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2013 Consistency Breakdown: Running backs

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Consistency Breakdowns: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs

There probably aren't many running backs that come to mind when you think about consistent Fantasy players. Longevity isn't a common thread among rushers and when they do go down they're easy to replace (right, Tampa Bay?).

While this is the case, Fantasy owners have long believed that great running backs are a huge key to winning league titles. It's not necessarily true but it's still important to have strong running backs as part of the Fantasy game. Finding the right one, even in Round 1, is not a sure thing. Take note: Over the last seven seasons, there have been no fewer than four and no more than six running backs who finished as Top 12 options in consecutive years. The turnover is more than 50 percent year-over-year. That's not good -- and maybe enough reason to take another position in Round 1.

Now, while there's a perception that running back production took a major dip in Fantasy last year, the reality is that it didn't. Not unless you consider one-tenth of a Fantasy point a major dip. In 2012 the Top 12 running backs averaged 13.4 Fantasy points per game. That number was 13.3 in 2013, essentially remaining the same. There were 334 times a running back had 10-plus Fantasy points in 2012 -- and in 2013 there were 338. In business that's called "flat growth."

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We're going to have a lot of time to determine the best plan of attack for running backs this season. For now, let's focus on those that hit the 10-point barrier. The equivalent of 100 rush yards or a touchdown and 40 yards, 10 Fantasy points is a positive result for a Fantasy rusher. It's a number Jamaal Charles exceeded in 13 of 15 games this season. It doesn't get any better than that, and unfortunately it's pretty rare.

Finding players who had sneaky-good consistency versus those who posted a lot of Fantasy points but weren't reliable from week to week is an important exercise. If anything, it helps paint a picture of who to go after and who to pass on in drafts next summer. But it also shows the backs that were good enough to rely on week after week alongside those who weren't as good.

Consistent: Knowshon Moreno

Fantasy point average: 13.8 over 16 games / 10+ points: 11 of 16 games (68.8 pct.)
Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 TOTAL
FPTS 5 22 3 14 20 28 10 18 0 10 7 28 14 16 4 9 12 220

Moreno continued a trend that Fantasy owners have long recognized: The main running back behind Peyton Manning has a great chance at putting up numbers. Moreno accomplished just that, finishing as not only the fifth-best running back in Fantasy in 2013, but also the fifth-most consistent. It's easily his best season as a pro, salvaging his career just in time to get a new contract. Moreno's the kind of back most will look at as "old" (he'll be 27 next summer) and unlikely to repeat his big numbers in 2014. But if the Broncos give him a financial commitment this offseason then he'll absolutely be a part of that offense -- and that could mean more steady statistics.

Consistent: Le'Veon Bell

Fantasy point average: 12.3 over 13 games / 10+ points: 8 of 13 games (61.5 pct.)
Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 TOTAL
FPTS 0 0 0 19 0 5 9 10 13 14 8 9 19 7 16 16 15 160

Would you believe that Bell's 11 games with 10-plus Fantasy points could have been so much more? Not only did Bell miss three games with an injury, but he also had two games with nine points, missing out on double digits by seven rush yards and two receiving yards in Weeks 7 and 12! Bell proved to be a solid lead back with good receiving skills (45 catches as a rookie). Between that and his impressive 96.8 total yards per game average, Bell is ticketed for a first-round pick in drafts next summer with the hope he can become more consistent than he was as a rookie.

Consistent: Frank Gore

Fantasy point average: 10.4 over 16 games / 10+ points: 10 of 16 games (62.5 pct.)
Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 TOTAL
FPTS 12 2 10 19 14 10 22 17 0 10 4 3 8 11 8 15 1 166

Gore finished tied for 10th in consistency while falling just eight points shy of being a Top 12 running back. Not bad for a 30-year-old with over 2,200 career carries. While Gore was consistent, he also wasn't an overachiever. Of all the backs with at least 10 games with 10-plus points, Gore averaged the fewest amount of Fantasy points per game with 10.4. He also averaged 4.1 yards per carry -- his lowest rushing average in his career believe it or not -- while catching just 16 passes, second-lowest in his career. As he gets older and the 49ers become even more versatile, it's going to be tough to expect another solid season from Gore.

