to date prior to an MCL sprain in week 12, and only appeared in 12 games. Kareem Hunt was having a phenomenal season in his 11 games prior to being cut due to an off the field incident. Joe Mixon missed 2 games with a knee injury.

The 2019 Candidates

 

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The “Mixon formula” candidates for the 2019 NFL fantasy season! There were a few candidates who came close to making the list like Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette (8 receptions short), Cleveland Browns RB Nick Chubb (10 receptions short), or the San Francisco 49ers RB Matt Breida (3 receptions short), but ultimately the 13 players listed below were the only ones to meet all of the criteria. ADP data is based on fantasy football calculator’s data as of August 12th, 2019 for 12 team standard leagues. So without further ado, here are the candidates!

 

The Elites

 

Saquon Barkley: Barkley appears to be a generational talent at the running back position after a phenomenal rookie season. The Giants have experienced some change in their offensive personnel trading away star WR Odell Beckham Jr. and acquiring guard Kevin Zeitler. For more in-depth information on Barkley, check out Ben Davidowitz’s piece on him.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Saquon Barkley 21 261 1307 5.0 91 721 7.92 1.5

 

Alvin Kamara: The offensive line for the Saints should still be one of the best in the league, despite former pro-bowl center Max Unger retiring. Mark Ingram is gone, and while Latavius Murray is solid, Kamara should have a similar workload to last year where he had the second most red zone touches (72), fourth most targets (105), and 16th most carries (194) among RBs.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Alvin Kamara 23 194 883 4.6 81 709 8.75 2.5

 

Christian McCaffrey: Christian McCaffrey enjoyed a monster season last year where he finished as the best fantasy RB for full PPR. But with Cam Newton healthy again, will his production from last year carry-over? Our own Caio Miari took a look and believes it is possible that McCaffrey puts up a 1000-1000 year this season.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Christian McCaffrey 22 219 1098 5.0 107 867 8.10 2.5

 

Ezekiel Elliott: Ezekiel Elliott is in the midst of a holdout, but as soon as that ends, he will be back to being one of the best running backs in the game. In 40 career games, Elliott has taken 868 carries (21.7 per game) for 4048 rushing yards (101.2 rushing yards per game). Elliott led the league in breakaway runs (23) last year and was second in evaded tackles (95). When he’s on the field, he’s a top 5 fantasy back.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Ezekiel Elliott 23 304 1434 4.7 77 567 7.36 4.3

 

One Small Step, Or One Giant Leap From Stardom?

 

James Conner: Conner was one of the biggest breakouts of last season, filling in for star RB Le’Veon Bell during Bell’s holdout. It remains to be seen how much losing star WR Antonio Brown and offensive line coach Mike Munchak will hurt the Steelers offense, but with all the Pittsburgh offensive line returning and QB Ben Roethlisberger still in the fold, the offense will still be effective. Conner has a nice opportunity to further showcase his talent and once again be an RB1 for fantasy purposes.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
James Conner 23 215 973 4.5 55 497 9.04 8.1

 

Joe Mixon: Joe Mixon officially broke out last year running for over 1000 yards. But can he take another step this year and cement himself as a perennial first round fantasy pick? There are some new variables with the Bengals firing Marvin Lewis and hiring Zac Taylor. The Bengals have seen their starting left guard from last year Clint Boling retire, 1st round tackle Jonah Williams suffer a shoulder injury that will cause him to miss the season, and star WR AJ Green suffer an ankle injury that will cause him to miss the start of the season. Mixon is an incredible talent who had the seventh most yards (449) created among RBs and second most breakaway runs (20), but with a lot of new variables and injuries to his team he’s become a bit of a gamble in fantasy drafts.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Joe Mixon 22 237 1168 4.9 43 296 6.88 14.3

 

