Fantasy Fact or Fiction: Running Backs Over 30
What are you looking for?
 
 
 
 
Football > Commentary > Fantasy Fact or Fiction: Running Backs Over 30

Fantasy Fact or Fiction: Running Backs Over 30

Are RBs effective as they cross over into their 30s? Once again "Fantasy Fact or Fiction" gets the opportunity to explore a well speculated fantasy myth and whether this is something to take into consideration during your draft. There are 3 players that will start 2012 as fresh faced 30 year olds and 5 others that are working hard to prove they still have juice in the tank.

Before I make predictions for the guys mentioned above, we need to establish a baseline of other players that reached this milestone and how they fared. For this analysis I want to look back at 20 inactive fantasy starters that were all draftable during their time and how they performed as they evolved into their thirties. Evaluations are simply assigned as either "Bad", "Good" or "Great".

Emmitt Smith: Great

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

1998

29

Cowboys

16

1332

13

27

175

2

1999

30

Cowboys

15

1397

11

27

119

2

2000

31

Cowboys

16

1203

9

11

79

0

Every rule has an exception or anomaly and Emmitt fits the bill. Turning 30 had no effect on his ability to perform (especially with over 1,500 all-purpose yards during the '99 season). He finished his career in Arizona and even at 35 he still rushed for over 900 yards and 9 TDs.

Ricky Watters: Great

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

1998

29

Seahawks

16

1239

9

52

373

0

1999

30

Seahawks

16

1210

5

40

387

2

2000

31

Seahawks

16

1242

7

63

613

2

Ricky spent his final 4 years in the NFL with Seattle and made the most of it. We're talking about a total of 4,009 rushing yards, 22 rushing TDs, 166 receptions and 1480 receiving yards. His body of work during the twilight of his career was better than his first 3 years in San Fran (23-25 years old) and his following 3 years in Philly (26-28 years old).

Jerome Bettis: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2001

29

Steelers

11

1072

4

8

48

0

2002

30

Steelers

11

666

9

7

57

0

2003

31

Steelers

10

811

7

13

86

0

Bettis was a juggernaut from the beginning; from 1993 to 2001 he had (8) 1,000+ yard seasons and participated in 5 Pro Bowls. When Jerome turned 30 he never rushed for over 1,000 yards again, although in 2004 he did post a career high 13 TDs while only starting 6 games.

Antowain Smith: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2001

29

Patriots

15

1157

12

19

192

1

2002

30

Patriots

15

982

6

31

243

2

2003

31

Patriots

6

642

3

14

92

0

Smith actually played until he was 33, but was his most productive during the '01 season rushing for a career high 1,157 yards. As you can see, once he crossed 30 he declined in production and durability.

Charlie Garner: Good

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2001

29

Raiders

15

839

1

72

578

2

2002

30

Raiders

15

962

7

91

941

4

2003

31

Raiders

9

553

3

48

386

1

Garner killed it as a 30 year old and recorded 91 receptions, 1903 all-purpose yards and 11 TDs in '02. The following year he was still an impact player with 939 all-purpose yards, but also began breaking down and only started in 9 games.

Marshal Faulk: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2002

29

Rams

10

953

8

80

537

2

2003

30

Rams

11

818

10

45

290

1

2004

31

Rams

14

774

3

50

310

1

It's hard to categorize Faulk as mediocre, but in this particular case he was. It's unnecessary to recap the previous 9 seasons before turning 30 (because we're all aware of his domination), but things changed in 2003. Although he grossed over 1,000 all-purpose yards at 30 and 31, it was still a decline to what we've always expected from him.

Curtis Martin: Great

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2002

29

Jets

16

1094

7

49

362

0

2003

30

Jets

16

1308

2

42

262

0

2004

31

Jets

16

1697

12

41

245

2

Age did not slow Martin down and '04 was his best year in 11 seasons; career high in rushing yards (1,697) and attempts (371). He also made the Pro Bowl and was a 1st Team All-NFL selectee.

Eddie George: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2002

29

Titans

16

1165

12

36

255

2

2003

30

Titans

16

1031

5

22

163

0

2004

31

Cowboys

8

432

4

9

83

0

These were George's final 3 years in the NFL. He had an impressive year at 30 with close to 1,200 all-purpose yards, but it was the last time Eddie offered any fantasy relevance.

Corey Dillon: Good

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2003

29

Bengals

11

541

2

11

71

0

2004

30

Patriots

14

1635

12

15

103

1

2005

31

Patriots

10

733

12

22

181

1

Bottom line, Dillon had his best year as a RB when he turned 30. He was given a second chance by Bill Belichick and proved that Cincinnati made a huge mistake letting him go. He also posted 13 TDs during the '05 season (31 years old) and another 13 TDs during his final season (32 years old) before retiring.

