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Which running backs are due to break down?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Once upon a time there was a running back who took the NFL by storm named LaDainian Tomlinson. From the first moment he stepped on an NFL field as a rookie, he made defenses look silly and went on several end-zone trips (he even scored twice in his first game against the Redskins in September of 2001). Tomlinson became not just an all-time great with his team, the Chargers, but a rock-solid cornerstone in the Fantasy Football universe.

But then something happened to L.T. on his way through the NFL: he got older. And as he got older, his production tailed off a little bit at a time. It took a while with Tomlinson thanks to his tremendous skills and ability to stay healthy, but even the team that drafted him and gave him a home for nine seasons saw his diminished talent and cut him.

This year, in his second season with the Jets, Tomlinson will follow in the footsteps of noble running backs before him -- such as Walter Payton and Marshall Faulk -- and take a backseat. He'll work passing downs while Shonn Greene works in the starter's role. Tomlinson will probably get a couple of token touchdowns, but he won't be a sensational Fantasy superhero.

But Tomlinson is not in that secondary role just because of his age (33). It's because of the amount of work he's taken on over his career. That's what has really slowed him down, and it's one of two things that we believe takes great athletic talent away from running backs. The other impact issue? Injuries, of course, and the two go hand-in-hand.

We specifically subscribe to these three factors when evaluating when a running back will decline:

• Significant lower-body injury

• Near or over 2,400 career carries, including the postseason

• The equivalent of eight full seasons registering a high amount of carries, especially when those seasons are consecutive

At-risk rushers for '11

When studying these factors and not the age of a running back, we can figure out when it's time to let an unsuspecting owner draft a veteran. The following running backs are considered "at-risk" running backs, and any one of them with two or more red flags should be avoided for Fantasy purposes for the upcoming season.

Running back Near/over 2,400
career carries
Major
injury
Eight seasons
of work
Age as of
Week 1
Ronnie Brown 1,140   29 (30 in Dec.)
Correll Buckhalter 713   32
Kevin Faulk 935   35
Fred Jackson 647     30
Julius Jones 1,320     30
Thomas Jones 2,650   33
Willis McGahee 1,616   29 (30 in Oct.)
Maurice Morris 829     31
Sammy Morris 709   34
Willie Parker 1,380   30
Clinton Portis 2,300   30
Chester Taylor 1,176     31
Fred Taylor 2,663 35
LaDainian Tomlinson 3,230   32
Derrick Ward 518   31
Brian Westbrook 1,514   32
Ricky Williams 2,333   34

Judging by our criteria, veteran rushers like Ronnie Brown and Willis McGahee aren't at risk of losing their productivity based on physical factors. But they could always see their numbers dip due to not being utilized as much in their offenses.

That's an important factor to bring up. Nowadays most teams use two or even three rushers to handle their run game while leaning on the pass a little more than before. While that tends to water down the stats of running backs impacted, it does extend careers. That makes it even more dangerous to discount running backs just because they're 30! Fred Jackson is a perfect example: A late start to his pro career combined with his reps being limited off and on through five seasons makes Jackson a reasonably safe rusher to trust in Fantasy, not a guy to avoid because he's of a certain age.

In addition, because running backs are sharing the work, the days of one guy taking on the "full workload" that makes up part of our evaluation are dwindling. That also means that these guys aren't accumulating carries as quickly as before. A good example of how this trend is taking shape is on display when checking out the players that are a year away from turning 30.

Running back Near/over 2,400
career carries
Major
injury
Eight seasons
of work
Date of 30th
birthday
Cedric Benson 1,315     Dec. 12, 2012
Ryan Grant 841   Dec. 9, 2012
Brandon Jacobs 1,009     July 6, 2012
Mewelde Moore 484     July 24, 2012
Michael Turner 1,190     Feb. 13, 2012
Cadillac Williams 986   April 21, 2012

Point is, measuring running backs based on eight years of full work and 2,400 career carries could become obsolete. We might have to punt on those categories in a year or two, though there are some running backs that might touch that 2,400 carry total within the next three or four seasons.

Player Career carries Player Career carries
Joseph Addai 1,135 Steven Jackson 1,897
Marion Barber 1,083 Maurice Jones-Drew 1,155
Frank Gore 1,371 Adrian Peterson 1,269

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Report: Vikings, Adrian Peterson can communicate with each other
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:32 pm ET) Now that Adrian Peterson has been moved back to the Commissioner's Exempt list, the Vikings can reach out and communicate with him, according to a report from Pro Football Talk

Peterson had been suspended by the NFL until April 15 and upheld by an arbitrator. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Doty overturned the arbitrator's decision, sending the case back down to go through the CBA. The NFL has removed the suspension, for now, while moving Peterson back to the Commissioner's Exempt list. 

The NFL announced in a statement that it is appealing Doty's ruling

Since the Vikings want Peterson to remain with them, they can now reach out and hold talks directly. While suspended by the NFL, the Vikings were unable to communicate with him. This is an interesting development because the Vikings have publicly stated they want him to stay in Minnesota. 