Dalvin Cook: Dalvin Cook has struggled with injuries during the first two seasons of his career. But when Cook has been on the field, he’s been phenomenal, evading 66 tackles in just 11 games last season. Mike Zimmer wants his team to put more emphasis on the run this season, which could mean Cook is in store for a big season. For a more in-depth look on Cook check out Frank Costanzo’s piece on him.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Dalvin Cook 23 133 615 4.6 40 305 7.63 16.1

 

Kerryon Johnson: Kerryon Johnson was having a phenomenal rookie season, prior to it being cut short due to an injury. With new OC Darrell Bevell, is this where he takes the next step? Our own QB List writer, Bryan Sweet seems to believe in Kerryon’s upside.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Kerryon Johnson 21 118 641 5.4 32 213 6.66 26.9

 

Stud or Dud?

 

Phillip Lindsay: Phillip Lindsay was one of the most surprising breakouts last year, running for over 1000 yards despite being an undrafted rookie. Going into this year with a new coaching staff, there are concerns about whether he will get the same workload as last year. For more information on Lindsay, I covered him further in a recent “Going Deep” piece.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Phillip Lindsay 24 192 1037 5.4 35 241 6.89 43.7

 

Kenyan Drake: Kenyan Drake showcased the talent last year but has never had the opportunity to be a true bell-cow RB and get 200+ carries. Adams Gase is gone, but could Kalen Ballage obstruct his path to fantasy stardom? Frank Costanzo talked about the Miami running back situation more in-depth here.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Kenyan Drake 24 120 535 4.5 53 477 9.00 60.4

 

Tarik Cohen: Cohen will never be a true bell cow back with his 5’6”, 181 pound frame. I guess he’ll have to settle for being one of the best change of pace/gadget players in the league. Jordan Howard is gone, but in comes newly drafted David Montgomery as well as former Seattle RB Mike Davis. While he’s not a great option for standard leagues, he will be among the best pass catching RBs in the league once again and a strong play in PPR.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Tarik Cohen 23 99 444 4.5 71 725 10.21 73.1

 

Handy Handcuffs

 

Austin Ekeler: Ekeler is in an interesting situation with star RB Melvin Gordon holding out. If Melvin Gordon doesn’t play this year, Ekeler will have a lot more opportunity to shine in the Chargers high-powered offense. It’s tough to say if his efficiency from last year would hold up if he got a larger role (9.4% of Ekeler’s carries went for 15+ yards which was the most in the league). But at his current ADP, he’s an intriguing investment.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Austin Ekeler 23 106 554 5.2 39 404 10.36 77.9

 

Nyheim Hines: Hines will have a role in the Colts offense as a pass catching specialist, but as a runner he’s not very impressive–ranking 51st in true yards per carry, 53rd in evaded tackles, and 55th in yards created per carry. In the event Marlon Mack misses time, Hines’s role would not change.

2018 Stats Age Rush Attempts Rush Yards Yards Per Carry Receptions Receiving Yards Yards Per Reception ADP
Nyheim Hines 22 85 314 3.7 63 425 6.75 NA

 

Personal Favorite Candidates

 

From the “Mixon formula” there are 13 strong candidates to choose from, and I recommend that fantasy owners conduct further research to find the candidates they like best. But for those curious about my personal opinion, my favorites to surpass their expectations from the formula are: James Conner, Dalvin Cook, and Kerryon Johnson. The reason I like these backs is that they not only meet the criteria of the formula and have the talent, they also are in strong situations and will get plenty of opportunities. Using this formula, my personal snake draft strategy would be to pick Conner and Cook at the round 1/2 turn if I have a lower pick. If I was lucky and dealt a high draft selection, I would plan on going for one of “The Elites” (preferably Barkley) in round 1 and get Kerryon Johnson at the end of round 2/beginning of round 3.

Eli Grabanski

I am one of the only Denver Broncos fans born and raised in Wisconsin. One of my life goals is to own a jersey from every NFL team. Follow me on Twitter @3li_handles

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