Priest Holmes: Good

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2002

29

Chiefs

14

1615

21

70

672

3

2003

30

Chiefs

16

1420

27

74

690

0

2004

31

Chiefs

8

892

14

19

187

1

Priest saw a small decline in rushing yards when he turned 30, but it was offset by an increase in rushing TDs. He was on pace to repeat in '04 (31 years old) before his season was cut short due to injury, but during that 8 game span he put up a respectable 15 TDs and 1,079 all-purpose yards.

Stephen Davis: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2003

29

Panthers

14

1444

8

14

159

0

2004

30

Panthers

2

92

0

2

32

0

2005

31

Panthers

11

549

12

5

45

0

Davis recorded a staggering 1,444 rushing yards at 29 and then (like Keyser Soze) he was gone. He only played in 2 games the following season and then had a small rebound in '05, but by this point it was too late. He lost his versatility, speed burst and durability once he turned 30.

Tiki Barber: Great

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2004

29

Giants

14

1518

13

52

578

2

2005

30

Giants

16

1860

9

54

530

2

2006

31

Giants

16

1662

5

58

465

0

'05 was Tiki's career year with 2,390 all-purpose yards and the first time since 1998 he only fumbled the ball once; if you ever owned Barber then you know how big of a deal that was. He had another incredible year at 31, but then abruptly retired due to issues with Tom Coughlin. The Giants won the Super Bowl in '07 and Tiki was reminded that you shouldn't cut off your nose to spite your face.

Warrick Dunn: Good

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2004

29

Falcons

16

1106

9

29

294

0

2005

30

Falcons

16

1416

3

29

220

1

2006

31

Falcons

16

1140

4

22

170

1

Is there anything bad to say about Dunn? No way! He's been a class act throughout his 12 year span and even as he got older he still brought the heat. Dunn had to reach 32 before he ever had a season with less than 1,000 all-purpose yards and had his best year when he turned 30.

Fred Taylor: Good

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2005

29

Jaguars

11

787

3

13

83

0

2006

30

Jaguars

15

1146

5

23

242

1

2007

31

Jaguars

15

1202

5

9

58

0

'07 was a memorable year for Taylor; he earned a career high 5.4 Y/A, 1,260 all-purpose yards and finally his first invitation to a Pro Bowl. He was 31 years old.

Ricky Williams: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2005

28

Dolphins

4

743

6

17

93

0

2007

30

Dolphins

0

15

0

0

0

0

2008

31

Dolphins

3

659

4

29

219

1

Ricky has always been an enigma, so it shouldn't be any surprise that the above snapshot is just as confusing. 2006 was the year Ricky took his sabbatical and when he reluctantly returned in '07 he played in 1 game and rushed for 15 yds on 6 carries. While most RBs have a lot of wear and tear as they get closer to 30, Ricky had relatively low mileage which helped him play in all 64 games from '08 to '11 before retiring.

Shaun Alexander: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2006

29

Seahawks

10

896

7

12

48

0

2007

30

Seahawks

10

716

4

14

76

1

2008

31

Redskins

0

24

0

1

9

0

Alexander was at an all-time high in '05 with 28 total TDs, but then like a dying star he imploded into a black hole. He ended up finishing his final 3 years in the NFL playing a total of 20 games, scoring 12 total TDs on 1,769 all-purpose yards.

Edgerrin James: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2007

29

Cardinals

16

1222

7

24

204

0

2008

30

Cardinals

7

514

3

12

85

0

2009

31

Seahawks

0

125

0

3

19

0

It sucked seeing James decline like this. I was such a fan when he played in Indy, but turning 30 was not kind. It would be easy to say that injury was the reason, but he did play in 13 games during '08 and had a career low 514 rushing yards. He was given a final chance in Seattle, but James had lost his Edge.

Deuce McAllister: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2007

29

Saints

3

92

0

4

15

0

2008

30

Saints

6

418

5

18

128

1

It was game 3 of the '07 season when Deuce tore his ACL and finished the reminder on IR. He made an inspiring comeback the following year, but only started 6 games and lost carries to Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush -- eventually retiring as a Saint.

Brian Westbrook: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2008

29

Eagles

14

936

9

54

402

5

2009

30

Eagles

7

274

1

25

181

1

2010

31

49ers

5

340

4

16

150

1

Once a PPR nightmare and top drafted RB, Westbrook became a casualty of age and concluded the '09 season with 2 TDs on 455 all-purpose yards through 8 games. Philly ended up cutting ties with Brian and sent him out west to be Gore's back-up. He got another chance to start in '10 when Gore was placed on IR with a fractured hip but didn't really impress.

Jamal Lewis: Bad

Year

Age

Team

Games Started

Rushing Yds

Rushing TDs

Rec.

Receiving Yds.

