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Fantasy Forecast(R): Workhorses, Racehorses and Stockhorses

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Every season, I try to identify NFL trends that will impact fantasy football strategy in the upcoming season. Mind you, this isn’t a case of “How many touchdown passes will Tom Brady throw?” Rather, I try to identify general shifts in direction in order to provide readers with strategies designed to enhance their overall chances for success.

One of the more interesting trends in recent seasons has been the decline of the dominant runner. Two years ago at this time, I declared the “stud running back” to be an extinct animal, the result of years and years of neglect. As I prepared to undergo a similar analysis for this year’s article, I must confess that my hopes for a change in direction of the stud running backs were indeed slim.

The first step was to identify those runners in 2012 who accounted for at least 75 percent of their teams’ rush attempts (workhorses) or those who accounted for at least 75 percent of their teams’ rush yards (racehorses). The thinking here is that identifying such runners provides us with players that will likely be the focus of their teams’ offense in 2013.

At my request Mighty Max, my trusty supercomputer, was quick to produce the lists of the NFL’s 2012 top Workhorses and Racehorses:


*- Morris was so close I figured I’d list him as a workhorse. I know, that’s awfully emotional of a stat geek like myself. Maybe I’m getting softer as I get older …

Looking at the results above, there are some facts that stand out:

  • Only one runner qualified at the original 75 percent cutoff as a workhorse ( Doug Martin); however, two (Martin and Adrian Peterson) qualified as racehorses at 75 percent.
  • Even when lowering the threshold for inclusion to 65 percent, there are only a handful of runners that make the cut. Of those, the three top runners — those who would qualify as both workhorses and racehorses—are some of the best in the NFL: Martin, Peterson, Arian Foster and Chris Johnson.

Although the results appear dismal for the “stud running back,” I must say that I was slightly surprised to see as many runners qualify as workhorses and racehorses; believe it or not, the herd was thinner heading into last season. Is the dominant runner starting to make a comeback? Too early to tell, but you can bet I’ll be keeping an eye on the situation … as will Mighty Max.

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