Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
      
Fantasy Football Today
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Gameday Inactives
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Red Zone Stats
Teams
Schedules
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Teams
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Teams
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

2013 Draft Prep: Warning signs for Draft Day

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Here's a cold, dark reality you probably didn't expect to read in a Fantasy Football column: You're getting old. Whether you're a teenager, a twenty- or thirty-something or a member of the "over the hill" gang, you're getting older. You're even getting incrementally older as you read these very words.

But before you get depressed and do something foolish like quit Fantasy Football for more enriching life experiences, there's good news: You're not alone. Everyone gets older. Even football players.

Even Steven Jackson and Frank Gore.

FREE Draft Kits!
Mike Tolbert
Get everything you need to dominate on Draft Day in one convenient place with our Downloadable Draft Kit, complete with projections, rankings and outlooks for 2013!
Download your Draft Kit now!

Age discrimination is strictly forbidden in the workplace but in Fantasy it's allowed. It's fine to not want a player on your team because he's old, but it might be bad for your win-loss record. That's because it's not age that dictates an eventual breakdown but rather the number of career carries and impactful injuries he's had. This theory is what we've come to lean on going into our eighth year of analyzing older running backs and figuring out when they're ripe for a sudden dropoff in production.

Previously it was assumed that once a running back hit 2,400 career carries that he was ripe for a decline. Significant injuries could accelerate that decline and the only two running backs in recent memory to really go against the grain were Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. But last year we made a change to our formula to better fit the kind of wear-and-tear that backs are taking on in this day and age, and it includes their touches as a receiver out of the backfield.

The basic premise is to take a player's career carry total (including the playoffs but not the preseason) and add it to one-third of the player's career receptions total -- not all receptions end the same way as a carry and after talking with a number of retired running backs on the issue we decided this fraction was appropriate. All told, it creates what we call a "total evaluation number" to better judge just how worn down a guy has become. The higher the number, the closer he is to being a physical liability to his NFL team and, by extension, your Fantasy team. We've identified 2,100 as the warning number for running backs that haven't had a major injury and 1,900 for running backs that have had a major injury.

Here are the notable running backs getting near those totals, along with a handful of other running backs who are at least 30 years old and are not near the point of breaking down.

Carries Rec. Evaluation # Major injury Week 1 age
Ronnie Brown 1,245 239 1,324 31
Frank Gore 2,003 330 2,113 30
Fred Jackson 1,482* 209 1,551* 32
Steven Jackson 2,414 410 2,550   30
Willis McGahee 2,068 212 2,138 31
Darren Sproles 437 342 551 30
DeAngelo Williams 1,181 148 1,230   30

Steven Jackson & Frank Gore

It's at this point where we have to take a deep breath. Two long-standing Fantasy success stories are breakdown candidates according to our analysis, yet both are consensus Top 20 Fantasy running backs this summer. One of them is coming off a season where he helped his team get to the Super Bowl (and posted 321 carries in the process) while the other landed a three-year deal to help a team finally get into the Super Bowl (and has taken on at least 250 carries each of the last five seasons). Steven Jackson and Frank Gore might be too worn out to get excited about drafting and building a Fantasy team around, but they also offer some incredible potential.

Let's start with Gore, who doesn't seem to be showing any sign of slowing down after posting 4.7 yards per carry last season -- but did see his carries shrink a little bit. In 2010, before Jim Harbaugh's staff joined the Niners, Gore averaged 18.5 carries per game. That number dipped to 17.6 carries per game in 2011 when Harbaugh came to town before sliding to 16.1 carries per game in 2012. Yet his production remained fantastic -- he finished last season as the 11th-best Fantasy running back (standard scoring leagues) and posted double-digit Fantasy points in 11 of 16 games.

It all seems like Gore will continue to roll, but the reality is that we haven't seen Gore since he crossed over the 2,100 evaluation number in Super Bowl XLVII. There's no evidence of a decline just yet, but you can't help but think it's coming. If it's not a physical breakdown then it could be a matter of losing opportunities. We've seen his carries decline three straight seasons and we've already seen his receiving skills get shelved (46 catches in 2010; 45 catches in 2011 and 2012). We'll also see Gore split up the running back duties with two other backs: LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter. While neither one can replace Gore's physical style, both could cut further into his work. Gore had just three games with 18 or more carries when Hunter was aiding him; when Hunter got hurt in November the rushing roles were altered and Gore saw more carries (six of eight games with at least 18 carries) while James made a dent in Gore's receiving stats (nine catches total in those eight games). With Hunter and James expected to contribute, Gore's chances of staying healthy might increase, but his production could decrease.

