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Workhorse running backs

300-carry backs, one year later

In the comments to an article about Jonathan Taylor last week, a reader asked if his heavy workload last year should be a concern for how he'll perform this year. Taylor carried the ball 332 times, one of two (with Najee Harris) 300-carry running backs last year.

I took a look at all the other running backs to have at least 300 carries in the last 20 years. There have been 91 other backs, so about 4-5 per year. How did they fare a year later?

For the purposes of the study, I wanted to look at running backs who actually played the next season. That removed Ricky Willliams (who stepped away after a 300-carry season) and would have removed Barry Sanders (who retired) had I gone back a little further. But 91 backs is about as big a table as I'd want to run.

Anyway, the numbers look pretty decent as far as the chances of Taylor and Harris coming right back and putting up good numbers in 2022.

Of those 91 previous backs, just over half of them (46) came right back and were top-12 fantasy backs (PPR) a year later. A quarter (23) finished in the top 5. Pretty good odds of pulling a No. 1 running back (in 12-team leagues) out of those 300-carry backs one year later.

More than two-thirds (64 of 91, which is 70 percent) of those backs finished in the top 20 a year later. Obviously if you draft Taylor or Harris in the first round you're looking for more than a top-20 running back. But still, that's a weekly fantasy starter in every league, and there's something to be said for that. (Additional note: what an awesome back LaDainian Tomlinson was.)

Table shows rushing stats and total touchdowns from the 300-carry seasons, followed by their rushing, receiving, touchdowns and PPR rankings the following year.