Receiving TDs

2008

29

Browns

16

1002

4

23

178

0

2009

30

Browns

8

500

0

8

88

0

Jamal's career finished at 30 and not on a high note. He was on pace to duplicate his '08 performance but suffered an injury that placed him on the IR.

Whew…that was longer than expected, thanks for sticking around. In the 20 players identified, 11 did worse as they entered into their 30s, 4 played well and only 5 did better than expected. My advice going into this year's draft is to lower your expectations on some and avoid taking others. Let's take a quick look at 2012's candidates and what they are up against.

Cedric Benson (30) – Benson is still a free agent and Cincinnati has moved on. They acquired Benjarvus Green-Ellis from the Patriots and also drafted Dan Herron from Ohio State. Avoid in all situations.

Brandon Jacobs (30) – Fresh off a Super Bowl victory and straight into a RBBC situation. Jacobs was traded to San Fran where he will be sharing the load with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and newly drafted 2nd round pick LaMichael James. I can't imagine he'll get much playing time (except in possible go-line situations), but even then they now have Randy Moss to cut into those. Avoid in all situations.

Michael Tuner (30) – Still the #1 RB for the Falcons and is coming off a 1,508 all-purpose yard season. Turner will rank in the Top 10 among RBs, but Atlanta won't hesitate to reduce his carries if he struggles (especially with Jacquizz Rodgers waiting in the wings). The one plus about Turner going into this season is that he was limited to 301 attempts last year and played in all 16 games. Avoid drafting him until mid-2nd round.

Fred Jackson (31) – Jackson was on pace for a career year but unfortunately broke his leg and concluded the season on IR. Jackson's leg has fully healed and he has been cleared to practice, making him a Top 15 RB going into 2012. I would take the gamble on Jackson for a few reasons. For one, a naturally healed broken leg is not as concerning as a surgically repaired MCL or ACL. Secondly, even though he's 31 this is only his 6th season, and he has 817 rushing attempts during that span (low mileage). Finally, Buffalo didn't draft any RBs and CJ Spiller is better utilized as a receiving option than a power back. Fred isn't a risk and a solid late 2nd round pick.

Ronnie Brown (31) – Brown is still a free agent after being released by the Eagles, plus I doubt the they will re-sign him seeing as they drafted Bryce Brown from K-State. Unless there is an emergency situation during training camp, no other team will be looking for Ronnie's services. Avoid in all situations.

Willis McGahee (31) – It's hard to hate on Willis because the guy never quits. Recovered from a torn ACL, PCL and MCL during the National Championship game and still had multiple 1,000 yard seasons for the Bills, Ravens and most recently Denver. Knowshon Moreno will more than likely start on the PUP list and Denver drafted Ronnie Hillman from San Diego State in the 3rd round, leaving Willis as the most experienced and ready RB for Peyton Manning's new offense. Peyton will spread the ball around, alleviating some of the pressure Willis endured with Tebow as his QB last season. Draft McGahee as a #2 RB in a PPR league or a flex option in a non-PPR league.

LaDainian Tomlinson (33) – The Jets have moved on and drafted another RB (Terrance Ganaway) to add to an already deep bench of Greene, McKnight and Powell. LT had his least productive year in 2011 rushing for 280 yards and 1 TD and should be officially released sometime soon. I think it's time to say goodbye to one of the greatest RBs of our time. Avoid in all situations.

Thomas Jones (34) – Entering his 13th season and probably the oldest RB that could be drafted. I have not seen any official word on what the Chiefs plan on doing with him, but the fact that Charles is set to return, they brought in Peyton Hillis, still hold Dexter McCluster in high regard and recently drafted Cyrus Gray from Texas A&M I doubt Jones will be playing in Arrowhead come September. Avoid in all situations.

RDM

Related Posts


No Tweetbacks

    2 Comments

    Very interesting article. 30 does seem to be at least the beginning of the end for a lot of RBs, and I will only be looking to draft Jackson or Turner from that list of players. Too much RBBC these days, and not enough touches to go around for the elder statesmen of the position.. Running back seems to be the hamster(disposable pet) of positions these days, use them up and bring in some younger replacements once 30 is looming.

    Posted by:
    Walton Spurlin 05/01/12 07:18 PM

    We have the same opinion. I look at F. Jackson as the only possible pick within the over 30 running back group. Turners schedule is very nice and he is on a very good team, but his carries over the past 3 years scare me some. F. Jackson does not have the mileage that others do at this stage in his career, but he does have C.J. Spiller. I like F Jax, but not to high.

    Posted by:
    Todd Latzke 05/02/12 10:03 PM

    You must login in order to comment:

    If you do not have an account yet, register here -- it's free

    Warning: You don't have cookies enabled in your internet broswer. Without cookies, you will not be able to login. Some web browsers allow cookies to be managed on a per-site basis.