I’m taking a break from my 2020 dynasty rankings to bring you an article about large sweaty men pounding on other equally sweaty men. If you found this page by Googling, “pounding sweaty men,” then welcome, you’re in the right place!

Running back is the fantasy position which takes the greatest wear on the body. But is the total number of carries a running back receives in any given season predictive of their production in the following season?

This is the question I set out to answer, specifically in regards to The Predator, Derrick Henry. In 2019 the big man rumbled for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns on 303 rushing attempts plus 18 catches for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns—posting the 2nd most running back fantasy points in standard scoring and 5th most fantasy points in PPR scoring. Henry also tacked on 83 playoff carries for 446 yards and 2 more touchdowns. This adds up to 386 carries on the season, the 3rd most of any running back in the past 10 seasons. Let’s take a look at the follow-up performances of all other high-volume backs over the past 10 years: 

 

  300+ Rush Att in Regular Season Since 2010 Following Season
Rk Player Year Age G Att Yds Playoff Att Total Att G Att Yds
1 DeMarco Murray 2014 26 16 392 1845 44 436 15 193 702
2 Arian Foster 2012 26 16 351 1424 54 405 8 121 524
3 Derrick Henry 2019 25 15 303 1540 83 386 TBD
4 Rashard Mendenhall 2010 23 16 324 1273 61 385 15 228 928
5 Adrian Peterson 2012 27 16 348 2097 22 370 14 279 1266
6 Marshawn Lynch 2013 27 16 301 1257 65 366 16 280 1306
7 Alfred Morris 2012 24 16 335 1613 16 351 16 276 1275
8 Marshawn Lynch 2012 26 16 315 1590 36 351 16 301 1257
9 Ezekiel Elliott 2018 23 15 304 1434 46 350 16 301 1357
10 Michael Turner 2010 28 16 334 1371 10 344 16 301 1340
11 Ezekiel Elliott * 2016 21 15 322 1631 22 344 10 242 983
12 Maurice Jones-Drew 2011 26 16 343 1606 0 343 6 86 414
13 Le’Veon Bell ** 2017 25 15 321 1291 16 337 15 245 789
14 Ray Rice 2010 23 16 307 1220 29 336 16 291 1364
15 LeSean McCoy 2013 25 16 314 1607 21 335 16 312 1319
16 Steven Jackson 2010 27 16 330 1241 0 330 15 260 1045
17 Arian Foster 2010 24 16 327 1616 0 327 13 278 1224
18 Adrian Peterson 2015 30 16 327 1485 0 327 3 37 72
19 Cedric Benson 2010 28 16 321 1111 0 321 15 273 1067
20 Doug Martin 2012 23 16 319 1454 0 319 6 127 456
21 Michael Turner 2011 29 16 301 1340 15 316 16 222 800
22 Chris Johnson 2010 25 16 316 1364 0 316 16 262 1047
23 LeSean McCoy 2014 26 16 312 1319 0 312 12 203 895
24 Ezekiel Elliott 2019 24 16 301 1357 0 301 TBD
  Average     15.83 324 1462     13.23 233 974
  Minus 2016 Zeke Outlier     15.87 324 1455     13.38 232 974

* missed 6 games in following season due to suspension
**held out in 2018, following season column numbers are from 2019

So what’s it all mean?

I’ll qualify the results by saying this a relatively small sample, but the numbers are interesting nonetheless. Excluding Zeke’s suspension shortened 2017 outlier season, nine of the 21 running backs (43%) who handled 300+ carries over the past 10 seasons failed to tally 250 carries in the following season; and those same nine player were also unable to total 1,000 rushing yards in those seasons. Five of the 21 backs (24%) didn’t reach 200 carries in the next season, six of 21 (29%) fell shy of 800 rushing yards and four (19%) came up short of 600 yards.

On the flip side, nine of our 21 RBs (43%) reached 1,200 rushing yards in their encore, 10 of them (48%) reached 270 carries and four (19%) even reached 300 carries again the next year. None of those 21 running backs saw an increase in attempts—although Zeke was only three carries shy in 2019 and McCoy only two carries shy in 2014. Interestingly enough, two of the 21 RBs actually saw an increase in yardage in the following season—Lynch in 2014 (+49 yards) and Rice in 2011 (+144 yards). 

But on average, the 300+ carry workhorses saw a 16% decrease in games played, 28% decrease in carries and 33% decrease in rushing yards in the next season. None of these numbers are shocking; for a running back to reach 300 carries, a near full season is required and it’s not easy to string multiple healthy season’s together at such a physically demanding position.

Looking to Derrick Henry’s specific case, including the playoffs, only four other backs in the past 10 seasons have handled 370+ carries. Of those four players, only one (2013 Adrian Peterson) reached 230 carries and 1,000 rushing yards and two of the other three fell short of 200 carries. On average those four RBs played 13 games with 205 rushes for 855 yards in the next year. 

Now before you going jump out the window because 1) your 401K is now worth less than your used 2013 Prius  and 2) you own Derrick Henry in your keeper league, just remember these are very small samples and not all bodies were created equal (see: Ezekiel Elliott). Henry is a mountain of a man who surely is capable of bulldozing defenses 300 times in back-to-back seasons. And remember, there’s no such thing as a risk free running back. Still, there’s some reason for caution here based on history. Depending on how you read these tea leaves, zagging from Henry in the first round of this year’s fantasy drafts might be worth consideration. 

In the next edition we’ll take a look at how Zeke’s incredible three-year workload (893 carries) stacks up against some of the other names on this list. Until then, wash your hands, steer clear of crowds and share your toilet paper—not the used stuff.

 

All statistics sourced from ProFootballReference.com

 

 

  1. Willy Treez says:
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    Donkey! So glad we are on the same page about this, though every time I think of Henry as a generational running back I get cold sweats.

    Traded him along with the 2.10 and Alan Lazard for Aaron Jones, Robert Woods, and Raheem Mostert. How’d I do?

    Great stuff as always!

    • Donkey Teeth

      Donkey Teeth says:
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      Love that deal for you!

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