Consistent: Ryan Mathews

Fantasy point average: 10.9 over 15 games / 10+ points: 11 of 15 games (73.3 pct.)
Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 TOTAL
FPTS 11 5 5 10 0 10 17 0 3 11 13 12 9 19 18 17 15 175

A lot of people will point to Mathews and say he "finally broke out." Not true. Mathews finished as a Top 12 rusher in 2011 and actually had as many total touchdowns as a rookie as he had in 2013. Mathews just got a lot of opportunities -- 285 carries is far and away a career high. The 11 games with 10-plus points is also a career-high -- he had just one last year and nine in his 2011 season. Kudos to Mike McCoy and the Chargers, who found a way to use him very effectively. It figures to be another good year in 2014, if he re-signs with the Bolts.

Inconsistent: Chris Johnson

Fantasy point average: 11.8 over 16 games / 10+ points: 7 of 16 games (43.8 pct.)
Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 TOTAL
FPTS 7 9 9 3 13 5 16 0 29 5 20 7 15 8 15 9 19 189

Here's the three-year trend with Johnson: He's struggles in his first six games before playing better in his final 10. From 2011-13, he's averaged 6.8 Fantasy points per game in his first six, 12.4 in his last 10. That formula has helped him put up just enough stats to finish as a Top 20 Fantasy running back in each of his last three seasons, and a Top 12 guy each of his last two. In 2013, he finished three games with nine Fantasy points, the most of any running back. So if he had posted four more rush yards in Week 2, 10 more in Week 3 and another 10 in Week 16, he would have had 10 games with 10-plus, making him far more consistent. By now you'll know what you're getting with him, making him a decent No. 2 option, depending on where he plays and what his role winds up being.

Inconsistent: Maurice Jones-Drew

Fantasy point average: 8.9 over 15 games / 10+ points: 7 of 15 games (46.7 pct.)
Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 TOTAL
FPTS 4 2 11 2 8 13 4 11 0 13 9 20 13 12 0 6 6 134

On average, MJD was the 16th running back taken on Draft Day and he finished as the 19th. That's not too horrible. Seven games with eight Fantasy points or less? That's kind of horrible. But it was also somewhat expected after Jones-Drew hurt his foot last season and played with a drab Jacksonville offense this year. He had seven games with 10-plus Fantasy points but just one with more than 13 -- that's as many as he had last season when he played only five games. No doubt the arrow is pointing down on Jones-Drew, particularly since his future is very much in flux this offseason.

Inconsistent: Alfred Morris

Fantasy point average: 10.0 over 16 games / 10+ points: 8 of 16 games (50.0 pct.)
Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 TOTAL
FPTS 8 11 13 7 0 14 9 15 18 13 9 5 10 3 5 14 6 160

Last year, Alf was good for a 10-point game 75 percent of the time. This year he did it half the time, a disappointing drop-off for one of the league's young runners. Some obvious factors: Morris had 59 fewer carries and six fewer touchdowns in 2013. Considering that his rushing average was still a very strong 4.6 yards per game, that left about 300 yards on the sideline. That could have come in handy. The good news is that if new Redskins coach Jay Gruden sticks with his philosophies from his days with the Bengals, then Morris should have a stranglehold on the goal-line job.

Inconsistent: Pierre Thomas

Fantasy point average: 7.4 over 16 games / 10+ points: 3 of 16 games (18.8 pct.)
Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 TOTAL
FPTS 5 3 5 3 20 5 0 8 8 22 7 12 2 2 8 0 8 118

Thomas might have been the best Saints running back, but he still left his Fantasy owners wanting more. Thomas had three games with 10-plus Fantasy points and seven with five points or less. Worse yet, the downturn in Thomas' numbers came with a big improvement in touches -- Thomas led all running backs with 77 catches while getting a career-tying 147 carries. Despite the career-high 224 touches, he averaged a weak 3.7 yards per carry (second-worst of his career) and 6.7 yards per catch (a career-low). He didn't have a single run of over 20 yards and only five receptions good for 20-plus yards. Is Thomas' ability fleeting as he turns 30 next December? If so, then the Saints could balk at paying him over $2.5 million for next season.

