How To Avoid the Season-Killing Running Back

Jack MeoffCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2008

If you’re not careful, your season can be over before it starts.

Every expert's list of whom to draft and where to draft them is full of guys that are just waiting to take a dump right in your hand. It doesn't matter if a guy is ranked at number five or 105. A bust at 10 is a bust anywhere on the board.

Don’t believe me?

Ask the guy in your league how his season went after he drafted Larry Johnson with the fifth pick last year, or the dude that took Shaun Alexander with the seventh.

I’m just guessing here, but I bet they didn’t make the playoffs.

Running back is the most important position in fantasy football. This year, there are 11 guys who are worth a pick in the first round, and only five of them are sure things.

After that, every back has questions. The task for each owner is to not be the guy who takes this year's Shaun Alexander at the end of the first round.

Fortunately, there are pretty clear indicators on whether or not a running back will break down.


Running backs break down after 30. Look it up.

Major Injury

Nobody recovers from an ACL tear in less then two years at full speed. The only guy who ever did was Jerry Rice back in '97. Two things about that: First off, it was Jerry Rice, and second, his recovery angered the football gods so much that he broke his kneecap while catching a touchdown in his comeback game. You really think you're better than Jerry Rice?


This category is tough. Larry Johnson was the obvious mileage guy last year, and he broke down. This year, I’ll get to the obvious one later (He’s not a first-round pick by any means).

The intriguing pick for this category is LT. Coming into this season, nine guys have had more touches than him before they hit 30. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t draft him, but we can see the end of the road, can't we?


The Late Rounds 

Guys who might go after Round 10. This is where you should be picking your backup QB, your sleepers, maybe your tight end if you've waited that long. This is no place to take a flier on some broken-down old man. 

Shaun Alexander

He fits the age and mileage. It’s been obvious that he’s been washed up for the past two years.

Cedric Benson

I'm just putting him here because I hate him.

Ahman Green

He’s the starter, but he hasn’t been a viable fantasy option since 2003.

Deuce McAllister

He tore his left ACL in Week Three. Then he had microfracture surgery on his right knee in February.

Remember when Amare Stoudemire had microfracture surgery on his knee? Remember how long it took him to recover? On the bright side, he’s only 29, so he won't be completely washed up until he's ready to make his return for the 2009 season.


The Middle Rounds

This is where you should be filling out your starting lineup. The fourth round through the ninth. Your first six picks should all be guys who will start and be productive, and even after that, there's QBs, TEs, and WRs who are bona fide starters that can be had in rounds seven, eight, and nine. 

Rudi Johnson

Rudi doesn’t fit into any of the categories by themselves, but he’s on the border in every case. He’s 28 and has spent the past season battling injuries. Over the past three years, his YPC has dropped from 4.3 to 3.8 to 2.9. Kenny Watson is already the third-down back, and he averaged 4.3 YPC when Rudi was out. 

Thomas Jones

He’s 30, but he hasn’t been a featured back his entire career, so that’s not as bad as it is with other guys. He still averaged just 3.6 YPC last year. Yes, I know his line has been improved. Between Johnson and James, however, he's the one guy I could be wrong on.

I'm not drafting him.

Edgerrin James

30-years old. Over 3,000 career touches. His YPC the past two years has been 3.4 and 3.8. Historically, you don’t hand off to a guy over 300 times a year if he can’t average more then four-yards a carry, but hey, this is the Cardinals we’re talking about.


The Tweener

He'll probably go between picks 30 and 40. He isn't as bad as the guys behind him, but doesn't belong with the guys ahead. 

Reggie Bush

Did you see him run last year? Honestly? (In a reception league, I’d take him in the fourth round, though.)


The Early Rounds

The first three rounds. Your first three picks should carry your team. These two have red flags too big to ignore. 

(Who was on the fringe? Willie Parker. What's it gonna be, Willie? Two touchdowns or ten? Mendenhall's over-hyped, right?)

Ronnie Brown

It takes two years to recover from a torn ACL.

Unless you’re a hockey player. Then it takes like four months.

Larry Johnson

Let’s break this down.

Brodie Croyle is not good. Which means he’ll spend the season facing eight and nine-man fronts.

His offensive line is horrible. Offensive line is the most important unit on the offense. If they can’t get the job done, your offense is going to struggle. Bottom line.

Herm Edwards isn’t a good coach. In fact, you could call him a bad coach.

He’s turning 29. Next year, he'll be 30.

He’s coming off a major injury to his foot. Umm, the foot...supports...the running.

His YPC over the past three years has gone 5.2, 4.3, 3.5. Which means that it’s on pace to drop to 2.8 this year.

(That stat is totally reliable, by the way.)

His defense is horrible. Which means the Chiefs will have to throw the ball to catch up.

Even with the injury last year, he’s carried the ball just as much as anyone else in the last few years. He's third in total touches over the last three years.

He feels more comfortable playing for a black coach.


(You know what? I'm not going to touch that one.)


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