Short shelf life. In dynasty fantasy football, you’ll hear these words uttered whenever there is a discussion of running back value. How long do elite running backs really last? Is it age or carries that dictate how long an RB can stay elite? Should you build around wide receiver instead? When asked these questions by a follower I decided to dig into what history tells us.
I looked at some of the top retired backs who have played in the last decade, to see what the best case scenario might be for current NFL studs like Leveon Bell, Lesean Mccoy, David Johnson, etc. The “dropped off” column refers to how many carries they had before they regressed from the elite player they were.
|Player||Career Carries||Dropped off after "X" carries||1,000 Yard Seasons|
*I recognize receptions are also touches that add up, but don't take an equal toll as a carry so this is a rushing exercise only*
Some interesting findings from this table:
1. Four players dropped off within 18 touches of each other. Edgerrin, SJax, AP, and Lewis all were horses who lost their legs between 2,381-2,399 carries.
2. LT is the only running back in the last decade to stay elite beyond 2,400 carries. He's the goat for a reason.
3. The average drop-off for all backs who cross the 2,000 carry threshold is 2,138 carries.
Using our average drop-off threshold of 2,138 carries, lets take a look at some current NFL running backs to predict how much longer these players may have:
Over the line
Frank Gore - 3,226
Marshawn Lynch - 2,351
LeSean McCoy - 2,185
Nearing the line
Jonathan Stewart - 1,699
Demarco Murray - 1,604
LeGarrette Blount - 1,341
Le'Veon Bell - 1,229
Mark Ingram - 1,183
Doug Martin - 1,150
Lamar Miller - 1,144
A few young studs for reference
Todd Gurley - 786
Ezekiel Elliott - 564
David Johnson - 429
A few takeaways:
1. Wow, what a tank Frank Gore is.
2. LeSean McCoy hasn't showed the same signs of slowing down as the players around him. If he can put together 1-2 more high end seasons he may approach the top of the list.
3. Le'veon Bell's carries are extremely high for his age, if he keeps going at a similar pace he might end up near LT status, or he may come crashing down at an early age.
4. Despite being 26 and viewed as "older", David Johnson is a fresh pup when it comes to tread on the tires.
I hope you enjoyed this information, I love digging into historical trends and seeing what's possible, and what's probable in dynasty. I would use this information when doing rankings, assessing trade value, and determining "sell windows". Ask yourself questions like, "how many high end seasons does player x really have?" Cheers to another season, may all your players stay healthy and productive!