Now that preseason games are starting, there is no better time to talk about Fantasy Football. The other day, I received encouraging word that one of my players, Terrell Owens, might be 100% recovered from his torn ACL he injured earlier this spring. Despite TO’s on and off the field detrimental antics to his teammates, he has actually been an outstanding and consistent fantasy player. In his 15 year career he has scored at least 50 fantasy points 14 times, and was top ten in wide receiver scoring in ten of those seasons. Likewise, other Hall of Fame bound receivers, Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison, had similar productive careers. This got me to thinking, how do running backs compare? Do they have as long or as consistent careers as receivers? I looked at fantasy scoring in the past ten seasons, and the career paths of the top WR and RB’s, and noticed some interesting trends:
- Of the top ten overall scorers at both positions in the past decade, there were 97 50 pts+ seasons for WR’s, while only 74 for RB’s.
- When looking at the top ten ranked RB’s and WR’s on draft boards this year, only three of the RB’s were even in the league five seasons ago (Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Michael Turner-a backup then), while six of the WR’s were active.
- When looking at those same top ten ranked players, the RB’s only have a combined 28 50 pts+ seasons, compared to 43 by WR’s.
- Not only are the RB’s careers shorter in comparison, but the stats are declining since NFL teams are increasing the use of “running backs by committee”. The top ten RB’s averaged 340 carries, 1,540 yards, and 15 tds in 2005, but now only 312 carries, 1,340 yards, and 11 tds, a 10-20% decline.
While 50 pts+ seasons might not win yearly leagues, for keeper or dynasty leagues, in which you keep 8 players season to season, the consistency is gold. For instance, if you had Michael Vick, Peyton Hillis, and Arian Foster on your team last year, you probably won the title, but would not have kept any of those players going into the season. Seven to ten year veteran WR’s like Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, and Andre Johnson are still in their prime and are in the top ten in their position. Meanwhile, younger veteran RB’s Turner and Jackson mentioned earlier are beginning to wear down and are a year or two from the 30 year old drop off. When looking at this year’s draft class, rookies Daniel Thomas, Mark Ingram, Ryan Williams, DeMarco Murray, and Roy Helu will be drafted early in hopes of a handful of 100 pts+ seasons. Meanwhile, WR’s like Julio Jones, AJ Green, and Greg Little are more likely to produce a decade of 50 pts+ seasons, which is more productive in the long run and an better model for a dynasty league.