Last year I decided to tackle this same topic in an attempt to forewarn the casual dynasty owner of aging or workload impacted players before it was too late. So let’s recap the players I reviewed last year and their 2017 fantasy finish per FantasyPros (PPR):
AARP Running Backs
Frank Gore RB19
Adrian Peterson (injured) RB62
Matt Forte (retired) RB41
Marshawn Lynch RB24
Darren Sproles & Danny Woodhead were listed as qualifiers and both ended the season on IR with minimal fantasy impact
Cliff Diver Running Backs
LeGarrette Blount RB44
Jonathan Stewart RB42
DeMarco Murray RB20 (currently looking for work)
LeSean McCoy RB7
The above list is littered with injury and fantasy disappointment, save for LeSean McCoy. I ended last years article with the following statement:
“You have been warned. Father Time is undefeated in the NFL and the Fantasy Grim Reaper will claim some souls this season. Best be prepared!”
Let’s try this again
I will be targeting running backs who are approaching or currently standing on the edge of the value cliff that you should consider unloading before the inevitable fall. We need to treat our dynasty team as a business. Devoid of emotion and make decisions in the best interest of our fantasy franchises and move forward.
I used Pro Football Reference to determine the peak performance window for each position with a slight tweak on their designation of “old” using 30 years old as the universal line of demarcation across all skill positions discussed to identify my AARP players.
Peak Performance = 23 to 25-year-old seasons
Cliff Diver Criteria = 27-year-old season
AARP RBs: I am going to spare you the details and extensive rationale behind the following players but know that the tread is running dangerously thin on these guys or they’ve already blown a tire and are parked on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck to drag them away. There’s no need for me to rehash the likes of Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson, and Marshawn Lynch. Feel free to read last years article for my opinion of them.
LeGarrette Blount (32-year-old season) – 1,341 career carries
If not for the limited touches, Blount would have made last years list. I proposed a 600/6 slash for him in 2017, and he rumbled his way to a 766/2 rushing line. Another year, another new team for the RB mercenary. He finds himself in RB purgatory in Motown. Blount brings nothing to the passing game (Riddick), and they traded up to draft a running back (Johnson) who will siphon touches from him almost immediately. Blount will either be a short yardage, TD dependent grinder or a cap casualty for the Lions ($2m CAP HIT).
Jonathan Stewart (31-year-old season) – 1,699 career carries
Stewart continued to wither away in Carolina last season and his production was buoyed by a somewhat unexpected seven total touchdowns as he produced the lowest per carry rushing average (3.4) of his 10-year career. Dave Gettleman all but assured us that Stewart would make the Giants in 2018 given the contract structure but he is slated to serve as Saquon Barkley’s NFL big brother and nothing more (Stewart only carries a $250K DEAD CAP Hit in 2019).
DeMarco Murray (30-year-old season) – 1,604 career carries
Murray rumbled and bumbled his way into low-end RB2 production in 2017, and I can only blame Mike Mularkey who clearly hates fantasy football. Murray will likely sign with a team closer to the start of training camp (sadly I believe it will be the Colts) and be nothing more than a headache for dynasty owners of his stablemates in 2018. There is no more top 24 production left in his body.
LeSean McCoy (30-year-old season) – 2,185 career carries
Continues to defy logic. Are we looking at the next Frank Gore +?
Nothing about Shady’s 2017 surprised me because he was literally the only game in town for the Buffalo Bills but “Winter is Coming” for him in upstate New York. He also exceeded the 2,000 carry threshold last season and will likely see even more stacked boxes this season. Submit your SELL ticket soon!
Other AARP Qualifiers – Bilal Powell (30-year-old-season), Marshawn Lynch (32-year-old-season)
Cliff Divers: The following running backs are speeding toward the finish line (irrelevancy) at an increasingly fast rate. I used a combination of volume, age, and situation to determine the following players. You need to dump these assets while you still can (if you still can).
Doug Martin (29-year-old season) – 1,150 career carries
Spotrac – signed a 1 yr. / $1.475MM ($0 Guaranteed) contract with OAK in 2018
If you subscribe to the every three years Martin plays in all 16 games and rushes for 1,400+ yards notion then it’s that time of year again truthers. I see a running back who the Raiders took a low-risk flyer on hoping to upgrade their depth behind Marshawn Lynch (32-year-old-season) for the 2018 season. It’s clear that Gruden values veterans as he attempts to reshape the Raiders in his likeness. If he secures the backup role in Oakland, it still shouldn’t result in anything more than the 113 combined carries that Richard and Washington saw last year. Martin is not a sell guy. This is me warning you NOT to buy!
Mark Ingram (29-year-old season) – 1,183 career carries
Spotrac – entering the last year of a 4 year, $16,000,000 contract with the New Orleans Saints
Ingram is slated to miss the first four games of the 2018 season due to a PED violation. I do not expect Ingram to be back in Nawlins next season, so owners are likely riding this one out. Luckily Ingram produced RB1 totals for owners in 2017. I believe he will regain the thunder to Alvin Kamara’s lightning role upon his return in week five but likely in a lesser capacity much like what owners experienced from week 10 on last season (~12 carries/gm). Contact the Kamara owner and see what he’s willing to pay for the Saints backfield.
Dion Lewis (28-year-old season) – 329 career carries
Spotrac – signed a 4 year, $19,800,000 contract with the Tennessee Titans, including a $2,250,000 signing bonus, $8,250,000 guaranteed. POTENTIAL OUT: 2020, 2 YR, $10,300,000; $1,125,000 DEAD CAP
Dion Lewis was a revelation for dynasty owners down the stretch in 2017 as he compiled 63-289-3 rushing & 12-77-2 receiving totals in weeks 15-17. The 25 touches per game extrapolated across a 16 game season comes out to 400 touches, or roughly the same amount that he’s had over the course of his entire 5 year NFL career (417). Simply put, the Patriots were willing to grind him into dust knowing they weren’t going to resign him in the offseason.
If the Titans overwork Lewis he will break down. I believe they know this so expect him to operate in the 12 touches a game range this and next year with a strong chance they move on come 2020 (his age 30 season). I have seen multiple trades where Lewis owners were able to SELL HIGH. We are experiencing somewhat of an RB renaissance so test the waters in any league where you own Neon Dion.
Lamar Miller (28-year-old season) – 1,144 career carries
Spotrac – signed a 4 year, $26,000,000 contract with the Houston Texans, including a $4,000,000 signing bonus, $14,000,000 guaranteed in 2016. POTENTIAL OUT: 2018, 2 YR, $14,000,000; $2,000,000 DEAD CAP; LIKELY OUT 2019: $1,000,000 DEAD CAP
Miller is quite the polarizing dynasty player as his worst statistical season in the last four years came in 2017, and yet he still totaled 1,216 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns (good for RB16 in PPR formats). I am advocating that you sell him because his age, workload, and contract are all strong indicators that 2018 may well be the end of Miller Time in Houston. If you’re in a rebuild, he is a player that should still net a decent return for a team in win-now mode.
Other Cliff Dive Qualifiers – Chris Thompson (28-year-old-season), Carlos Hyde (27-year-old-season), CJ Anderson (27 year-old-season)
You have been warned. Father Time is undefeated in the NFL, and the Dynasty Grim Reaper will claim more souls this season. Better to be a season too early than a season too late!
Follow me on Twitter @DFF_Walk.