YearPlayerPrev YrAttRunRecTDPPRRk
2011Ray Rice, Balt.307-1220-6291136470415376.91
2006L. Tomlinson, S.D.339-1462-20348181550831483.31
2005Shaun Alexander, Sea.353-1696-2037018807828378.81
2003Priest Holmes, K.C.313-1615-24320142069027447.01
2009Adrian Peterson, Min.363-1760-10314138343618332.92
2007L. Tomlinson, S.D.348-1815-31315147447518367.82
2005L. Tomlinson, S.D.339-1335-18339146237020368.62
2003L. Tomlinson, S.D.372-1683-15313164572517444.12
2004L. Tomlinson, S.D.313-1645-17339133544118340.52
2020Derrick Henry, Ten.303-1540-18378202711417337.13
2019Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.304-1434-9301135742014315.73
2006Larry Johnson, K.C.336-1750-21416178941019374.93
2011Arian Foster, Hou.327-1616-18278122461712309.13
2014Marshawn Lynch, Sea.301-1257-14280130636717306.34
2005Tiki Barber, NYG322-1518-15357186053011361.04
2004Shaun Alexander, Sea.326-1435-16353169617020329.64
2003Jamal Lewis, Balt.308-1327-7387206620514337.14
2013Marshawn Lynch, Sea.315-1590-12301125731614277.35
2008Thomas Jones, NYJ310-1119-2290131220715277.95
2004Curtis Martin, NYJ323-1308-2371169724514319.25
2003Deuce McAllister, N.O.325-1388-1635116415168332.75
2010Adrian Peterson, Min.314-1383-18283129834113277.95
2005Edgerrin James, Ind.334-1548-9360150633714312.35
2010Chris Johnson, Ten.358-2006-16316136424512276.96
2008L. Tomlinson, S.D.315-1474-18292111042612277.66
2006Tiki Barber, NYG357-1860-1132716624655300.76
2004Edgerrin James, Ind.310-1259-1133415484839310.16
2007Jamal Lewis, Balt.314-1132-9298130424811251.26
2005Clinton Portis, Was.343-1315-7352151621611276.17
2007Frank Gore, S.F.312-1695-926011024366242.87
2011Michael Turner, Atl.334-1371-12301134016811233.88
2005Rudi Johnson, Cin.361-1454-1233714589012249.88
2011Chris Johnson, Ten.316-1364-1226210474184227.59
2003Ricky Williams, Mia.383-1853-17392137235110282.39
2020Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.301-1357-142449793388233.79
2008Clinton Portis, Was.325-1262-1134214872189252.510
2011Steven Jackson, St.L.330-1241-626011453336225.810
2013Adrian Peterson, Min.348-2097-13279126617111238.710
2009Ryan Grant, G.B.312-1203-5282125319711236.011
2006Rudi Johnson, Cin.337-1458-12341130912412238.311
2003Tiki Barber, NYG304-1387-1127812164613256.711
2004Ahman Green, G.B.355-1883-2025911632758236.811
2014LeSean McCoy, Phil.314-1607-1131213191555205.412
2010Steven Jackson, St.L.324-1416-433012413836244.412
2009Matt Forte, Chi.316-1238-122589294714223.012
2017Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.322-1631-162429832699205.212
2007Edgerrin James, Ariz.337-1159-632412222047208.613
2003Travis Henry, Buff.325-1438-14331135615811245.413
2010Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac.312-1391-1629913243177240.113
2015DeMarco Murray, Dall.392-1845-131937023227188.415
2007Steven Jackson, St.L.346-1528-1623710022716205.415
2005Domanick Williams, Hou.302-1188-142309763376206.315
2010Cedric Benson, Cin.301-1251-632111111788206.916
2021Dalvin Cook, Min.312-1557-1724911592246210.316
2006Edgerrin James, Ind.360-1506-1433711592176211.617
2004Deuce McAllister, N.O.351-1641-826910742289218.217
2015LeSean McCoy, Phil.312-1319-52038952925182.717
2005Corey Dillon, N.E.345-1635-1320973318113191.417
2006Thomas Jones, Chi.314-1335-929612101546208.218
2004Priest Holmes, K.C.320-1420-2719689218715216.918
2007Chester Taylor, Min.303-1216-61578442817183.519
2004Fred Taylor, Jac.345-1572-726012243453210.919
2013Alfred Morris, Was.335-1613-132761275787186.320
2007Willie Parker, Pitt.337-1494-1632113161642183.020
2012Michael Turner, Atl.301-1340-1122280012811177.822
2011Rashard Mendenhall, Pitt.324-1273-132289281549180.222
2021Derrick Henry, Ten.378-2027-1721993715410193.422
2003Eddie George, Ten.343-1165-1431210311635171.423
2011Cedric Benson, Cin.321-1111-82731067826165.926
2006Willis McGahee, Buff.325-1247-52599901566168.626
2010Thomas Jones, NYJ331-1402-142458961226151.827
2008LenDale White, Ten.303-1110-72007731615173.927
2005Curtis Martin, NYJ371-1697-142207351185139.327
2004Jamal Lewis, Balt.387-2066-1423510061167164.228
2006Shaun Alexander, Sea.370-1880-28252896487148.433
2006Reuben Droughns, Cle.309-1232-22207581694143.734
2009Michael Turner, Atl.376-1699-171788713510155.634
2007Larry Johnson, K.C.416-1789-191585591864128.537
2006Clinton Portis, Was.352-1516-111275231707128.337
2003Corey Dillon, Cin.314-1311-713854171284.246
2008Willie Parker, Pitt.321-1316-2210791135113.446
2013Arian Foster, Hou.351-1424-171215421832108.546
2004Eddie George, Ten.312-1031-513243283484.548
2007Rudi Johnson, Cin.341-1309-12170497110499.749
2012Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac.343-1606-118641486276.054
2008Edgerrin James, Ariz.324-1222-713351485391.956
2013Doug Martin, T.B.319-1454-1212745666170.257
2009Clinton Portis, Was.342-1487-912449457276.158
2004Travis Henry, Buff.331-1356-119432645047.177
2016Adrian Peterson, Min.327-1485-1137728011.0122
2004Stephen Davis, Car.318-1444-8249232014.4123
2022Jonathan Taylor, Ind.332-1811-20??????
2022Najee Harris, Pitt.307-1200-10??????

A lot of those success stories were heavily involved as a receiver. That should again be the case for Harris, while it's a little less certain with Taylor (who will lose at least some passing-game work to Nyheim Hines).

But it's an encouraging track record for how those workhorse backs will fare this season. And what their workloads will be like: 35 came right back with 300-plus carries again. Nearly two-thirds (58) had at least 250-plus carries. If you promise me another 250-plus carries from each of these guys, along with their passing game work, I'm pretty comfortable I'll be drafting a top-5 (or close to it) running back in 2022.

Also in the comments on that previous article, a reader asked about even busier running backs -- not just 300 carries, but 370 offensive touches (carries plus receptions). I'll get those numbers up later in the week.

--Andy Richardson

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