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The future of the RB position (1 Viewer)

jeff_eaglz

Moderator
It's my personal belief that the face of the running back position is changing in the NFL. RBBC is more en vogue than ever, an offshoot of the substitution of personnel for various situations at most every other position on the field.The reasons are many, with only one real drawback:Reason 1 - Having two (or more) running backs involved in the offense creates a 2- or 3-headed monster that is the team running back. Having a bruiser to pound the ball up the middle, a speed guy to turn the corner, and a hands guy to go out in pass patterns creates the ideal running back. Reason 2 - The ideal running back is a rare beast. How many athletes at the RB position can run the ball inside and out, turn the corner, pick up third and 2 consistently, and also run a pass pattern that will keep opposing LBs and safeties up at night? Not many. For every LJ, Tiki or LT2 there's a few tandems that try and emulate just that (i.e. Anderson / Bell or FWP / Bettis). Reason 3 - Injuries. Ball carriers get hurt - it is part of the game. Having 2 or 3 RBs that are used to getting touches every game and/or series keeps them ready if they have to go to a bigger role in the overall offense.Reason 4 - There are a growing number of running backs that are gifted athletes in the NFL, both as rookies and as veterans. Witness the depth of the position that even a relatively new team (Houston) has in the backfield - Dom Davis, Jon Wells, and V. Morency, and now they are going to take Reggie Bush. Carolina has a 5-time 100+ yard rusher as their 3rd back. Samkon Gado comes out of nowhere as, what, the 5th string RB to shine for GB this season? Lots of running backs.All this points to RBBC becoming the norm throughout the league. 300+ carry running backs / feature backs may go the way of the dinosaur. I hope it is not true, but don't be the last one to notice the trend.

 

Doug Drinen

Moderator
All this points to RBBC becoming the norm throughout the league. 300+ carry running backs / feature backs may go the way of the dinosaur. I hope it is not true, but don't be the last one to notice the trend.
I'm not saying that things won't go that way, but this trend you speak of has not started yet. Since the season went to 16 games in 1978, here are the number of 300+ carry RBs per season:
Code:
1978          31979          41980          51981          51982          01983          61984          61985          51986          61987          11988          41989          41990          01991          21992          51993          21994          71995          91996         111997          61998         111999          62000          92001         102002          92003         132004          92005         10
There are more teams in the league than there used to be, so here is what the numbers look like if you multiply each number by 32/(teams in league):
Code:
1978        3.41979        4.61980        5.71981        5.71982        0.01983        6.91984        6.91985        5.71986        6.91987        1.11988        4.61989        4.61990        0.01991        2.31992        5.71993        2.31994        8.01995        9.61996       11.71997        6.41998       11.71999        6.22000        9.32001       10.32002        9.02003       13.02004        9.02005       10.0
And here is the average number of carries by each team's leading rusher:
Code:
1978      222.61979      225.31980      210.81981      242.11982      132.61983      245.61984      238.51985      240.01986      221.61987      173.31988      214.81989      224.41990      202.71991      205.91992      226.01993      222.61994      244.11995      252.31996      242.51997      248.71998      259.91999      239.52000      259.92001      248.12002      263.22003      258.62004      254.62005      254.5
That number has, I guess, decreased by about 3% over the last four years, but is still higher than it ever was before 1998.
 
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Chaos

Footballguy
All this points to RBBC becoming the norm throughout the league.  300+ carry running backs / feature backs may go the way of the dinosaur.  I hope it is not true, but don't be the last one to notice the trend.
I'm not saying that things won't go that way, but this trend you speak of has not started yet. Since the season went to 16 games in 1978, here are the number of 300+ carry RBs per season:
Code:
1978          31979          41980          51981          51982          01983          61984          61985          51986          61987          11988          41989          41990          01991          21992          51993          21994          71995          91996         111997          61998         111999          62000          92001         102002          92003         132004          92005         10
There are more teams in the league than there used to be, so here is what the numbers look like if you multiply each number by 32/(teams in league):
Code:
1978        3.41979        4.61980        5.71981        5.71982        0.01983        6.91984        6.91985        5.71986        6.91987        1.11988        4.61989        4.61990        0.01991        2.31992        5.71993        2.31994        8.01995        9.61996       11.71997        6.41998       11.71999        6.22000        9.32001       10.32002        9.02003       13.02004        9.02005       10.0
And here is the average number of carries by each team's leading rusher:
Code:
1978      222.61979      225.31980      210.81981      242.11982      132.61983      245.61984      238.51985      240.01986      221.61987      173.31988      214.81989      224.41990      202.71991      205.91992      226.01993      222.61994      244.11995      252.31996      242.51997      248.71998      259.91999      239.52000      259.92001      248.12002      263.22003      258.62004      254.62005      254.5
That number has, I guess, decreased by about 3% over the last four years, but is still higher than it ever was before 1998.
Great stuff! My gut did not agree with this poster's assertion and I'm glad you pulled the stats to debunk it.
 