Consistency Rankings
Rank Player GP FPTS/gm 10+ Consistency Rank Player GP FPTS/gm 10+ Consistency
1 Jamaal Charles 15 19.67 13 86.7% 14 Adrian Peterson 14 13.86 8 57.1%
2 Matt Forte 16 15.69 13 81.3% 14 Reggie Bush 14 12.43 8 57.1%
3 Eddie Lacy 14 14.14 11 78.6% 16 Alfred Morris 16 10.00 8 50.0%
4 LeSean McCoy 16 16.38 12 75.0% 16 Shane Vereen 8 10.00 4 50.0%
5 Ryan Mathews 15 11.67 11 73.3% 16 Doug Martin 6 8.50 3 50.0%
6 Marshawn Lynch 16 14.00 11 68.8% 19 Maurice Jones-Drew 15 8.93 7 46.7%
6 Knowshon Moreno 16 13.75 11 68.8% 20 Steven Jackson 11 9.55 5 45.5%
8 DeMarco Murray 15 12.67 10 66.7% 21 Chris Johnson 16 11.81 7 43.8%
8 Arian Foster 6 13.50 4 66.7% 21 Joique Bell 16 9.44 7 43.8%
10 Fred Jackson 16 10.94 10 62.5% 21 Giovani Bernard 16 9.31 7 43.8%
10 Frank Gore 16 10.38 10 62.5% 24 Rashad Jennings 15 8.47 6 40.0%
12 Le'Veon Bell 13 12.31 8 61.5% 24 Darren McFadden 10 7.30 4 40.0%
13 Zac Stacy 12 12.50 7 58.3%

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 .

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Player News
Rams receiving corps still being sorted out
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:17 am ET) So who predicted Stedman Bailey would lead the Rams in receiving Week 12 at San Diego? Yeah, me neither. But despite entering the game with only eight catches all season, there he was catching seven balls for 89 yards and a touchdown.

It wasn't one of those fluky, flow-of-the-game-type performances either. The Rams only lost by three. Since the injury to Brian Quick in Week 8, no one had emerged as the go-to guy, and the recent change at quarterback only added the opportunity.

So perhaps we shouldn't be any more surprised by this performance than we were by Kenny Britt's four catches for 128 yards and a touchdown last week. Britt, by the way, had only two catches for 37 yards in this one, receiving six targets, which is exactly why you should sit back and see how this situation develops rather than commit big dollars to Bailey.

The opportunity is there for sure, but Rams aren't exactly built to have a prolific passing attack. And so far, no one has sustained anything from one week to the next. Even Quick had to do that before we bought into him in Fantasy.


Dan Herron does fine Ahmad Bradshaw impression
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:02 am ET) The Colts may have lost Ahmad Bradshaw for the season Week 11 against New England, but they didn't miss a beat with his replacement Week 12 against Jacksonville. Dan Herron not only started the game, but he was also the team's leading rusher, picking up 65 yards on 12 carries to Trent Richardson's 42 on 13. And like Bradshaw, he was a factor in the passing game as well, making five catches for 31 yards. Bradshaw himself only once had more than five catches.

Granted, it was against the Jaguars, so let's not go pinning all our hopes on Herron just yet. But if you yourself owned Bradshaw or were envious of the person who did, Herron is clearly a player to target off the waiver wire.

With all the attention opposing defenses pay Andrew Luck and the passing game, Bradshaw's production may have been more a product of the role than anything else, which means it wouldn't take an exceptional talent to put up similar numbers.


Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray tallies 121 rushing yards vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:00 am ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 121 yards on 24 carries and added another 22 yards on two receptions in his team's 31-28 win over the Giants in Week 12.

