Fantasy files: Running backs and carries

Let’s be simple tonight. Let’s correlate team rushing attempts with the top (projected) fantasy running backs for 2010. We’ll start with the Big Four. Chris Johnson’s Tennessee Titans were fifth with 499 attempts. He had more than 70% of the team’s carries. It’s hard to see either number going down in 2010. Minnesota was 10th in the NFL with 467 carries. ADP had 314 carries (kind of low, really), or about 67%. Jacksonville had 447 carries and MJD had 312 of them (69%). Ray Rice is the low man of the four with 54% of Baltimore’s 468 carries. Don’t forget that he had 78 receptions, leading all running backs.

The Not So Big Four under that, at least by my projections, is Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Michael Turner and DeAngelo Williams. There are good reasons to knock all four but they’re all capable of a crashing the top four. Gore had 229 carries (he missed two games and most of another), but had nearly 62% of the 49ers’ 30th-ranked 371 carries. Michael Turner had more carries by himself in 2008. In 2009 he was hobbled by an ankle injury. Due in part to that, the Falcons passed a lot more. He had 178 carries in 2009, or about 39% of the team’s carries. For a more accurate context, in the ten games that he played the majority of the snaps, he had 64% of the carries. Like that better? DeAngelo Williams, 2008’s top fantasy back, came down to earth a bit in 2009. Williams touched the ball 42% of the time and will get the lowest percentage of carries in this entire group due to the big shadow of Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers were number two in rushing attempts last year and will be top ten for sure again this year. Then we have Steven Jackson, he of the paltry four touchdowns last year. He carried the ball a staggering 79% of the time (324 of 411 carries) for the Rams last year. A suspect line and a rookie quarterback do not help his standing, but that number is impressive.

Carries by themselves don’t mean a ton. You’re discounting receptions, touchdowns, and how much these numbers can fluctuate from year to year. It helps solidify some opinions and put others on shakier ground. Plus it’s all part of the wonderful world of fantasy football.

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