Running backs who turn 30 leave fantasy football owners feeling sick with apprehension.
In reality, 30 is a very young age. It’s when most people start leaning away from their childlike side and find themselves focusing more on adulthood. By the time you’ve reached 30 in the NFL, you’re thought of as a grandpa, an old timer whose years left are limited.
In 2018, three [possible] starting running backs, Bilal Powell, DeMarco Murray, and LeSean McCoy, will be eclipsing the dreaded 30-year mark.
Looking back on 2017, McCoy was the only one of those three to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards (1,138). Both Powell (772) and Murray (659) were mediocre running backs when it came to fantasy value.
Not one running back who was 30 or older in 2017 reached 1,000 yards. The closest was 34-year-old Frank Gore, who finished mere yards away (961). The two 31-year-olds, Marshawn Lynch and LeGarrette Blount, both finished under 900 yards, and 30-year-old Jonathan Stewart finished under 700 yards.
Now let’s dive a little deeper into these players’ 2017 seasons and try to figure out where we would be taking them in 2018 fantasy drafts.
DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans
It is interesting trying to predict how new head coach Mike Vrabel will run his team. Will they be a running team or a passing team? Will they involve Murray around 50% of the time like Mike Mularkey, or will it become the Derrick Henry show? Will he have Mariota do a lot of dump and runs? This would play right into an aging Murray’s hands.
RB catch rate leaders:
1. Dion Lewis: 91.4%
2. Danny Woodhead: 84.6%
3. Kareem Hunt: 84.1%
4. Rex Burkhead: 83.3%
5. Shane Vereen: 83.0%
5. DeMarco Murray: 83.0%
7. Matt Forte: 82.6%
8. Mark Ingram: 81.7%
9. Alvin Kamara: 81.2%
10. Le’Veon Bell: 80.2% pic.twitter.com/z3vq4Y7D3u
— RotoUnderworld (@rotounderworld) February 19, 2018
It will most likely turn into the Derrick Henry show in 2018, leaving Murray similar to Jonathan Stewart’s role in Carolina in 2017. I’m predicting the same stats, 680 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns. Finishing as RB #41, there was no trust in Stewart as a fantasy starter.
Murray will mirror those stats, and we’ll be mirroring the thought process. Drafting Murray would cost you a late 5th round pick as of now. That’s a very steep price for a running back who has the odds stacked against him. In comparison, around the back end of the 5th round you could be choosing Saquon Barkley (current ADP 6.04), Duke Johnson (current ADP 6.06; finished a RB1 in PPR leagues in 2017), or Dion Lewis (current ADP 7.10).
Finishing 30th or worse out of all running backs in YPC vs stacked front, base front, and light front leaves little hope moving forward to the once leading-rusher in the NFL.
If we see a major drop in ADP for Murray, then he could be a talented enough running back to take a chance on. Yet, if you’re taking a chance, then take it on a young guy who could explode (e.g. Kareem Hunt or Alvin Kamara).
Bilal Powell – New York Jets
The Big Apple is desperate for a winning team, as both the Jets and Giants finished with top-6 picks.
The Jets tried to improve their running game last year by drafting a great pass catcher in Elijah McGuire, who has a lot of potential but is still not considered a three-down back. This, coupled with the announcement that Matt Forte will be retiring, leaves the majority of the running game to soon to be 30-year-old Bilal Powell.
Powell might have a little more left in his legs compared to the other two backs in this article; he has never eclipsed 178 rushing attempts in a season in the NFL. He’s also averaged 4.3 yards per carry or better for four consecutive seasons.
The Jets will most-likely be looking to improve their aging quarterback position. Josh McCown played very good football in 2017 but will not be around much longer. It’s expected that the Jets do what they can to draft one of the top five quarterbacks coming out in this April’s draft.
If this is the case, then Powell should see more rushes than he has in the past two years. Todd Bowles and the Jets will want to ease their new quarterback into the system, which might mean 25+ rushing attempts for Powell per game.
If that holds true, Powell could be a good steal where he’s being drafted right now (7.12). In the late seventh or late eighth you may get a guy who could sneak his way into the 250 rushing attempts group.
Looking more in-depth at Powell’s 2017 season, he was on fire when running the ball. He finished with 4.3 YPC against base-front (#13) and 4.9 YPC against light-front (#16). Powell was able to finish sixth-best in the NFL with an average of 1.85 yards created per carry, which is all yards after the first evaded tackler averaged out.
So, when most people are looking at Powell turning 30, on a weaker team, with a new quarterback, and reading that he’s never hit 200 rushing attempts in a season, they overlook him. I would tell you to slide in and get a RB4 who is starting and in the perfect situation to get his due.
LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
For the first time in McCoy’s career, he finished a season with 4.0 YPC. McCoy was also able to eclipse the 10,000 rushing yards mark. On his path to that outstanding mark he’s run the ball 2,185 times. That will take a toll on a human (I’m sure that McCoy isn’t a robot, even though sometimes he may play like one).
Shady leads all RBs in runs of 15+ yards since 2016! pic.twitter.com/LnREJ6zC9I
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 1, 2018
McCoy is still the main guy on a talented team. The Bills squeaked into the playoffs last season, relying on the Shady’s legs, despite the fact that he didn’t score his first touchdown until week six and only scored six touchdowns all season.
Father Time will start affecting McCoy’s stats sooner or later, and I don’t want to be on the wrong end of a 600-yard season. I’m going to be quite timid when it comes to drafting McCoy in the early picks of the second round this year, especially with other, younger running backs still available, like Mark Ingram, Devonta Freeman, Christian McCaffrey, and Jordan Howard. I will have no problem letting McCoy pass me by and go after any of those four.
McCoy, age 29, was able to finish with 97 evaded tackles leading to 507 yards, which both ranked third in the league. However, his .73 fantasy points per opportunity ranked him 73rd.
All in all, McCoy may still have the legs to be a top-tier fantasy running back, but does he have the mileage left?