How many carries is too many? Last year, one of the most hotly debated issues was whether or not to take a risk on a RB who carried the football more than 350 times. The prominent examples last year were Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings and Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons. Peterson went on to have a fantastic year, scoring 18 total TDs on another 314 carries. Michael Turner started out like gang busters until an ankle injury cut his season short in Week 10. Was it related to his 350+ carry season? Perhaps, however I would like to propose that another factor was in play — the additional grind that goes along with participating in the NFL playoffs.
A 16-game schedule is hard enough on RBs, whose bodies are pounded on every play. Whether they carry the ball, catch it, or stay in the pocket to protect the QB, RBs are constantly hammered by opposing defenses. When you factor in the additional toll that playoff games take on a RB’s body, it is no wonder that only seven out of 17 playoff RBs from the 2008 season went on to have a successful 2009 fantasy campaign.
Those 2008 playoff RBs:
Those who were obviously successful were Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Jonathan Stewart, and Joseph Addai. Hightower caught 63 balls and scored eight TDs with over 1,000 all purpose yards. McGahee scored 14 total TDs, though he only gained 544 rushing yards. DeAngelo Williams was on his way to a monster campaign until he tweaked an ankle and sat out your fantasy playoffs. He gets credit here though, as he played in 13 games.
Of those seven successful RBs, only two of them played more than one playoff game in 2008 (McGahee and Hightower) and neither was the feature back for his team.
As for the rest of the 2008 RBs:
- Turner, Brown, and Westbrook all missed significant time due to injury.
- Jacobs played in 15 games, but was plagued all season with various ailments and finished with only 835 yards rushing.
- Willie Parker lost his job to a younger Rashard Mendenhall, and McClain lost his job to Ray Rice and McGahee.
- Ward signed a $17 million contract to lead Tampa Bay’s ground game, but never could establish himself as the Number 1 RB and finished with only 114 carries on the year.
- Tomlinson failed to live up to his ADP, failing fantasy owners all over the world, and Sproles never did replicate his monster playoff performances of 2008 in the 2009 season.
- James was out of football entirely in 2009.
What is the lesson learned? My advice is to be very cautious when selecting RBs who played substantial roles in the 2009 postseason tournament, especially if they played more than one playoff game.
The 2009 playoff RBs:
Is Peterson still as attractive now that you know he played two playoff games and amassed 51 carries? How about Rice, who toted the rock 35 times in two games? Greene and Thomas each played three playoff games and 19 games overall; they are expected to be selected by the third round in redraft formats. Using the same ratio as in the 2008 example, we could expect 12 of the above playoff RBs to lay a dud this year.
With that said, the 2010 season is uncertain and special players are able to succeed when the odds are against them. Therefore, I’m not telling you to take Michael Turner over Ray Rice with the fourth pick in a standard redraft, but now you have more information to help you make a more informed decision.
Litz has been playing fantasy sports since the late 80s - back when it was all referred to as rotisserie and as commissioner, kept track of the leagues with a USA Today and a pencil. It's a passion of his during the NFL season. Thanks to the Fantasy Cafe for providing a forum for enthusiasts like us to get together. You can find Litz posting in the Cafe forums as joejlitz.
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