MarshallRob

Footballguy
Very interesting. NFL Free Agency started in 1992, about the time that table shows an increase in carries for primary RB's. It's now harder for teams to carry multiple RB's with starting ability. Teams also have less incentive now to maximize the length of a (non-franchise) player's career.

 
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ffball-novice

Footballguy
Very interesting. NFL Free Agency started in 1992, about the time that table shows an increase in carries for primary RB's. It's now harder for teams to carry multiple RB's with starting ability. Teams also have less incentive now to maximize the length of a (non-franchise) player's career.
Thank you for this insight. I was trying to figure out what changed in 94-96.Any other possibilitie?

 

AussieOyOyOy

Footballguy
Change-of-pace backs have always been used. It's only since the boom of fantasy football that people throw fits when a starting RB sits out a series.

 

Family Matters

Footballguy
It's my personal belief that the face of the running back position is changing in the NFL. RBBC is more en vogue than ever, an offshoot of the substitution of personnel for various situations at most every other position on the field.

The reasons are many, with only one real drawback:

Reason 1 - Having two (or more) running backs involved in the offense creates a 2- or 3-headed monster that is the team running back. Having a bruiser to pound the ball up the middle, a speed guy to turn the corner, and a hands guy to go out in pass patterns creates the ideal running back.

If teams did this (like the Eagles have before) D's would have a good idea what was coming based on what personell was in the game at the time.

Reason 2 - The ideal running back is a rare beast. How many athletes at the RB position can run the ball inside and out, turn the corner, pick up third and 2 consistently, and also run a pass pattern that will keep opposing LBs and safeties up at night? Not many. For every LJ, Tiki or LT2 there's a few tandems that try and emulate just that (i.e. Anderson / Bell or FWP / Bettis).

That's why they're called studs and there are few of them. Teams without studs are forced into a RBBC. Teams that have studs love'em. These types are usually game breakers.

Reason 3 - Injuries. Ball carriers get hurt - it is part of the game. Having 2 or 3 RBs that are used to getting touches every game and/or series keeps them ready if they have to go to a bigger role in the overall offense.

Injuries are always a part of the game regardless of stud RB or RBBC. Just ask Philly, Carolina or several others who can attest. They all would take 1 healthy stud (except Reid) over several average guys.

Reason 4 - There are a growing number of running backs that are gifted athletes in the NFL, both as rookies and as veterans. Witness the depth of the position that even a relatively new team (Houston) has in the backfield - Dom Davis, Jon Wells, and V. Morency, and now they are going to take Reggie Bush. Carolina has a 5-time 100+ yard rusher as their 3rd back. Samkon Gado comes out of nowhere as, what, the 5th string RB to shine for GB this season? Lots of running backs.

Some successfuls backs are products of their systems. But I agree there are more quality RB's out there right now than normally it seems.

All this points to RBBC becoming the norm throughout the league. 300+ carry running backs / feature backs may go the way of the dinosaur. I hope it is not true, but don't be the last one to notice the trend.

Finally, it's not happenning. The thing that might be cause for feeling this way is the growth of fantasy football and the detail to which some guys (like yourself) analyze data and team trends. You tend to notice things that you might not of thought of before. And there some writers out there that throw their opinions on the wall and see what sticks. You may have some of their material and questioned if it's true.
This make for an interesting discussion. I think Doug already answered the question but I wanted to respond to your post to. My responses in blue above.
 

BoulderBob

Footballguy
If a team doesn't have a true stud RB, IMO one the top 5 guys in the league, then I beleive it is in a teams best interest to use a RBBC. In the salary cap era a stud RB is a luxury, and most teams will probably start spending the cash on the lines.

