Fantasy Fact or Fiction: Avoid RBs with 340+ Carries
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Fantasy Fact or Fiction: Avoid RBs with 340+ Carries

I can imagine being back in 4th grade practicing the most overrated skill ever…cursive writing. My teacher would make me write like 30 words 5 times each on one piece of single rule notebook paper. I remember getting back to my desk after impatiently waiting in line to sharpen what was left of my pencil stub. The first few lines looked nice and tight but then my hand started to cramp and the lead started to dull. I began to feel that stupid callous building down on the first joint of my finger, then the words became illegible and before I knew it the lead broke. Granted I wasn't getting paid millions of dollars to learn a skill I would never use as an adult but this is what I imagine happens to RBs starting a new season after finishing the previous with 340+ carries…their lead will break.

This has been a fantasy urban legend forewarned for years and I believe there is enough supporting evidence over the last decade to prove its validity and make you question whether you should draft the only RB in 2011 that crossed over this threshold. He's 5'7", 208 lbs and finished last season as the NFL's leading rusher… Maurice Jones-Drew @Jones_Drew32

Before we get into MJD's 2011 performance, let's take a trip down memory lane. The charts below are a 10 year snapshot of each player's performance compared to their previous year when they had rushing attempts greater than 340. YPC is yards per carry and YPG is yards per game. Each category will list how much that player increased or decreased their stats from the previous year.

Let's begin...

2002/2003

'02 Carries

'03 Rush Yds.

'03 Rush TDs

'03 YPC

'03 YPG

Gm. Missed

Ricky Williams

383

Down 481

Down 7

Down 1.3

Down 30

0

Tomlinson

372

Down 38

Down 1

Up 0.8

Down 2.4

0

Eddie George

343

Down 134

Down 7

Down 0.1

Down 8.4

0

2003 Summary: Ricky and Eddie declined across the board, especially in rushing TDs and yards per game. LT was the only one that maintained some level of status quo, but he also might be the exception to the rule seeing that he was unstoppable from '01 to '08.

2003/2004

'03 Carries

'04 Rush Yds.

'04 Rush TDs

'04 YPC

'04 YPG

Gm. Missed

Rick Williams

392

Retired

Retired

Retired

Retired

Retired

Jamal Lewis

387

Down 1,060

Down 7

Down 1.0

Down 45.3

4

Ahman Green

355

Down 720

Down 8

Down 0.8

Down 40.2

1

Deuce McAllister

351

Down 567

Up 1

Down 0.7

Down 25.9

2

Fred Taylor

345

Down 348

Down 4

Up 0.1

Down 10.9

2

2004 Summary: Ricky retired in '04 after leading the league in carries in '03 with 392. Jamal Lewis ended up missing 4 games and was down over 1000 yards and 7 TDs compared to his previous year. Green and Taylor missed a combined 3 games and both saw declines in YPG and TDs. McAllister increased his rushing TDs by 1 but missed 2 games and had a decline in his YPG as well.

2004/2005

'04 Carries

'05 Rush Yds.

'05 Rush TDs

'05 YPC

'05 YPG

Gm. Missed

Curtis Martin

371

Down 962

Down 7

Down 1.3

Down 44.8

4

Rudi Johnson

361

Up 4

No Change

Up 0.3

Up 0.2

0

Shaun Alexander

353

Up 184

Up 11

Up 0.3

Up 11.5

0

Corey Dillon

345

Down 902

No Change

Down 1.2

Down 47.9

4

Clinton Portis

343

Up 201

Up 6

Up 0.5

Up 7.1

0

2005 Summary: This year seemed to be the anomaly the old dude from the Matrix was talking about. Portis and Alexander had upticks in every category and didn't miss a single game, but alternatively both Curtis Martin and Corey Dillon each missed 4 games and saw a major decline in their YPG. Rudi was the only player that stayed relatively flat.

2005/2006

'05 Carries

'06 Rush Yds.

'06 Rush TDs

'06 YPC

'06 YPG

Gm. Missed

Shaun Alexander

370

Down 984

Down 20

Down 1.5

Down 27.9

6

Edgerrin James

360

Down 347

Down 7

Down 0.8

Down 28.0

0

Tiki Barber

357

Down 198

Down 4

Down 0.1

Down 12.4

0

Clinton Portis

352

Down 993

Down 4

Down 0.2

Down 29.4

8

2006 Summary: Last's year's group might have brought up the average for success, but it was this year's group that brought it back down. Each player's performance declined significantly in every category. Portis and Alexander each lost about 1000 yds and missed more than a quarter of the season due to injury. Alexander also experienced the largest decline in TDs across this 10 year span, but at least he got paid for it.

