Thursday, August 21, 2014

RBs and the 500-receiving yard threshold

Based on last year's stats, there has been a sea change in football and fantasy football. 

In 2012, 94 players had receiving yardage totaling 500 yards or more – just one was a running back: Darren Sproles, who totaled 667 receiving yards on 75 receptions. That was a little low, but over the past decade that happened two other times as well (in 2007 and 2008). In fact, the average though is just 2.8 RBs with 500 receiving yards in a season from 2004-2013. 

And then there was 2013, which was an utter and complete change.  TEN running backs totaled 500 yards receiving last year: 1. Jamal Charles (693), 2. Danny Woodhead (605), 3. Darren Sproles (604), 4. Matt Forte (594), 5. Knowshon Moreno (548), 6. Joique Bell (547), 7. LeSean McCoy (539), 8. Giovani Bernard (514), 9. Pierre Thomas (513), and 10. Reggie Bush (506).  

What does this mean? A few things. First, ever hear anyone belly-ache about the end of the value of running backs in fantasy football? Not so true. Sure, fewer backs get to do it at all, and there is more of a “Running back by committe-approach” to maneuver through on your fantasy team, but teams are passing more and they are incorporating pass-catching PPR running back gems to the mix more than ever. In large part, thank you Sean Payton, Drew Brees and Darren Sproles.  

So, which running back will add 500+ receiving yards to the cause in 2014?

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City: No problem. Charles had 693 receiving yards last year, the most of any running back in the NFL in 2013. 

Giovani Benard, Cincinnati: I think Benard is the best candidate to pop and challenge Charles for the most receiving yards by a running back in 2014. Benard is an excellent receiving back and cracked 500 last year as a rookie on a team that historically didn’t throw to its backs much. 

Andre Ellington, Arizona: Like Giovani Benard and Jamaal Charles, part of the allure for Andre Eillington is his ability to be a mismatch in the passing game. 

Matt Forte, Chicago: It should happen and Forte had 594 last year. If Forte doesn’t hit 500, he should not be too far behind. Forte remains a big-time stud. 

Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, Detroit: It’s hard to bet against either of these two. The Detroit offense will continue to feature both of these RBs as receivers and Matthew Stafford is clearly comfortable with each. I bet Bush and Bell both come up just short of 500, but close. Maybe

LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, Philadelphia: Detroit made it work last year with both Joique Bell and Reggie Bush topping 500 so it’s possible here in Philly too. 

Montee Ball, Denver: Well, Knowshon Moreno did it last year for the Broncos. In 2013, between Moreno, Ball and Ronnie Hillman, Denver running backs caught 92 balls for 812 yards so there is tons of opportunity here for Ball.  

Danny Woodhead, San Diego: Shouldn’t be any problem, after all Danny Woodhead plays the Danny Woodhead role in the Chargers’ offense. 

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo: It sure does seem like Spiller should do it as he’s a great receiver. Spiller had 459 receiving yards in 2012 so it wouldn’t take much for Spiller to progress in 2014 and get to 500 yards (well, health would be the big key).

Chris Johnson, New York Jets: It all depends on his role but Johnson certainly could (and Johnson did so in 2009 with 503 receiving yards that season. He averages a pretty impressive 45 receptions and 334 receiving yards per year over 6 NFL seasons).

Pierre Thomas, New Orleans: I am going to say probably not. Thomas got there last year but he needed 77 receptions to do it. That’s a ton and he averaged an abysmal 6.7 yards per reception. I will have a sleeper list coming soon - look for Pierre Thomas' teammate Mark Ingram to be on it...