Fantasy Football: 2013 Running Back Review – Rushing Production

Jamaal Charles fantasy football
Cary Edmondson USA TODAY Sports

As the world keeps turning on our positional reviews, we’re moving on to running backs. We’re going to shift focus to spotlight the actual rushing aspect of the position first, then receiving and then touchdown production in the series.

Read more about the 2013 Fantasy Season in Review

Wide Receiver Review – The Target Multiplier

Wide Receiver Review – The Red Zone

Wide Receiver Review – Hallow Routes

Removing receiving from the equation first, these were the top performers on the ground in terms of total points produced. I also added the points per rush attempt column to get a feel on which players were providing owners more efficiency.

 

Player

Team

Att

RUSH PTS

PTS/ATT

LeSean McCoy

PHI

314

212.7

0.68

Jamaal Charles

KC

259

196.7

0.76

Marshawn Lynch

SEA

301

195.7

0.65

Matt Forte

CHI

288

186.1

0.65

Eddie Lacy

GB

284

181.8

0.64

Adrian Peterson

MIN

279

180.6

0.65

DeMarco Murray

DAL

217

164.4

0.76

Knowshon Moreno

DEN

241

163.8

0.68

Alfred Morris

WAS

276

161.5

0.59

Frank Gore

SF

276

160.8

0.58

Ryan Mathews

SD

285

159.5

0.56

Fred Jackson

BUF

207

143.6

0.69

 

Everyone here came with significant volume, with everyone over 200 carries and all but three over 250 attempts. McCoy and Lynch were the only backs this season to receive 300 attempts or more, the second time in three seasons that only two backs reached that mark. Prior to the 2011 season, when only Michael Turner and Maurice Jones-Drew had that amount of volume, there were at least five backs in every NFL season to garner over 300 carries for 15 straight seasons. We already knew the game was converting to becoming more passing oriented as well as incorporating more backfield committees, but you really get the full effect looking when looking at something that had happened annually from 1994 through 2010. There were five backs in 2012 that had that amount, but two out of three years is probably more than a coincidence.

Mathews, Morris and Gore weren’t as effective as the other leaders, but they were solid performers that came with volume. Murray was actually as good as Charles per attempt, but had the second lowest carry total here behind Fred Jackson, who was the only back here in a true timeshare. Everyone clamoring for Dallas to run the ball with Murray more this season had more than ample cause.

Big Volume, Small Results

Short and sweet let’s pull up the five worst performers per attempt that came with big volume (over 200 attempts on the ground).

Player

Team

Att

RUSH PTS

PTS/ATT

Ray Rice

BAL

214

88

0.41

Maurice Jones-Drew

JAX

234

112.6

0.48

DeAngelo Williams

CAR

201

98.3

0.49

Chris Johnson

TEN

279

139.7

0.50

CJ Spiller

BUF

201

102.7

0.51

 

Ray Rice actually finished 31st overall in total fantasy points created solely on rushing performance. Whether you attribute that to playing through injury or build up from accumulating an average of 403 touches per season (including the postseason) the four years prior, he had arguably the most disappointing season of any running back to play the majority of the season considering his cost in August.

The other disappointment is Spiller. He was 26 percent worse per carry than Jackson was on nearly identical carries. A big component was a seven touchdown difference between the two, but those who were looking for big touchdown production from him in the first place were living on a prayer to begin with. The real bugaboo to Spiller’s fantasy letdown will reveal itself in the subsequent reviews.

Efficiency With Low Volume

Player

Team

Att.

RUSH PTS

PTS/ATT

Donald Brown

IND

102

89.7

0.88

LeGarrette Blount

NE

153

115.2

0.75

Andre Ellington

ARI

118

83.2

0.71

Rashad Jennings

OAK

163

109.3

0.67

Joique Bell

DET

166

109

0.66

Mike Tolbert

CAR

101

66.1

0.65

Darren McFadden

OAK

114

70.5

0.62

Montee Ball

DEN

120

74.1

0.62

 

By looking at players who still had over 100 carries but didn’t receive enough volume to vault their overall number of points gives a good look at some efficient and underused backs.

Get to know Donald Brown; he’s going to be appearing throughout this series. Whether he was motivated by his career reaching a crossroads when the Colts added Trent Richardson or not will always be officially unknown, but he had a superb season in terms of production per opportunity. On 112 fewer attempts he had more rushing points than Ray Rice on the season.

Running backs attached to Peyton Manning tend to be fantasy factors as Moreno showed up earlier and Ball appears here. If Moreno isn’t brought back into the fold, Ball will be smack in the middle of the running back one discussion next season, regardless of what kind of talent you believe he has. Manning has made fantasy stars out of Joseph Addai and now Moreno, so Ball will be an easy buy in 2014.

Ellington is sure to be a summer time swoon for many this year and he’ll be appearing more as well as we go along. Used more as a receiver this season, he more than held his own the ground and his totals aren’t weighted by significant touchdown totals. That’s going to be my big red flag on him coming into 2014, but I can already see him being handled by our community to a lesser extreme version of the way Spiller was handled this offseason.

The Bad

Player

Team

Att

RUSH PTS

PTS/ATT

Willis McGahee

CLE

138

47.7

0.35

Bernard Pierce

BAL

152

55.6

0.37

Trent Richardson

IND

188

72.3

0.38

Doug Martin

TB

127

49.6

0.39

Ray Rice

BAL

214

88

0.41

Bilal Powell

NYJ

176

76.9

0.44

Pierre Thomas

NO

147

64.9

0.44

Andre Brown

NYG

139

63.2

0.45

Lamar Miller

MIA

177

80.9

0.46

Danny Woodhead

SD

106

50.9

0.48

Maurice Jones-Drew

JAX

234

112.6

0.48

DeAngelo  Williams

CAR

201

98.3

0.49

 

A couple of repeat names appear when looking at the 12 worst performers per attempt, so we can shift our focus elsewhere.  The inclusion of Pierce helps the cause for 2014 Rice apologists. His poor performance as well means the terrible play of the Baltimore offensive line as a whole had a significant effect on Ravens runners.

Woodhead and Thomas are known and drafted for their receiving acumen, so seeing them struggle here is no real surprise. McGahee was a band-aid that was used to fix a gash in the Browns offense and was largely avoided in fantasy circles entirely even though he was a starter. Powell had a two-week high point but then quickly trickled down the fantasy drain along with the entire Jets offense in 2013.

Richardson apologists will no doubt point to him not grasping the playbook immediately, the Colts offensive line woes and not having Dwayne Allen as significant factors for a rebound in 2014. Tell that to Donald Brown. It’s better to just swallow facts that we as a whole missed on Richardson coming in and we can lead better lives going forward.

I also believe that there’s a good chance that we could be having a Richardson-like conversation about Martin if he would’ve played the entire season. In hindsight, the defenses he faced where some of the best in the league against the run (Jets, Cardinals, Eagles) and he played the majority of his time while Josh Freeman was still under center, so that may save him some face. He still is largely working around the performance of a few big games against a large amount of duds, though, so he is sure to be a polarizing back this season.

Next up we’ll slide into the receiving component, which may or not have a reappearance of our friend, FPPRR.

Okay, spoiler alert, it will.

*Stats provide by ProFootball Reference.com

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