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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
Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
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The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


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"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


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(4:17 pm ET) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


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by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:58 pm ET) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
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(3:54 pm ET) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:40 pm ET) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(3:33 pm ET) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
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(3:03 pm ET) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

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Deadlines looming for Saints, Jimmy Graham
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) The Saints have until Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET to sign Jimmy Graham to a longterm deal. Now comes word, via Pro Football Talk, that Graham faces a Monday deadline, also at 4 p.m. ET, to appeal the arbitrator's ruling declaring him a tight end.

The website believes Graham will file the appeal hoping to get a better contract offer from the Saints. If no deal is reached and his appeal is denied, Graham will have to play the 2014 season under the $7 million franchise tag for tight ends, not the $12 million receiver tag he sought.


Andre Johnson's trade value a matter of disagreement
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(2:40 pm ET) Texans receiver Andre Johnson could garner anywhere from a 2nd-round pick to a 5th-rounder in a trade, according to a survey of four executives by the Sideline View's Lance Zierlein. The 33-year-old Johnson reportedly wants out of Houston.

The Houston Chronicle asserted earlier Friday that the Texans won't trade Johnson.


 
 
 
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