Lost in the frenzy that is Peyton Manning's record-pace performance -- and, despite failing to exceed 25 fantasy points in back-to-back games, he remains on pace for 441 to easily shatter Aaron Rodgers' quarterback standard -- and all the hoopla this past week concerning his return to Indianapolis, is the fact that his running back is the real fantasy story.
That's right, Knowshon Moreno deserves more attention than he has received, having scored the fifth-most standard fantasy points by any running back to date (105), the sixth-most points per game (14.6), and been the eighth-most consistent player at his position (71.4 percent Consistency Rating). Every metric hails him a top-10 option among running backs going forward, and if you're not willing to accept him as a member of that group, you're severely underrating him.
But such a tack is understandable, if you consider Manning's history.
Change has been the story of Manning's backfields over the years, and since his move to the Denver Broncos last season, he has seen two different running backs make double-digit starts in a mere 23 games (Moreno has 13 starts to ex-Bronco Willis McGahee's 10), another be selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft (Montee Ball) and a fourth make a dark-horse push for the starting job this past preseason (Ronnie Hillman).
CONSISTENCY RATINGS BENCHMARKS
Using 2013 statistics and fantasy points determined by ESPN's standard scoring, the charts contained in this column rate players based upon how consistently reliable they are. To familiarize you with some of the terminology:
Start: The number of times the player's point total in a given week was worthy of having had him active in an ESPN standard league.
Stud: The number of times the player's point total ranked among the top at his position.
Stiff: The number of times the player's point total ranked among the worst at his position, making almost any waiver-wire option a smarter choice.
These are the benchmarks for what constitutes a "Start," "Stud" or "Stiff" performance, numbers identifying the player's rank at his position:
Sat: The number of times the player missed a game. Players are not charged "Stiff" points for sitting out, but it hurts their overall Consistency Rating.
%: The player's overall Consistency Rating, calculated as number of "Start" performances divided by scheduled team games.
In fact, in Manning's past nine healthy seasons (2004-10 with the Indianapolis Colts, 2012-13 with the Broncos), eight different players have started at running back for his team: Joseph Addai 49, Edgerrin James 31, Dominic Rhodes 21, Moreno 13, McGahee 10, Donald Brown 9, Mike Hart 1 and Kenton Keith 1.
Plucking a running back behind Manning might have been a challenging task on a weekly or seasonal basis in the past, but in-season Manning's contributions to the offense have actually made the lucky individual among the most consistently reliable players in football. Consider that in Manning's 135 games played since the beginning of 2004, these are his running backs' -- the running back deemed the week's "starter" -- consistency numbers:
Standard scoring: 71.1 percent Consistency Rating (96 Start, 31 Stud, 6 Stiff)
PPR scoring: 71.1 percent Consistency Rating (96 Start, 32 Stud, 10 Stiff)
In six of those eight completed seasons, in fact, the starting running back behind Manning was "Start"-worthy at least 10 times in the given year. In one of the two seasons in which that wasn't true, 2006, Rhodes started all 16 games at the position, but was outperformed by rookie backup Addai (9 Starts, 2 Stud, 56.3 percent Consistency Rating). It seems that whoever is starting is a surefire weekly fantasy play, and Moreno has an excellent chance to not only start all 16 games behind Manning, but also to be the clearest go-to fantasy option since James' 242-point 2004 campaign.
Ball's drafting owners might wonder why it is that Moreno has exploded onto the scene while the rookie has not; it's Moreno's value as a blocker and picking up the blitz that assures him a hefty weekly snap count. Sure enough, he has played the 10th-most snaps of any running back (290, or 41.4 per game).
Those who follow my colleague Eric Karabell's weekly rest-of-year rankings know that Moreno cracked his top 10 following Week 6. I wholeheartedly agree; those seeking to "sell high" on Moreno might be sorely disappointed to sell him as anything less.
Consistency Ratings chart
Players are initially ranked in order of their Consistency Rating, calculated as the percentage of the player's scheduled games -- not games played, scheduled games -- in which his fantasy point total registered a "Start" score. All categories are sortable, both ascending and descending; just click on the headers to sort.
Players must have at least a 25.0 percent Consistency Rating in either standard scoring or PPR leagues for inclusion in the chart. All defense/special teams are included, regardless of whether they met those minimums.
These statistics are for 2013 only. Statistics for games since 2010 can be found here.