Heavy playoff workloads risk fantasy futures for running backs
Last year's Super Bowl running backs, Pierre Thomas and Joseph Addai, are fantasy cautionary tales. Hold your breath keeper-league owners.
Every breath leaves you one less to your last (
It goes for football players, too. There is only so much tread on the tire, especially when you're talking about the running back position.
If you're holding Jamaal Charles or Ray Rice in your keeper league, you are doing so like this writer: with bated breath. We have these guys held over for next year and we don't want them wearing down the treads for next year's championship.
The average lifespan of an NFL running back is four-to-six years. And those years shorten when you're talking about the added beating of the NFL postseason. Like a fantasy baseball pitcher going over 200 innings before a full playoff run, the juice from a running back's legs tends to disappear after a season of 300-plus carries.
Rice hit that plateau for the first time this year (308 carries), while Charles still hasn't come close. It would take four games of around 18 carries per for Charles to hit that number. (There is no way the Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl, though.)
But both just happen to be finishing their third seasons in the league, by the way. This has to be stated because that was the tenure of last year's Super Bowl winner, in fact: Thomas. The title game's other RB combatant, Addai, was in Year 5.
How did season 2010 go for them? Gonzo, the bad kind of gonzo.
While Addai is finally playing again, Thomas was placed on IR this week and is now out for the season, having totaled just 269 yards (that's yards, not carries) and two touchdowns as a big-time fantasy bust in the early rounds. It wasn't like he was heavily used last postseason, or for his career (411 carries) -- not like Rice or Charles will be ridden by their teams for as long as they're playing games.
In their cases, you cannot hope for an early exit either; they are playing each other. One of them is getting to get blasted by linebackers and strong safeties in the conference semis.
If your keeper running back going into his fourth year exceeds 300 carries (Rice, and that's not to mention the added pounding he took on his 63 pass receptions), and then gets whipped like a donkey in the playoffs, you might consider dealing him for a lower-impact position player like a quarterback or a wide receiver this offseason. Charles gets a pass because of fewer touches and less likelihood of advancing.
Those prime-aged fantasy stars mean far more to their teams' chances than the Saints' Thomas or Colts' Addai ever did, because of the top QBs on their teams. Let's hope your keeper back saves those legs for September-December. Otherwise, the 2011 first round is going to go through some changes in the next few weeks.
Let's take a look at the players trying to work through the pain this weekend. The Saints didn't just lose Thomas, they also placed another running back, Chris Ivory, on IR with a Lisfranc injury. That's a bad one if you have been following fantasy football injuries for backs the last few years.
You cannot name one who has overcome that injury and amounted to anything in fantasy. Have we mentioned running backs take a beating and have short career-spans?
Here are some statuses of the most notable injured NBAers. These guys are in much better shape than Dallas' Caron Butler, who is now out for the season after surgery to repair a ruptured patellar tendon.
January tends to be a time for baseball teams to push ticket sales with caravans and such, but the most notable activity this month is mini-camps. They are voluntary and start next week.
We care about these in fantasy because it is the first contact teams have with most of its players since departing last fall. We get status updates on injured players, most importantly.
You will see a periodic uptick in baseball news items and features. It could be the last wave before pitchers and catchers report in mid-February. We will dive into the figure heads and news more next week.
Eric Mack writes contributes weekly for SI.com. You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice on Twitter