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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
Chip Kelly: Eagles weren't close to trading for Dolphins' Dion Jordan
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) The Eagles were rumored to be making an offer to the Dolphins for defensive end Dion Jordan , but coach Chip Kelly denied that a deal was ever close to completion. 

"We weren't close at all to any deal or trade or player talk in terms of dealing with Dion," Kelly said, per Philly.com.

Kelly confirmed that Jordan's name came up in trade talks with Miami but brushed off the significance. "If you guys know how much organizations talk about trading players, it's every day," he said.  

Jordan played for Kelly in college at Oregon and is suspended for the entire 2015 season after a third violation of the league's drug policy. 


Steelers linebacker James Harrison to see less snaps in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) Steelers veteran linebacker James Harrison is expected to see less snaps in 2015, according to linebackers coach Joey Porter per the Pittsburgh Tribune.

"He knows where he is," Porter said shortly after the Steelers drafted Miami (Fla.) outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo on the final day of the NFL Draft. "I told him already, the James Harrison (of before) is over.

"He's going to play his role, and his role is going to be effective. He knows what we're asking out of him, and he's going to be ready to answer the bell."

Porter said he expects Harrison to play roughly 25 snaps per game next season. Pittsburgh took another outside linebacker in Bud Dupree from Kentucky in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday.

"You can never have enough pass rushers in the way the game is being played now from the outside linebacker position," Porter said. "We just made our outside linebacker tree a little deeper."


Chip Kelly: No trade offers for Eagles' Evan Mathis
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said that the team hasn't received any offers for disgruntled offensive lineman Evan Mathis in the last two years. 

Kelly confirmed that the team gave Mathis' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, permission to seek a trade, per Philly.com

"That's through his agent and him," Kelly said on Saturday. "They've asked if he could renegotiate a contract and see what he could get, and we've obliged him with that, but we've never had an offer." 

Kelly said he didn't know if Mathis would be back with the Eagles next season. "That's a question for Evan," he said.


Raiders have 'open competition' between Jon Feliciano, Khalif Barnes
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) The Raiders drafted Miami guard Jon Feliciano in the fourth round, and offensive line coach Mike Tice has him slated for right guard. 

Feliciano will need to beat out veteran Khalif Barnes to win the job. 

"Right guard and right tackle is an open competition,"  Tice said, per CSN Bay Area. "We’re pretty set on the left and in the middle, and hopefully those guys can maintain their growth. We pointed out some things they can get better at, but the right side is where the competition is."

The candidates for right tackle are Menelik Watson and Austin Howard

"All you want coming in is an opportunity to compete and get better," Feliciano said. "We have that there at the Raiders, and I know everyone is going to go in there and compete. That’s going to be awesome."


Giants' Landon Collins not worried about replacing Antrel Rolle
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) The Giants made safety Landon Collins their pick in the second round of the draft, trading up to get him. That likely means that the Alabama product will get the chance to replace Antrel Rolle, who signed with Chicago as a free agent. 

Collins thinks he's up to the challenge. 

"Starting at Dutchtown [high school], I came in right after Eric Reid," Collins said, per NJ.com. "Then going to Alabama I came in after Mark Barron, Ha Ha Clinton Dix, and Vinnie Sunseri, plenty of big shoes to fill. Stepping into Antrel Rolle's shoes, I'm gonna definitely fill those too and keep it on going."


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by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) Eagles second-round draft pick Eric Rowe met the media, and the defensive back from Utah sounded confident he'll be able to start immediately. 

"It is a really good opportunity for me to come in and play right away," Rowe said Saturday , per NJ.com. "I'm kind of fortunate that it's not a situation that I'm behind [Darrell] Revis." 

Rowe could play corner or sfaety. He doesn't have a preference. 

"I hope that wherever they place me that that's where I stay the whole season," he said. "Just so I can focus on it. If it happens that I need to switch out of necessity, I'll happily do it."


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(5/2/2015) Disenchanted running back Zac Stacy has been traded from the Rams to the Jets, a source has told ESPN. Details have yet to be revealed, though the return on the deal is considered to be minimal.

The last straw for Stacy was the first-round draft of Todd Gurley. Stacy had fallen behind Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham on the depth chart a year ago. After starting 12 games and rushing for 973 yards in 2013, he started five games and rushed for 293 yards last season.

The Jets have struggled to find a featured back in recent years. Chris Ivory led the team with 821 yards in 2014.


Pete Carroll says Seahawks aren't trading Bruce Irvin
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin has been the subject of trade rumors throughout the draft, but coach Pete Carroll put them to rest. 

"Bruce has done a great job for us," Carroll told ESPN. "We love him and we want him to be here. Somebody started that rumor about us wanting to trade him. That's not what's going on."

Carroll also denied that the Seahawks' second-round pick, pass rusher Frank Clark , had anything to do with the possibility of being without Irvin. 


Report: Jets show interest in disgruntled Rams RB Zac Stacy
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5/2/2015) The Jets have inquired about disgruntled Rams running back Zac Stacy, but have yet to make a formal trade offer, the New York Daily News reports.

Stacy fell behind Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham last season, and when the Rams selected Todd Gurley in first round of the draft, he made a public demand to leave St. Louis via trade and release. Stacy met with the Rams on Friday.

Stacy rushed for 973 yards and seven touchdowns on 250 carries in his rookie season in 2013 but managed just 293 yards and one touchdown on 76 carries last season while making just five starts.


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(5/2/2015) The Texans traded wide receiver DeVier Posey, a third-round pick (No. 82 overall), fifth-round pick (No. 152 overall) and a seventh-round pick (No. 229 overall) to the Jets in exchange for a third-round pick (No. 70 overall) on Friday.

Posey was taken in the third round (68th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Texans and racked up only 22 catches for 272 yards and no touchdowns in his three-year run with Houston.


 
 
 
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