Throw in his body of work and we're looking at a back who can't be counted on as anything more than a fair No. 2 option and can't be drafted until at least Round 4. Suffice to say, he's a risk.

On to Jackson, who doesn't have the young running backs swiping snaps away from him but does have a dangerously high evaluation number: 2,550. In fact, Jackson has enough career carries to qualify as a breakdown candidate based on our original theory with 2,414. But Atlanta doesn't seem to care, signing the veteran after nine seasons of wrecking away (or is that wasting away?) in St. Louis. Atlanta's plan for Jackson is to likely ride him much like they did Michael Turner back when Turner had a better second gear. In those days Turner topped 300 carries and had double digit touchdowns every year (including last year).

The difference could be that the Falcons lean on Jackson more as a receiver and utilize his receiving skills to supplement his role on handoffs and tosses. By doing that they can keep defenses guessing as to whether Matt Ryan will throw or not, a vital element given they were fairly predictable last season when Turner was in versus Jacquizz Rodgers. Turner wound up playing 42.6 percent of the Falcons' snaps while Rodgers worked 45.3 percent of the time, a trend sure to reverse itself this season with Jackson in the fold.

That is, assuming he's healthy. But that's where Jackson has some appeal: the guy is built like a linebacker. Every account, from people with the Falcons to people associated with Jackson to my own personal run-in with him at an airport last summer paints him being in exceptional shape. That has translated to the field as he's missed just two games in his last four seasons -- totaling 1,171 carries in that span -- the most of any four-year span in his career. No one should have any problem accepting Jackson as a professional running back with the chops akin to those who are in the Hall of Fame, potentially making him a candidate to be considered a "special back" like the ones mentioned earlier. He has no major history of injury and has even done a nice job managing his workload with the help of his coaches by trimming some carries over the last two seasons.

Now factor in his spot in Atlanta where he'll see a good amount of playing time in an offense that has enough passing threats to scare off any safety duo in the league. The days of rumbling against eight in the box are over for Jackson and provided he stays on the field he should fall into incredible numbers, including a nice bouquet of touchdowns (if Turner could get 10-plus per season with the Falcons, why can't Jackson?).

I'll stand by research and my analysis, but even I can't tell you that Steven Jackson is a bad, worn down, old Fantasy option -- even with the big, fat red flag next to his evaluation number. He's a risk worth taking this year. If I get a crack at Jackson after the 13th overall pick in drafts this summer, I'm taking him. I think you should too.

Going forward

Whether you draft Jackson or not, he'll prove to be a litmus test for the conundrum we'll have in 2014: Adrian Peterson will top the 2,100 evaluation mark. At least he should, anyway.

Peterson has the fourth-most carries of any active running back with 1,847. Do the math and he's 153 carries away from 2,000. With an evaluation number of 1,907 it won't take much for him to get flagged at the not-old age of 29 in 2014.

While you're probably reading this and thinking to yourself "there's no way I'm going to pass on Peterson this year or next year or the year after that" (and I'm thinking it as I type it, to be honest), it's still something to keep in mind. Eventually, Peterson will slow down, and he won't be the only one. Knowing when it might happen will save you a headache. Enjoy them for now because you'll have an increasingly difficult decision to make on him and others over the next few years.

Carries Rec. Evaluation # Major injury Week 1 age
Matt Forte 1,304 280 1,397   27
Chris Johnson 1,474 231 1,551   27
Maurice Jones-Drew 1,584 299 1,683 28
Marshawn Lynch 1,511 170 1,567   27
Adrian Peterson 1,847 181 1,907 28
Ray Rice 1,404 348 1,520   26

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard .

Want an edge in your draft? Download the Fantasy Draft Kit App.

  •  
 
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
49ers not ready to award Steve Johnson No. 3 receiver role
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:31 am ET) The 49ers aren't ready to declare Steve Johnson as the team's No. 3 receiver. In fact, according to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, the team won't "put numbers" on their receivers. Johnson is fight Brandon Lloyd, Quinton Patton, and rookie Bruce Ellington for snaps this preseason.