Murray delivered his 10th 100-yard performance in 11 games Sunday, and he's now up to 1,354 rushing yards, 303 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on the year. However, he hasn't reached the end zone in any of his last four games. Murray has a big showdown against the 8-3 Eagles set for Thursday.


Cowboys QB Tony Romo throws four TDs in win vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/23/2014) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 18 of his 26 pass attempts for 275 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in his team's 31-28 win over the Giants in Week 12.

Romo looked healthy and at the top of his game against a division rival on the road, and it took a game-winning drive with less than three minutes left on the clock to move the Cowboys to 5-0 on the road this season. He hit No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant for two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Romo and the Cowboys have a huge matchup coming up against the Eagles on Thursday. The two teams are tied at 8-3 atop the NFC East.


Giants G Adam Snyder suffers knee injury Sunday, will not return
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/23/2014) Giants guard Adam Snyder suffered a knee injury in his team's matchup with the Cowboys Sunday night and will not return, the team announced. However, tackle Will Beatty (eye) was able to return late in the fourth quarter after being deemed probable.

Denard Robinson picks odd week to struggle
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11/23/2014) Though his Week 12 opponent, the Colts, had struggled against the run, having allowed the third-most yards per carry coming into the game, Jaguars running back Denard Robinson looked more like his predecessor against them, picking up 25 yards on 14 carries.

Meanwhile, his predecessor, Toby Gerhart, was inexplicably productive in limited chances, leading the team with 31 yards on four carries.

Granted, Gerhart's four carries were more or less his usual allotment since Robinson assumed the lead role, so there's no reason to think the Jaguars are having second thoughts about the distribution of carries. Still, given that Robinson had averaged 97.3 rushing yards in his previous four games, including 108 against a tough Dolphins run defense in Week 8, this performance wasn't what his Fantasy owners were expecting to see.

Chalk it up as just a bad day for Robinson and give him another chance Week 13 against a Giants defense that entered Week 12 ranked dead last against the run.


Giants T Will Beatty (eye) probable to return Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/23/2014) Giants tackle Will Beatty is probable to return to Sunday's game against the Cowboys with an eye injury, the team announced. Beatty was one of several players on both sides to suffer injuries in the fourth quarter Sunday night, but it appears the injury is minor in his case.

Timothy Wright predictably annoying
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11/23/2014) Guess who's back in the headlines in Fantasy? The same tight end who sent everyone flocking to the waiver wire after his five-catch, 85-yard, touchdown-scoring performance in Week 5 and his seven-catch, 61-yard, touchdown-scoring performance in Week 8. The Patriots' Timothy Wright did one better Week 12 against Detroit, scoring two touchdowns on five catches for 36 yards.

But here's the problem: Aside from those three games -- which are pretty well spaced apart, you'll notice -- he has a total of six catches for 38 yards.

So should we be flocking to the waiver wire to add him again? A tight end doesn't score two touchdowns every week, you know.

Yeah ... but Wright doesn't do anything, not even catch a pass, every week. Why would that change now? The proper response to this performance is indignation that those two touchdowns didn't go to someone else. Don't make it anything more.


Giants WR Odell Beckham returns to Week 12 action
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/23/2014) Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham returned to his team's Week 12 game against the Cowboys after exiting with a back injury in the fourth quarter.

Beckham piled up 10 catches on 11 targets for 146 yards and two touchdowns before the injury, including a spectactular play on his 43-yard score in the second quarter. He was listed as questionable to return after heading to the locker room to have his injured back examined.


Giants WR Odell Beckham (back) questionable to return Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/23/2014) Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham is questionable to return to Sunday's game with a back injury, the team announced.

Beckham repeatedly destroyed the Cowboys secondary Sunday, racking up 10 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. One of his scores was the favorite for Play of the Year, as he hauled in a deep pass behind his head with just three fingers down the sidelines and landed in the end zone for a score. A pass-interference call on the play was declined. However, Beckham was rattled on a third-down play in the fourth quarter that came up short of the line to gain. He headed to the locker room soon after to be checked out.


 
 
 
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