2006/2007

'06 Carries

'07 Rush Yds.

'07 Rush TDs

'07 YPC

'07 YPG

Gm. Missed

Larry Johnson

416

Down 1230

Down 14

Down 0.8

Down 41.9

8

Tomlinson

348

Down 341

Down 13

Down 0.5

Down 21.3

0

Steven Jackson

346

Down 526

Down 8

Down 0.2

Down 12

4

Rudi Johnson

341

Down 812

Down 9

Down 0.9

Down 36.6

5

2007 Summary: Another down year for all RBs with 340+ rushing attempts. Larry Johnson actually had the highest number of attempts of any player in the last decade, which could explain why 2007 was his Hindenburg. Johnson missed 8 games and experienced a steep depression in rushing yards and TDs. In addition, elite players like LT and S-Jax also took hits in YPG and TDs. Also note that 2006 was the last year Rudi was a relevant fantasy football player.

[There were no RBs who had over 340 carries during the 2007 season so there is no supporting data for 2008.]

2008/2009

'08 Carries

'09 Rush Yds.

'09 Rush TDs

'09 YPC

'09 YPG

Gm. Missed

Michael Turner

376

Down 828

Down 7

Up 0.4

Down 27

5

Adrian Peterson

363

Down 377

Up 8

Down 0.4

Down 23.6

0

Clinton Portis

342

Down 993

Down 8

Down 0.3

Down 31.1

8

2009 Summary: Surprise Surprise!! Another down year and more supporting evidence. Peterson did improve his TD count by 8, but besides that every back decreased their YPG and rushing yards. Turner dropped 828 rushing yards due to a 5 game absence and 2009 was the year Portis disappeared into obscurity.

2009/2010

'09 Carries

'10 Rush Yds.

'10 Rush TDs

'10 YPC

'10 YPG

Gm. Missed

Chris Johnson

358

Down 642

Down 3

Down 1.3

Down 40.1

0

2010 Summary: Ah Ha! I think Coaches and Offensive Coordinators have finally realized it's not wise to put so much stress on their RBs. If there's any indication this belief is spreading just look at how many RBs crossed the 340 threshold in 2009. CJ2K was the only one and while he completed his sophomore campaign with a NFL high 2,006 rushing yards, he followed it up with a massive decline in rushing yards, TDs, YPC and YPG while missing no games.

[There were no RBs who had over 340 carries during the 2010 season so there is no supporting data for 2011.]

As far as I'm concerned, the last 10 years has painted a very clear and revealing picture. Besides the 2005 season where 3 of the 5 RBs actually did better, the majority of backs with 340+ carries did worse the following year. Is it any coincidence that over the last 3 years more and more coaches have moved to RBBC systems and have avoided putting heavy workloads on their primary backs? There is a significant amount of data that validates this fantasy urban legend to be true and absolutely makes me cautious in drafting Maurice Jones Drew this year.

MJD finished 2011 with a league high 1,606 rushing yards on 343 attempts. I congratulate him for setting career high numbers, but I warn any managers looking to draft this small wonder. Jacksonville struggled last season with an offense that ranked 28th overall and I commend MJD for stepping up and helping out his rookie QB, but by no means do I have a warm fuzzy feeling about him repeating his performance in 2012.

History is working against him and in actuality I think he might break his lead.

RDM

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    4 Comments

    WOW, this was RIGHT! MJD got hurt, and didn't do crap in 2012. Somehow I don't think this will happen to AP in 2013 though..

    Posted by:
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    sofingraw 09/03/13 09:01 PM

    AP was down 831 yards from '12 to '13, down 2 TD's, down 1.5 ypc and missed 2 games! This article kind of nails it.

    Posted by:
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    vucadby 03/12/14 04:10 PM

    And then there's Arian Foster from '13 to '14, DOWN 8 games, 882 yards, 14 TDs, and 21 ypg.

    Yikes.

    BTW = LeSean McCoy just led the league in carries and touches.

    Posted by:
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    DarthMonk 05/29/14 02:51 PM

    This is an outstanding article that really added clarity to the RB # of carries debate. Nice going.

    Posted by:
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    CaliforniaKid 06/22/14 10:04 AM

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