In June 2005 I wrote an article that investigated whether the “30 Year Rule” for running backs was actually true or not. My findings found that running backs typically reach their peak at age 26!!! While they would typically continue to have productive years from 27 – 30, they will typically be over valued on draft day. You can find the original article here: Original Article Link
A few weeks ago I received an email from a Fantasy Sharks member asking me to re-visit the article with data from 2005. Upon hearing that someone other than my friends and family actually read the article, I knew I had to oblige. Unfortunately, I switched jobs between then and now and lost all of my original research. I was smarter and did this at home – but some of the specific research items could be different.
Here are some key facts for the research performed
- Only running backs with 3 or more 1000 yd seasons were included to exclude the one-year wonders
- The original article had stats seasons 1957 – 2004 and a different set from 1990 – 2004. For this article, I only ran the stats from 1990 – 2004 (plus the additional 2005 season)
- The scoring system is very simple: 1 pt / 10 yds rushing; 1 pt / 10 yds receiving; 6 pts / TD
- Due to the rules above, there are only 31 RBs in the analysis performed. This is probably not enough for a statistician … but I’m not one, so it’s fine with me
- I don’t think the original analysis included receiving totals … which this does.
Here’s an updated chart showing the trend:
As you can see, including the 2005 stats didn’t change the trend line. However, there were some significant exceptions in 2005 (Shaun Alexander, Tiki Barber, and Edgerrin James to name a few). With these obvious exceptions, it was time to perform a more detailed look at just the 2005 results was in order. For this analysis, I used the same scoring system on any running back with >= 750 yds rushing. Here’s the result:
So the 2005 results look like 2005 was a great year for running backs at age 28, but when you include the number of running backs with >= 750 yards rushing (below), you’ll notice that the 28 year old spike is due to one running back – Shaun Alexander.
What does this mean? This tells me two things. First, the “new rule” is holding – but there was some weakness in the rule in 2005. Second, and more importantly, age is a factor in a running back’s production … and it’s a factor at a much earlier age than most fantasy football owners think. The great RBs can probably last until 28-30 but the trend line (minus Alexander) remained intact in 2005. History tells us, if you’re picking in the top 3 this year, go with Johnson or Tomlinson over Alexander.
Key Running Backs That Will be 26 in 2006: Domanick Davis, DeShaun Foster, Willie Parker, and Lee Suggs.
Key Running Backs That Will be 27 in 2006: Larry Johnson, Brian Westbrook, LaDanian Tomlinson, Jamal Lewis, Kevan Barlow, Rudi Johnson, and Chester Taylor.