Which Fantasy Football Running Backs Could Fall off in 2012?

Chet Gresham@Chet_GFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2012

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia EaglesOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Each year there is a pretty good chance that the top fantasy running backs will have trouble repeating their top fantasy running back numbers. In retrospect we can give you a dissertation on why they didn't repeat, but before the season starts not so much.

So, how do we figure out who might fall into the fantasy abyss, grabbing you like a Balrog with his flaming whip?

Hmm, I hadn't thought of that. Thanks for asking. Let's see how running backs fare from year to year with this handy-dandy little chart.

It wasn't too long ago that fantasy running backs repeated their number one rankings. Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson all did, but in the last four seasons it hasn't happened. This probably has something to do with more running-back-by-committees in the NFL. But what I notice more from this chart is the fact that there is around a 50 percent turnover of top ten running backs each season.

For the most part, those five running backs that fall out of the top 10, usually do so because of injuries. But there are always a few that just don't play up to their potential. Chris Johnson is a huge example.

So who might fall back to earth this season? Let's pontificate.


LeSean McCoy

I love me some Shady McCoy. The dude can flat out play football. So why is he on this list? Mainly because I believe he was lucky to score 20 touchdowns last season. And not lucky as in, McCoy sucks and isn't good enough to score 20 touchdowns, but lucky as in his touchdown rate was much higher than normal (16 attempts per TD) and with Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin banged up and Desean Jackson alligator arming everything, he became pretty much the sole means of scoring. That's lucky in that he had more opportunities than he should have.

I also took a look at big touchdown years for running backs and how they finished the following year. You can check it out in more detail here, but overall the numbers for running backs from 2000 to 2010 look like this:

Running backs with 12-plus touchdowns: 83 

More touchdowns the following season: 10 (12 percent) 

Less touchdowns the following season: 66 (80 percent) 

Same number of touchdowns the following season: 3 (seven percent)

The odds are against LeSean McCoy to repeat or improve on 20 touchdowns. Only four running backs in the history of the NFL have accomplished that feat.

The good news is he doesn't need to score 20 touchdowns to be a top-10 fantasy running back. Say he drops all the way to 10 touchdowns, which I believe is a decent possibility, he still is a top running back with the amount of work he gets in the passing game.


Adrian Peterson

Even with his late season injury, Adrian Peterson still finished as a top-10 back, which makes five years running. Can he make it six years in a row?

I truly wish I had a good answer to that question. Peterson is a physical specimen and is already running hard and cutting, just 6 months after mutilating his MCL, ACL, and some other CL's only Peterson has.

Right now Peterson is going off the board in mock drafts as the 12th running back or at the end of the second round, beginning of the third. I am not one to shy away from "injury risks" when it comes to fantasy. But those are players that I know have recovered completely from an injury. Adrian Peterson has not. Running and cutting is one thing, but running and cutting with 300 pound men falling on you, is a completely different thing.

As we get closer to the season and more and more reports come out about how great Peterson is doing (without ever getting touched), his ADP will most likely get lower and lower and I'll start liking him less and less in fantasy.


Maurice Jones-Drew

In the last three seasons, MJD leads all running backs in carries with 954 and is tied with Chris Johnson with 1083 total touches. That's 361 touches a year. During that span he also had offseason knee surgery.

The Jaguars offense is inept at best and Jones-Drew is really the only weapon they have. This is a good and bad thing. As a fantasy team owner we want to know our players are the go to guys, but that also gives them more opportunities to wear down and get hurt. 

Opposing defenses will key him into submission if they can. With no real way to take the pressure off him in this offense, I just can't justify taking him near his ADP of sixth overall.