Running backs have very short lifespans in the NFL. They wear down, get hurt, fumble away their jobs, or just stop being good. So I like to look at how a running back finishes the previous season when trying to gauge how well they might play the following season. So I thought I would take a look at the last 8 games of the 2010 season for running backs and then look at how they finished and then look at how backs finished last season and then wildly speculate (i.e. scientifically hypothesize) as to how RBs might finish this season.
So how well did the end of ’10 predict ’11? Well, not too horribly.
Arian Foster finished the 2010 season #1 and then finished #3 overall in 2011. If he hadn’t been injured there’s a good chance he would have been the #1 back once again.
Maurice Jones-Drew is a nice case study. He actually came on strong to end the season as the second best fantasy back, but only ended up 13th for the season. That shows a nice rise in production toward the end of the season that did continue into last season when he led the league in rushing yards and finished as the 4th best fantasy back.
Jamaal Charles got himself hurt.
Ryan Mathews finished with the 4th best average points per game in the 2nd half, but of course he only played in half of those games. His ability was there, but of course staying on the field was the real problem. Last season he was nicked up some, but was able to stay on he field a lot more often and finished 8th overall.
Darren McFadden started 2011 as a top 4 back through the first 6 weeks and then his foot got all lisfracked.
LeSean McCoy finished the season averaging the 6th most fantasy points per game and then finished 2nd in 2011. That’s not too bad.
Ray Rice‘s second half ranking of 7th was nice compared to his first half 19th. He then jumped all the way up to #1 the following season. Those numbers worked out okedoke.
Chris Johnson‘s decline was starting at the end of last season. After starting the first half ranked as the 5th best running back he fell in the second half as he crapped out at 14th. And the same can be said for Peyton Hillis who went from 4th to 12th.
So what can we expect for this season based on the end of last season?
Many of the running backs that finished strong last season have some question marks coming into this season.
Maurice Jones-Drew has had knee problems in the past and very heavy workloads. He does seem to be a guy that keeps himself in amazing condition. Much like Thomas Jones, MJD seems to have the work ethic to last, but of course the body doesn’t always care. I’m a little worried about him after year of carrying the team, but he did finish strong and if healthy he’ll be a top 5 back again.
Arian Foster finished incredibly strong after early season injuries and will be the consensus #1 pick.
Marshawn Lynch and Reggie Bush are two of the biggest enigmas in this running back class. Both finished extremely well and both have been crapola in the past. Bush will be a free agent in 2013 which, if his body holds up (big if I know), then he should have every motivation to work at building on his good 2011 campaign. Marshawn Lynch on the other hand just got paid after playing well in a contract season. I feel better about Lynch holding up for a full season, but I just don’t think Skittles are incentive enough for him to go as hard as he did last season. Bothe have to be up there in the rankings after strong finishes to last season, but I’m still wary.
Michael Bush had a strong second half after Darren McFadden went down but he’s back into the backup role in Chicago. I don’t believe Forte will hold out the whole season, but I do believe Bush is the goal line back. Draft accordingly.
LeSean McCoy actually dropped a smidge in production to end the season, but his production was so high all season it’s not really a thing. The thing is that he will be hard-pressed to find the end zone 17 times again. Draft him for 10 TDs.
Chris Johnson can’t be as bad as he was last season. Can he? He did have a bit of an uptick at the end of last year and should be better with a more opened up offense. I’m still afraid of him because he just looked like a turd in a punch bowl all last season.
Michael Turner is aging rapidly. He’s turning into Jerome Bettis before our eyes. Well, his arse already had, but now his yards per carry are headed that way. Bettis was a fantasy player up to the very end and Turner will be as well, but his yards per carry plummeted in the second half. They would have been absolutely horrid if not for a meaningless week 17 game against the Buccaneers. Jason Snelling will continue spelling him and Jacquizz Rodgers will start to see more work as the Falcons open the offense up more. Of course doomsday isn’t quite here and Turner will get into the end zone. So much will depend on where you can snag him in your draft.
Roy Helu had some nice games in the second half despite Shanahan doing his thing. With the addition of RG III I see Helu as a very nice pick this year. Much like Tim Tebow in Denver for Willis McGahee, the threat of a running QB helps take pressure off the running back. I have a feeling I’ll own Helu in many leagues.