Rudi Johnson got a huge workload in 2004 amassing 360+ carries and obtaining the #8 RB fantasy ranking. He had just an average 4.0 ypc that year.
IF your argument held merit, Rudi Johnson would be a consensus first round pick this year. He got 1400+ yards, he scored double digit TDs and he was the perfect example of health. What is not to like there?
But Rudi generally drops into the 2nd round because he isn't viewed as an explosive RB that is going to get you long TDs and get you elite yardage. People tend to think that Rudi will never be the type of RB that is going to make the leap from good to great fantasy RB and I don't think there is a problem with making that assumption. You simply cannot be a top RB without huge TD production, or a very high ypc. Considering how rare it is for RBs to reach into the 15-20+ TD range, I think you NEED a high ypc to be one of the best RBs.
And when I draft a RB in the 1st round, I expect him to have a realistic shot to be the #1 RB at years end. The only way you can really skirt past not having very high rushing totals, is you have impressive reception totals like a Ricky Williams or extremely high TD totals like Priest Holmes, or both.
Okay, now this I mostly agree with. Except if Rudi puts up top 8 numbers, and will continue to do so, then people are missing the boat on a solid top RB if they wait too long to grab him. That means the guy in the second round that grabbed him is going to beat up on the 4-5 guys that passed on him to take that potential HR hitter that won't pan out (last year Deuce, Jamal, Priest and Green are guys that come to mind). While I understand that these guys normally do better than that, there are guys you look at and just say he's going to get fed the rock, no matter how many times he carries it, he won't get hurt and he will get me decent numbers. Ricky and Rudi are fine examples. Eddie George was one of those guys. Corey Dillon was one of those guys. So is Jamal. Ricky had the exception to the rule that he could indeed break one and make you pay, but even if he didn't you would still get good #'s out of him. So it's not essential to your team to find the elite back by NFL standards, just two or three grinders should do the job.
Rudi Johnson has a career 4.0 ypc and has finished in the top10 once. He doesn't amass receptions. I would say he is NOT likely to enter the top10 again next season. And he will not likely enter the top5 in his entire career...
My reasoning behind this? I'll break down your "Rudi comparable RBs and tell you why they are different"
#1 Eddie George was the exception to the rule. He had a low ypc throughout his career (3.6), but he also had one of the most punishing workloads in NFL history. For all the stud Eddie was for a period of time, he only saw 3 top10 finishes in his entire career. Not only that, but Eddie caught his fair share of passes every season as well, averaging over 30 receptions per season in Tennessee (47 and 50 in his 2 top5 seasons). Rudi hasn't shown that ability.
Eddie ended up running out of gas well before his body broke down and his career sputtered. He's basically the classic example of why you CAN'T expect to give your lead RB 350 carries a season and expect him to stay productive. Mirrors Tennessee Coach Jeff Fisher's recent comments, "the 90% workhorse RB in the NFL is dead".
#2 Corey Dillon is a tremendously gifted athlete with a career 4.4 ypc average. Not to mention that he spent the majority of his career on one of the worst teams in NFL history. He had a few seasons there with a ypc hovering around 4 ypc.... and he never had a top5 finish there. Not only that he only managed to finish top10 in 2 of 7 years as a Bengal. Perhaps this has to do with The Bengal's recently dropped the moniker of "The Bungles"? After being traded to New England last year, Corey averaged 4.7 ypc and STILL didn't enter the top5 due to his low reception total.
#3 Ricky Williams he actually has a comparable career ypc average to Rudi. And he has a similar running style. Except for the fact that one year where Ricky was absolutely dominant and rushed for over 1800 yards and was in top5 fantasy RBs, he averaged 4.8 ypc... Ricky has been in the top10 three times, but he also averaged over 45 catches per season... Rudi has less than 45 catches on the career.
Now onto the poor examples who probably aren't as reliable as Rudi. The Ahman Green, Deuce McAllister, Priest Holmes, Jamal Lewis of the world.
#1 Ahman Green - career ypc 4.7. Three career top5 finishes in his 5 seasons in GB. Green's 2003 season will go down as one of the most prolific in fantasy history where he scored 20 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,850 yards... with a 5.3 ypc. In attaining top5 status in 3 of his 5 seasons as the GB starter, Ahman caught an average of over 55 receptions a season.
#2 Deuce McAllister - Career ypc average of 4.4. Deuce has been in the top10 in 2 of 3 seasons as the Saint's featured RB. Both borderline top5 finishes at #6. Deuce has averaged 50 catches a season even if you include his injury plagued 2004 campaign. Deuce is the perfect example of what a first round RB should be. He's shown big play ability, good receiving ability, and the ability to score a high TD total.. I'll bet you $20 dollars that Deuce finishes at a higher ranking in 2005 than Rudi Johnson if both play 16 games.
#3 Jamal Lewis career 4.7 ypc average. Jamal is similar to Rudi in that he doesn't catch a lot of passes... perhaps that is why Jamal only has 1 top10 finish on his career. But in the top10 finish Jamal rushed for over 2,000 yards and was the #4 RB.... Think Rudi has a season like that in him? I don't.
#4 Priest Holmes career 4.7 ypc average. I can't even believe you threw this example out there. PRiest is the epitome of the top tier fantasy RB... He finished as the #2 RB in 2001, and was the #1 overall PLAYER in 2002 and 2003, before falling to the #12 RB in 2004 after playing 8 games. Priest not only has the ability to put up solid ypc and rushing yardage (averages the same as Rudi with 40 less caries), but his receiving ability is matched by only 2 or 3 RBs in the entire league. Even if you factor in his 8 game 2004 season, Priest is still averaging over 55 receptions a season. That combined with KC's TD production, no wonder Priest is a slam dunk barring injury...
So we see several common trends here. ALL the RBs you listed outside of Corey Dillon and Jamal Lewis caught signifcant passes in their career. Corey Dillon has never been a top5 RB, and his top finishes came in 1997, 2001, and 2004. In two of those top10 finishes, he was at 4.7 ypc or higher...
Jamal has one top10 finish in his career. That was the year he had 400 carries and rushed for 5.3 ypc and was a top5 RB. In every year after that his carries and ypc average were lower (but still better than Rudi) and he finishes outside the top10.
NOW onto Rudi. He has one top10 finish on the career where he finished #8 in 2004. That year he averaged 4.0 ypc on 360+ carries and caught only 15 passes. His career ypc average is 4.2, basically below every RB you mentioned besides Eddie George and Ricky Williams.
So in order for Rudi to be a perenial top10 player, or to even BECOME a top5 player, Rudi needs to either
A) Have an incredible rushing ypc at 4.8 or higher (not likely)
B) Catch triple the passes he did last year (extremely unlikely)
C) Have an amazing touchdown season (not likely)
I would argue that in order to reach the top10 again, Rudi would have to see well over 300 carries in 2005 or score 15+ TDs.. He may turn out to be a monster like Eddie George and average over 330+ carries per season.... but he still won't be a top5 RB. He needs those carries just to get into the top10 IMO..