30. It is the answer to the question what is the square root of
900? As a young boy, I thought that was the age people qualified
as being old, but now that I just celebrated my 62nd birthday
I don’t think that’s true at all. For fantasy football
owners, however, the number 30 has just one meaning – it’s
the age, we are told, at which a running back’s production
and fantasy value is said to begin to fall.
Is that fact or myth?
With regards to the current batch of 30-year-old running backs,
the adage appears to be true. In almost every case, as you will
see in the box below, the running back at age 30 were less efficient
than in his years up to age 29.
Even the 2015 rushing champion, Adrian
Peterson, was not immune. Despite a great year after his return
from a suspension, Peterson’s “yards-per-touch” was down 9.1 percent.
Considering only the fantasy-worthy backs on this list, Rashad
Jennings and Danny
Woodhead were the only two who improved after they celebrated
their 30th birthday.
Another eight running backs will hit the “magic number” during
this football season. What should fantasy owners do about the
situation? In dynasty leagues should you trade them for cents-on-the-dollar?
Should you avoid them altogether in redraft leagues?
Let’s look at each player individually:
Charles won't turn 30 until late this season
but after two knee injuries, owners need to be cautious.
Charles is obviously the top name on this list, but a risky fantasy
selection considering his injury history. He’s returning from
an ACL injury suffered last October (his second knee injury in
four seasons) and has yet to be cleared for training camp. An
elite fantasy option when healthy, he’ll have to be closely watched
in training camp and the exhibition season. If you decide to select
him then Charcandrick
West (634 yards rushing, 214 yards receiving, 5 TDs) is a
must-handcuff even if you have to draft him a round-or-two early.
The Patriots use LeGarrette Blount as their battering ram and
the 6-foot, 250 lbs. running back has been very successful in
that role. In three seasons he’s averaged 4.6 ypc and scored 16
rushing touchdowns. Blount suffered a year-ending hip injury last
December, missed all of spring OTAs, and will have to be watched
as training camp begins. Dion
Lewis (ACL) was the star in the New England backfield when
he was healthy last season and predicting what Coach Bill Belichick
has planned each week is always a nightmare. I recommend staying
away as the Patriots’ backfield is migraine-producing and impossible
Starks signed a two-year deal to return to the Packers in March
after putting together his most productive season (601 yards rushing,
392 yards receiving, 5 TDs). Still, he’s limited by starter Eddie
Lacy. However, if Lacy continues to struggle with his weight
and production, James could see an even bigger role, but at the
moment the backup is still only a “handcuff.”
After an injury in 2011, Hightower missed almost four seasons
before returning in 2015. He produced nicely over the final four
weeks and likely helped more than a few fantasy owners win a title
with 169 combined yards and two touchdowns in Week 16. However,
he’s purely running back insurance for a now healthy Mark Ingram
(torn rotator cuff) in 2016 and likely behind C.J.
Spiller and Travaris
Cadet as a third-down back. Another “handcuff” only.
Foster led the all running backs in 2010 (329.8 FPts) and has
finished top-5 in three other seasons, but was released by the
Texans due to an Achilles injury. He expects to be ready for training
camp and could be a valuable asset to both his new team and fantasy
owners if he falls in the right situation. The Dolphins made a
call during the off-season, but most teams will likely wait for
him to work out sometime in July. He’s worth watching.
The punishing running back once again declared himself retired
(June 6), but you never know with Lynch. If his Seahawks run into
a plethora of injuries at running back this season I’m sure he’d
answer a phone call from Coach Pete Carroll. If you are in a 20-25
round draft, he might be worth stashing in the last round.
Bell was one of the league’s best at catching the ball out of
the backfield and in 2014 even rushed for 860 yards. According
to the Detroit Free Press he has a couple of offers in hand, but
we won’t know his value, if any, until we see where he lands.
Bradshaw and Colts quarterback Andrew
Luck had a nice connection in 2014 and the oft-injured back
managed to score eight times (six receiving) along with combining
for 725 yards. But 2015 brought Frank
Gore to Indianapolis and limited Bradshaw’s value even before
a season-ending wrist injury. He’s an unrestricted free agent
and not much is known about his 2016 plans, but they don’t figure
to be with the Colts, who signed Robert
Todman and rookie Josh
Ferguson to back up Gore. Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.