Yesterday I ran a table of the No. 1 wide receivers on the league's worst teams -- the 46 teams since 2000 that won 3 or fewer games. Since I had those teams assembled, I thought I'd look at how the No. 1 running backs on those teams performed in those seasons. The results were surprising.

In my head, I figured the No. 1 wide receivers would do OK, since those losing teams would be passing a lot and piling up late production. And I figured most of the No. 1 running backs would finish with modest numbers, since it's hard to run when you're losing games. Yes, there'd be some busy pass-catching running backs who'd put up top numbers, like D'Andre Swift (pictured), but I didn't figure that would be really common. And yet, strong performing No. 1 running backs on lousy teams happened a lot.

About a third (15) of those 46 teams had a top-15 PPR running back. Almost as many (14) had a runner finish in the top 30 at the position. That 29 of 46 ratio (63 percent) was better than the wide receiver numbers (a total of 23 top-30 players, so 50 percent, with just 8 of them finishing in the top 15). Granted, teams start 2 wide receivers and 1 running back, so a top-30 running back isn't as impressive as a top-30 wide receiver. But in fantasy terms, you're about as happy to have a running back perform that well, since the position is usually harder to fill. Clearly, then, at least in PPR formats, there's no reason to avoid No. 1 running backs from teams you expect to be terrible (David Montgomery would be a good 2022 example).

Some of those backs on bad teams were indeed helped by receiving production, of course. Eight of the backs on this list, all top-30 running backs, put up at least 400 yards in the passing game.

But: nearly a quarter (11) had 1,000-yard rushing seasons. You wouldn't think a 3-13 team would be churning out 1,000-yard running backs, but it happened almost 25 percent of the time. If I looked at all 13-3 teams (perhaps a future factoid) I don't know that the odds of having a 1,000-yard runner would be dramatically better.

Steven Jackson is the king of bad team running backs. Four times on a team that won 1, 2 or 3 games, Jackson ranked in the top 15 at the position. That's pretty remarkable. As with the wide receiver table, top-15 backs are in bold and top-30 are in italics.

YearTeamWinsNo. 1 RBRunRecTDRk
2021Detroit Lions3D'Andre Swift617452715
2021Jacksonville Jaguars3James Robinson767222824
2020Jacksonville Jaguars1James Robinson1070344107
2020New York Jets2Frank Gore65389246
2019Cincinnati Bengals2Joe Mixon1137287813
2019Washington3Adrian Peterson898142532
2019Detroit Lions3.5Kerryon Johnson403127454
2018Arizona Cardinals3David Johnson940446109
2017Cleveland Browns0Duke Johnson348693711
2017New York Giants3Orleans Darkwa751116536
2016Cleveland Browns1Isaiah Crowell952319714
2016Jacksonville Jaguars3T.J. Yeldon465312234
2016Chicago Bears3Jordan Howard1313298710
2016San Francisco 49ers2Carlos Hyde988163918
2015Cleveland Browns3Duke Johnson379534224
2015Tennessee Titans3Antonio Andrews520174346
2014Tampa Bay Buccaneers2Bobby Rainey406315240
2014Oakland Raiders3Darren McFadden534212236
2014Tennessee Titans2Bishop Sankey569133244
2014Jacksonville Jaguars3Denard Robinson582124438
2013Houston Texans2Ben Tate771140430
2013Washington3Alfred Morris127578720
2012Kansas City2Jamaal Charles150923669
2012Jacksonville Jaguars2Maurice Jones-Drew41486254
2011St. Louis Rams2Steven Jackson1145333610
2011Minnesota Vikings3Adrian Peterson9701391315
2011Indianapolis Colts2Donald Brown64586538
2010Carolina Panthers2Mike Goodson452310338
2009Detroit Lions2Kevin Smith747415521
2009St. Louis Rams1Steven Jackson141632248
2009Tampa Bay Buccaneers3Cadillac Williams823217726
2008St. Louis Rams2Steven Jackson1042379815
2008Detroit Lions0Kevin Smith976286817
2008Kansas City2Larry Johnson87474540
2007Miami Dolphins1Ronnie Brown602389523
2007St. Louis Rams3Steven Jackson1002271615
2006Detroit Lions3Kevin Jones689520812
2006Oakland Raiders2Justin Fargas65991148
2005Houston Texans2Domanick Williams976337615
2005New Orleans Saints3Antowain Smith65946345
2004San Francisco 49ers2Kevan Barlow822212724
2002Detroit Lions3James Stewart1021333621
2002Cincinnati Bengals2Corey Dillon1311298716
2001Buffalo Bills3Larry Centers160620423
2001Detroit Lions2Cory Schlesinger154466328
2001Carolina Panthers1Richard Huntley665101338

So, theories. Certainly, receiving production on losing teams, especially in PPR, is a factor. But there are a lot of solid finishers on this list (Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris, Jordan Howard) who didn't do a lot in the passing game.

One thought I have is that the team being a doormat actually benefits some of these backs' usage. Losing teams (perhaps with struggling, lesser quarterbacks) sometimes play things close to the chest, emphasizing the run and trying to stay close and pull out a low-scoring win at the end. And then you have the teams who, because they're out of contention early on, aren't bothered by things like keeping running backs fresh for the postseason or limiting workloads -- they just send that featured back out there for his weekly 20-plus carries and grind the season to its disappointing close. Personal milestones might also play more of a factor when team goals have become moot points by November. "We're 2-10, so let's go get James Robinson his 1,000 yards."

Bottom line, I was surprised by the number of down-bad teams that had solid or even strong fantasy options at running back. Maybe they won't be cranking out 10-12 TD seasons, but plenty of touches and yards, both as runners and receivers, are more reliable than you might think.

--Andy Richardson