 

moleculo

Footballguy
All this points to RBBC becoming the norm throughout the league. 300+ carry running backs / feature backs may go the way of the dinosaur. I hope it is not true, but don't be the last one to notice the trend.
I'm not saying that things won't go that way, but this trend you speak of has not started yet. Since the season went to 16 games in 1978, here are the number of 300+ carry RBs per season:code deleted for brevity

That number has, I guess, decreased by about 3% over the last four years, but is still higher than it ever was before 1998.
could these numbers be reflections of injuries? We had 2 traditionally stud RB's go down this year - Holmes and McAllister. How would this compare to previous years?
 

Doug Drinen

Moderator
Change-of-pace backs have always been used. It's only since the boom of fantasy football that people throw fits when a starting RB sits out a series.
So true. In 1978, Walter Payton was the #1 fantasy RB. His teammate Roland Harper had 240 carries that same year!

In his best season, Earl Campbell ceded 176 carries to Tim Wilson and Rob Carpenter.

Now granted, those two examples were from a time when teams ran more and having a single back take all the carries was simply impossible. But there are more recent examples: in 1989, Thurman Thomas was the #2 fantasy RB. Kenneth Davis went 131/533/6 that year.

 

jeff_eaglz

Moderator
It's my personal belief that the face of the running back position is changing in the NFL. RBBC is more en vogue than ever, an offshoot of the substitution of personnel for various situations at most every other position on the field.

The reasons are many, with only one real drawback:

Reason 1 - Having two (or more) running backs involved in the offense creates a 2- or 3-headed monster that is the team running back. Having a bruiser to pound the ball up the middle, a speed guy to turn the corner, and a hands guy to go out in pass patterns creates the ideal running back.

If teams did this (like the Eagles have before) D's would have a good idea what was coming based on what personell was in the game at the time.
My apologies for omitting my "one real drawback", which is the telegraphing of play calls by personnel packages. Thanks Family Matters for addressing it.
This make for an interesting discussion. I think Doug already answered the question but I wanted to respond to your post to. My responses in blue above.
I agree. Frankly it makes no difference to me if the answer was "yes it is true" or "no there are tons of studs". It just seems that there is a lot of turmoil in the backfield(s) in recent years, and 2006 looks to be no different (or possibly even more tumultous). There seems to be multiple RBBCs slated for 2006 along with a few FA's and a half dozen or more backs coming from the college ranks. Last I checked there was just one ball to go around...The RB stud draft theory is getting harder to attain. My only issue was that if there was a general trend away from studs, either by coaching philosophy or by player availability or ability, then fantasy football would change. Drafting the "RB stud" would be nearly impossible without a feature back, and then there would be 64 RBs out there to consider, depressing their overall worth and creating new fantasy draft theories.

Good discussion.

 

Crippler

IBL Representative
Interesting numbers but is it not true MR. Drinen that passing numbers have gone up overall. I was just having an argument with an owner about the value of a WR to a RB these days in a .5 pt reception league with .5 pt per 10 yds. We do our 1st round draft the day before the NFL draft and he was amazed I had no interest in trading either Boldin or Darrell Jackson for the 1.2 even though he traded Moss for 1.3(Caddy), 1.8(Alex Smith), 2nd rounder(Merriman) and a 1st rounder in 2006 which ended up 1.2. I know I lean more and more to a WR theory in any league that I dont have to have 2 starting RB's. Get one good one and than I dont mind going with a 1-4 in leagues than if I can get nice WR's. In this league I have LT(Green, Barlow, Bell on bench) and than have Chad, Holt, Boldin, Jackson, and WArd starting(Glenn, Jenkins, Rod Smith, Micheal Clayton on bench) and another league with 1 PPR where you dont need a RB I have none with chad, Holt, Wayne, Jackson, Moulds as my starters in a 20 team league. Just my thoughts have gone that you can win with WR's. I did well in both leagues but won no championships this year.

 

jeff_eaglz

Moderator
I had a thought regarding this topic that I wanted to jot down before calling it a night.Regarding Drinen's numbers that he pulled - how many of those RBs are in their first 1-3 years in the league? That is - are the RBs that get 300+ carries a season aging, a la the dinosaur? Are we talking about the Curtis Martins of the NFL world?More tomorrow.

 

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