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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
Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders limited by hip injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Broncos wideout Emmanuel Sanders was limited in practice for the second straight day Thursday due to a hip injury, reports the Denver Post. He's fully expected to start Sunday's game against the Raiders.

Denver, which will clinch a first-round bye with a victory, is a two-touchdown favorite.

Playing with Peyton Manning, Sanders has set career highs with 95 catches for 1,331 yards and nine touchdowns. He caught five balls for 67 yards and two scores in the Week 10 win at Oakland.


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(12/25/2014) The Jets added running back Chris Ivory to the injury report Thursday, saying he was limited by a hamstring injury, reports ESPN.com. Ivory, who's battled hamstring problems in the past, leads New York with 792 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

The Jets are 6-point underdogs in Sunday's season finale at Miami. Ivory was held to 62 rushing yards on 16 carries in the Week 13 home loss to the Dolphins.


Lions WR Calvin Johnson returns to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Lions wideout Calvin Johnson, held out Wednesday due to an ankle injury, returned to a limited practice Thursday ahead of Sunday's NFC North showdown at Green Bay. Johnson caught six passes for 82 yards in the first meeting with the Packers.

Update: Lions RB Joique Bell 'should be fine' for Sunday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Lions running back Joique Bell (Achilles) practiced fully Thursday after being limited Wednesday and "should be fine" for Sunday's game at Green Bay, reports the team's website. Earlier reports indicated Bell's status was in doubt, especially after coach Jim Caldwell replied, "We'll see," when asked if Bell would be able to play.

Bell leads Detroit with 800 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns, including five in the past four games. The Lions are 7.5-point underdogs in the game for the NFC North crown.


Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles limited Thursday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was limited in Thursday's practice with hamstring and ankle injuries, per the team's website. He'll play Sunday against the Chargers in a game with playoff implications.

Kansas City is a 3-point home favorite.


Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe still sidelined
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe missed his second straight practice Thursday due to a shoulder injury. Bowe sprained his shoulder in the Week 16 loss at Pittsburgh.

His status is uncertain for Sunday's home game against San Diego.


Falcons WRs Roddy White, Harry Douglas back at practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Falcons receivers Roddy White (ankle) and Harry Douglas (foot) returned to practice Thursday ahead of Sunday's division-deciding game against Carolina. While wideout Julio Jones (oblique) remained sidelined, he's expected to start opposite White with Douglas serving as the No. 3 receiver.

Atlanta is a 4-point home favorite to capture the NFC South.


Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph not looking good for Week 17
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph remained unable to practice Thursday due to knee and ankle injuries, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It appears he'll miss his second straight game Sunday against Chicago, with Chase Ford getting another start.

Minnesota is a 6-point home favorite.


Bengals WR A.J. Green (arm) returns to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Bengals receiver A.J. Green (bruised bicep) returned to a limited practice Thursday, reports the team's website. Green now seems likely to play Sunday at Pittsburgh with the AFC North title at stake.

Even in an injury-plagued year, Green leads Cincy with 61 catches for 959 yards and six touchdowns. How effective he'll be Sunday night remains to be seen. But Green's return to practice is good news for the Bengals, who are 3.5-point underdogs.

In the first meeting with the Steelers, Green exploded for 11 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown.


Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray out sick Thursday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray won't practice Thursday. He was sent home because he's sick, reports the Dallas Morning News.

Murray, who underwent surgery Dec. 15 on his broken left hand, is fully expected to play Sunday at Washington after getting 22 carries in the Week 16 blowout of the Colts. Dallas is favored by 5.5 or 6 points at Vegas sportsbooks.


 
 
 
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