When asked if Johnson is the third wideout, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said: "It depends. It depends. I think we'll have some flexibility there."

Brent Celek compiles 41 receiving yards vs. Eagles
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:15 am ET) Eagles tight end Brent Celek made his presence felt with only two catches Thursday night against the Steelers in exhibition play.

Celek came down with a 23-yard grab during the second series of the night. On the ensuing drive late in the first quarter, he caught an 18-yard pass from Nick Foles. He played the entire first half with the starters and finished the game with two receptions for 41 yards.

Darren Sproles scores rushing TD Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:10 am ET) Eagles running back Darren Sproles found the end zone during Thursday's exhibition game against the Steelers.

With LeSean McCoy sidelined after the first two series, Sproles tooke over and scored a rushing touchdown from 1-yard out in the second quarter. He played the entire first half with the starters and finished the game with six carries for 33 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. He was targeted only four times and finished the game with one catch for 4 yards.

Nick Foles not at his best in preseason tuneup
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:04 am ET) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles didn't look impressive Thursday night against the Steelers in exhibition play.

Foles threw a short pass to LeSean McCoy, who turned it into a 22-yard touchdown. He was picked off by Troy Polamalu in the second quarter. He played the first half and compiled 179 yards through the air while completing 19 of 29 passes. He added a touchdown and an interception, registering a 79.5 passer rating.

Foles has passed for 304 pass yards through three preseason games. His next game will likely be the regular season opener against the Jaguars on Sept. 7.

Antonio Brown racks up 59 receiving yards Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/21/2014) Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown bounced back from a slow start in Thursday's exhibition game against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Brown was held without a grab in the first quarter and came down with a 19-yard reception in the second quarter -- his only catch of the half. He bounced back after halftime with a pair of catches. He was targeted five times and finished with three catches for 59 yards, averaging 19.7 yards per grab.

Brown has compiled 173 receiving yards and a touchdown through three preseason games.

Markus Wheaton not on the same page with Ben Roethlisberger Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/21/2014) Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton had a bad drop and endured some communication issues with Ben Roethlisberger Thursday night against the Eagles in preseason action, per the NFL Network. Wheaton finished the first half without a grab and caught passes for 10 and 14 yards in the third quarter. He caught half of his four targets for 24 yards.

"It looked bad. We'll go watch the film, it could be 'this here is wrong, that is wrong,' you fix it and you get rolling," Wheaton said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.


Martavis Bryant scores late-game TD in preseason game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/21/2014) Steelers rookie receiver Martavis Bryant worked with the second-team offense and came down with a touchdown reception Thursday night against the Eagles.

Bryant caught a 25-yards pass in the fourth quarter. Backup Bruce Grad Gradkowski hooked up with the rookie for a short 3-yard touchdown strike on the ensuing drive. He was targeted four times and finished with two catches for 28 yards.

Heath Miller looks like old self in preseason tuneup
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/21/2014) Steelers tight end Heath Miller looked like his old self during Thursday's preseason game against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Miller played deep into the third quarter with the first-team offense. He came down with a 27-yard touchdown grab late in the third quarter. He finished five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown, averaging 10.6 yards per grab.

Darrius Heyward-Bey makes touchdown grab in exhibition game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/21/2014) Steelers wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey hauled in a touchdown Thursday night against the Eagles in preseason action.

Heyward-Bey worked with the backups and caught a 22-yard pass from Bruce Gradkowski in the fourth quarter. He caught all three of his targets for 54 yards and a touchdown, averaging 18.0 yards per grab.

Heyward-Bey is struggling to find a prominent role with his new club. He finished last season with just 29 catches for 309 yards and one touchdown for Indianapolis.

Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount get extended work with backups
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/21/2014) Hours removed from being charged with marijuana possession, Steelers running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount both received extra snaps with the backups deep into Thursday's preseason game against the Eagles in Philadelphia. 

Bell got the start but shared carries and was outplayed by Blount throughout the night. He took nine handoffs for 23 yards, averaging only 2.6 yards per attempt. He caught only one pass for 3 yards while being targeted twice. Blount had seven carries for 32 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per attempt. He caught all three of his targets for 14 yards.

Both players played late into the game as part of a "punishment," according to head coach Mike Tomlin, per the Observer-Reporter.


 
 
 
Rankings