Saturday, 09 March 2019 00:00

The state of the running game in today's NFL

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Youth is a major indicator of good fantasy football seasons among running backs. For the last two seasons, the top 2 running backs have been under 24 years of age. Youth is a major indicator of good fantasy football seasons among running backs. For the last two seasons, the top 2 running backs have been under 24 years of age. Keith Allison/Flickr

Football has always been a young man's game. That notion has never been more true than at the running back position.

Here, we'll show you one tip when drafting a running back to enhance your team's likelihood of success. This is a simple one.

Today's NFL is all about preserving the running back.

Coaches and general managers now have enough data to know a running back typically lasts 4-5 years on average before seeing a drop in production. The best backs can produce into their 30's. But these are rare cases.

The constant wear and tear at the position causes RB's to get injured over time. This can hurt your fantasy team because you could draft them in one of these down years.

So how do you use this to your advantage in fantasy?

Simple. Go young and draft a lot of running backs in the later rounds.

This will help ensure you get a fresh young back who's ready to produce. It will also give you replacement options in case your back struggles or gets injured. 

A quick telling stat from last season.

Eight of the top 10 running backs in rushing attempts in 2018 were under 24 years of age. This brings us to another point.

Volume is key when it comes to running backs. You want guys who are on the field. And due to many teams opting to go with multiple starting running backs, it's getting harder and harder to find high-volume backs.

In fact, a running back getting 25 carries per game is unheard of these days. The highest last season was 19 per game from Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott finished with 304 carries for the year. The next closest back was New York Giants Saquon Barkley with 261. Over 40 carries less than Elliott.

One other thing to note is both these running backs were under 24 years of age. Elliott is 23 and Barkley 21. These running backs were the top 2 rushers in the league in 2018.

To point out how important youth is, all of the Top 7 rushers in 2018 were under 24 years of age. These include Todd Gurley (24), Joe Mixon (22), Chris Carson (24), Christian McCaffrey (22) and Derrick Henry (24).

Also, in 2017, the two top rushers (Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley) were 22 and 23 years old, respectively.

2017 was a little better for some of the older backs though. LeSean McCoy (29 years old) and Mark Ingram (28 years old) ranked in the Top in rush yards.

There are always outliers. Last season Adrian Peterson eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark at 33 years old.

Quite a feat. One caveat though. Peterson hadn't played more than 6 games in a season since 2015. Indicating the rest he got for three years helped him preserve his body a little.

So as a general rule, it's wise to take several running backs in your draft. Have at least 3 or even 4 on your bench. Still, you should always pay attention to each individual's injury history as well. Beware of young, unproven running backs with knee issues.

Plus, if you have a choice between a younger back (21-24 years old) and a slightly older back (25-27) and both running backs are getting a similar amount of carries, then best to go with the young back.

Photo/Keith Allison

 

Last modified on Saturday, 09 March 2019 18:13
George Banko

George Banko started talking about fantasy football shortly after graduating college. He started as an intern at FFChamps.com before working as a staff writer for Fantasy Knuckleheads. He currently contributes to the Fantasy Hot Read podcast, which is available on itunes. He also educated himself on player evaluation and is a graduate of The Scouting Academy in 2015, which is an online course run by former NFL Scout Dan Hatman. He started Fantasy Football Helpers as a blog in 2011 and converted it to a full-scale website in 2014. Read more.

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We believe Fantasy Football success comes down to two things — opportunity and talent. You will have Fantasy Football mastered once you understand how good a player is and how good of an opportunity he has to gain yards and score touchdowns. The thing is, you'll never master Fantasy Football. But you can get pretty darn good at it when you have even a slightly better understanding of opportunity and talent than the average Joe. That's what Fantasy Football Helpers is dedicated to doing.

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