However, at least one report as indicated Peterson wants to leave and continue his NFL career elsewhere


Falcons release running back Steven Jackson
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:27 pm ET) The Falcons released running back Steven Jackson on Thursday, the team announced.

Jackson was owed $3.75 million in 2015, but with running back Devonta Freeman on the roster, it appears Jackson is expendable. In 2014, Jackson rushed for 707 yards and six touchdowns on 190 carries.

By cutting Jackson, the Falcons saved $3.7 million against the salary cap, reports the NFL Network.


Redskins sign Ricky Jean Francois to three-year contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:58 pm ET) The Redskins signed defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois to a three-year deal Thursday, reports the NFL Network.

The deal is believed to be worth $9 million with $4 million guaranteed. With incentives, the deal can reach $11.25 million.

Jean Francois was cut by the Colts on Monday. In 2014, Jean Francois totaled 28 tackles and three sacks.


Report: Browns believe they still have a shot at Josh McCown
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(6:44 pm ET) The Browns remain confident that they can snag quarterback Josh McCown from the free agent ranks, according to a report from ESPN.com

McCown visited the Browns this week and has also received interest from the the Jets, Bills and Bears. The Browns are in the market for a starting-caliber quarterback with Brian Hoyer possibly leaving in free agency and with Johnny Manziel's status up in the air with the off-field issues hes working through. 

McCown threw 13 touchdowns to just one interception with the Bears in 2013, doing this while filling in for an injured Jay Cutler. His performance earned him a contract with the Buccaneers, though injuries and poor play resulted in a season that saw him throw 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. 

McCown was released by the Buccaneers earlier this offseason. 


Report: Cardinals sign cornerback Damond Smith
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:12 pm ET) The Cardinals signed cornerback Damond Smith on Thursday, reports The Baltimore Sun.

Smith did not play during the 2014 season after being cut by the Chiefs. He has never played in an NFL game.


Chargers officially cut OL Jeromey Clary from roster
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:52 pm ET) Chargers offensive lineman Jeromey Clary announced his retirement in January. However, the Chargers finally removed him from the offseason roster with a failed physical designation, according to the NFL transaction wire. 

Clary did not play during the 2014 season due to two hip surgeries. 

Clary spent all nine of his NFL years with San Diego. 


Chiefs release veteran tight end Anthony Fasano
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:46 pm ET) The Chiefs announced Thursday that they have released tight end Anthony Fasano.

Fasano has been with Kansas City for the past two seasons after stints with the Dolphins (2008-12) and the Cowboys (2006-07). The Cowboys selected Fasano in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft. 

In 2014, Fasano caught 25 passes for 226 yards and four touchdowns. 


NFL plans to appeal ruling on Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) The NFL will appeal the Thursday ruling that reversed an arbitrator's decision on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's suspension until April 15. 

U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled for the NFL to vacate the upheld suspension via arbitration, with the case going back to arbitrator Harold Henderson. Peterson pleaded no contest to reckless assault on his son, which originated with child abuse allegations. 

With the ruling, Peterson will revert back to the Commissioner's Exempt list.

The NFL released a statement on its desire to appeal the ruling. 

"Judge Doty's order did not contain any determinations concerning the fairness of the appeals process under the CBA, including the commissioner's longstanding authority to appoint a designee to act as hearin officer," the statement reads. "Even so, we believe strongly that Judge Doty's order is incorrect and fundamentally at odds with well-established legal precedent governing the district court's role in reviewing arbitration decisions. As a result, we have filed a notice of appeal to have the ruling reviewed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the interim, Adrian Peterson will be returned to the Commissioner Exempt List pending further proceedings by appeals officer Harold Henderson or a determination by the Eighth Circuit Court."

         


NFL on Panthers' Greg Hardy: He hasn't been disciplined
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:11 pm ET) Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy reportedly is ready to immediately file for reinstatement from the Commissioner's Exempt list. However, the NFL's stance at this time is that there is nothing for Hardy to be reinstated from.

“He hasn’t been disciplined," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Charlotte Observer. "There is nothing for him to seek reinstatement from at this point."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell placed Hardy on the Commissioner's Exempt list early this season. Hardy was accused of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, and was found guilty by a judge last summer. However, upon appeal to a jury, the case was dismissed after Holder failed to show up to court and shut off communication with the prosecution. 

Hardy wants to be reinstated to the 53-man roster now that a federal judge ruled in favor of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in his case against the NFL. Judge David Doty ruled that an NFL arbitrator wrongly upheld the league's suspension against him and referred his case back to the collective bargaining agreement. 


Report: Lions to sign linebacker Phillip Hunt
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:35 pm ET) The Lions are on the verge of signing linebacker Phillip Hunt, reports ESPN.

Hunt spent three seasons with the Eagles and totaled 16 tackles. He did not play in the NFL during the 2014 season.


 
 
 
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