Do Carries Have an Impact on Fantasy Football Running Backs Down the Stretch?

This article is meant to explore the impact of an increased workload on fantasy football running backs towards the end of the season. It is common knowledge that running backs tend to wear down as the season goes on. However, in the age of the running back by committee is this really true? What type of impact can we expect from an increased workload on an NFL running back?

Going into the fantasy draft we tend to hear statements like: “player X averaged more than 600 carries over the past two years, so his body is likely to breakdown at some point in the season.” While we have not explored the statistical validity of those types of statements my gut tells me there is some truth there. However, the question we are after is if the leagues leaders in carries breakdown or suffer any type of performance degradation toward the end of the current season.

To answer this question we used a data set from the 2008 season containing the league leaders in carrier per game (CPG). We chose to use CPG over carries because the data set would then include players who eventually broke down due to injury. The assumption being that the high CPG contributed to their injury. Alongside CPG we then broke out the splits of avg yards per carry by month. Finally, we calculated a percent change between months and looked at the averages across each month. Note: LT and D.Williams were removed from the data set because they received a significant number of additional carries down the stretch due to a member of their RBBC going down to injury. Ced Benson was also removed as his statistics down the stretch were due to him becoming the primary ball carrier.

Examining raw data that shows each running back’s CPG and yards per game (YPG) per month shows averages per month for Sept, Oct, Nov, and Dec were 4.29, 3.94, 4.41, 3.96. While one could argue for a slight decrease in production in December the results are for the most inconclusive.

Looking at the data as a percent change from month to month we see a decrease in production of 5.5% from Sept->Oct, then an increase of 2.8% from Oct->Nov, and finally a decrease of 9.4% from Oct->Nov. Looking at the data from a percent change perspective appears to be considerably more meaningful. A near 10% drop in production going into the final month of the season is reason for concern. แทงบอลล้มโต๊ะ

Taking a closer look at who is dragging down the group we see a -28.6% drop from Clinton Portis, a -32.7% drop from Steve Jackson, and a whopping -66.7% drop Marion Barber. These backs have the most physical running styles in the league and this is exactly the type of performance cliff you would expect to see from these types of players.

It appears Chris Johnson’s +36.6% and Michael Turner’s +30% production from Nov->December are helping to offset the negative performance of their peers. In fact, this is exactly what we would expect. Those two backs are young and their bodies have not received the grueling exposure to NFL action like the older backs included in the analysis. If we remove Chris Johnson and Michael Turner from the analysis we see a -15.1% drop in production November->December.

This data clearly shows a drop off in production towards the end of the season for the majority of the NFL’s most utilized running backs. The analysis also hints that there is a carry over effect in that the leagues older running backs who have seen plenty of game action tend to wear down at a greater rate toward the end the season.