2017 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Which elder running backs will crush your Fantasy teams?

Marshawn Lynch will give football another go with the Raiders, Adrian Peterson will do the same with the Saints and LeSean McCoy is dangerously close to being on the wrong side of history.

You sure you want to draft these guys?

We've studied the parameters of when running backs break down for 10 years, but it's pretty straightforward. It's about the number of touches and wear-and-tear, not the age of the player. We take the total number of career carries a running back has, including the postseason. Then take the total number of receptions a running back has, including the postseason, but divide that number by three since plenty of catches by a running back end without contact. Add those numbers together (don't worry, I've done the math already) and you'll get a unique number that might as well act as a running back's odometer. 

I've deemed the final tally the Total Evaluation Number, or TEN. And when a running back's TEN hits 2,100, it's time to be worried. Call that the ... dramatic pause ... Danger Zone!

Lynch and Peterson have blown past that number. Don't even ask about Frank Gore or Matt Forte.

But McCoy is right up against it. We might be on the cusp of McCoy's last good year (or even worse, last good half-year).

Running back Career carries Career rec. TEN Major injury Week 1 age
LeGarrette Blount 1,279 47 1,295
Jamaal Charles 1,344 286 1,439
red flag
Matt Forte 2,295 530 2,472
red flag

Frank Gore 3,105 432 3,249
red flag

red flag
Tim Hightower 800 172 857
red flag
Marshawn Lynch 2,337 264 2,425
red flag

Ryan Mathews 1,202 181 1,262
red flag
LeSean McCoy 1,936 391 2,066
Darren McFadden 1,301 254 1,386
red flag
DeMarco Murray 1,464 272 1,555
Adrian Peterson 2,534 247 2,616
red flag

red flag
Darren Sproles 731 569 921
red flag
Jonathan Stewart 1,591 163 1,645
red flag
Danny Woodhead 562 285 657
red flag

Let's be honest, Gore has made us look silly since he had a TEN of over 2,100 since 2013. Peterson also put up some amazing stats once he crossed over the 2,100 mark. Forte had some great games last year before taking a nosedive. As for Lynch ... well, so far Lynch has made the analysis look good because he went rotten in 2015 once his TEN topped 2,100.

There will always be exceptions when it comes to data studies and Fantasy Football -- we're studying humans, not robots. The very best running backs in NFL history tend to prove mathematical jibberish wrong. It's safe to say Gore and Peterson have qualified as special players. It doesn't mean they'll stay that way.

Rushers in the Danger Zone

Frank Gore RB / Indianapolis (career stats)
ATT: 3,105 YDS: 13,711 TD: 79 TAR: 630 REC: 432 REC YDS: 3,594 REC TD: 16 TEN: 3,249

Problems: Exceptionally overdue for breakdown ... Rushing average has sagged the past two seasons (3.8) ... Fantasy value salvaged by receiving stats in 2016.

Can he overcome? Every year we doubt Gore and every year he makes us look bad. He's been a lead back for 11 straight seasons and has remained above 15 carries per game his entire career. At some point it's going to come crashing down. Been saying it for years, but we're getting closer and closer to that point.

Feel-good draft spot: Round 7

Adrian Peterson RB / New Orleans (career stats)
ATT: 2,534 YDS: 12,159 TD: 102 TAR: 344 REC: 247 REC YDS: 1,999 REC TD: 5 TEN: 2,616

Problems: No longer Superman after MCL tear and 1.9 rushing average in Minnesota last year ... Barely played two of the past three seasons, albeit for very different reasons ... New team is pass-happy, unlikely to give him workload similar to old team.

Can he overcome? Sure, because we've seen Peterson bounce back before. But the Saints aren't a run-first team and Mark Ingram is still in the driver's seat at running back. Can we count on Peterson to stay healthy if he's getting 10 touches per game? Probably, but that would mean he'd become a touchdown-or-bust running back with such a limited a workload.

Feel-good draft spot: Round 8 or 9

Matt Forte RB / N.Y. Jets (career stats)
ATT: 2,295 YDS: 9,565 TD: 52 TAR: 697 REC: 530 REC YDS: 4,523 REC TD: 20 TEN: 2,472

Problems: Minor injuries over the past two seasons ...Declining rush average (3.7 last year) ... Expected to lose playing time to Bilal Powell ... Jets aren't expected to be very competitive.

Can he overcome? With a worse O-line and fewer touches in his lap, Forte could really hurt Fantasy owners. The difference this year than last year is that more people are expecting a disappointing season. That's why you'll see him get taken late in drafts.

Feel-good draft spot: Round 9

Marshawn Lynch RB / Oakland (career stats)
ATT: 2,337 YDS: 10,049 TD: 83 TAR: 359 REC: 264 REC YDS: 2,106 REC TD: 9 TEN: 2,425

Problems: Didn't play last year, was depressing to watch the year before ... Shares the backfield with two young, fast runners who are sure to take touches.

Can he overcome? The O-line and passing game in Oakland are top notch, so there's a chance for Lynch to shine because defenses can't key on him. But the Raiders were judicious with Latavius Murray's carries last season (six games with 15-plus carries), and he's not nearly as aged as Lynch. Expecting a robust amount of touchdowns is fair, but expecting 1,000 rush yards is not.

Feel-good draft spot: Round 5

Will enter the Danger Zone in 2017

LeSean McCoy RB / Buffalo (career stats)
ATT: 1,936 YDS: 9,101 TD: 61 TAR: 504 REC: 391 REC YDS: 2,990 REC TD: 13 TEN: 2,066

Problems: Has missed at least one game each of the past two years ... Has fallen under 290 total touches each of the past two years ... uhh, we're kinda reaching for negatives on Shady.

Can he overcome? What's to overcome?! The Bills' switch to a West Coast scheme won't hurt him at all, the O-line is good and typically running backs who work with running quarterbacks have added success. Plus, McCoy's extremely talented. The only thing we have to realize is that he's getting older and a breakdown will come eventually.

Feel-good draft spot: Between 7th and 12th overall

Others not in the Danger Zone

Jonathan Stewart RB / Carolina (career stats)
ATT: 1,591 YDS: 7,061 TD: 50 TAR: 231 REC: 163 REC YDS: 1,292 REC TD: 6 TEN: 1,645

Problems: New additions, changing offense figure to hurt Stewart's potential ... Has played 13 or fewer games in each of the last five seasons ... Rushing average dipped to 3.8 yards per carry last year ... Won't catch many passes.

Can he overcome? If he does, he'll have to stay healthy, break some long runs and score a ton of touchdowns. Considering the revolving door the Panthers figure to have in their backfield, it's a lot to ask for, especially from a guy who doesn't catch much.

Feel-good draft spot: Round 9

DeMarco Murray RB / Tennessee (career stats)
ATT: 1,464 YDS: 6,713 TD: 45 TAR: 335 REC: 272 REC YDS: 1,926 REC TD: 5 TEN: 1,555

Problems: Starting to creep into breakdown territory ... Has a behemoth backup who could begin taking touches from him as soon as Week 1 ... Coming off his second-best season that included career-high three receiving touchdowns.

Can he overcome? We know Murray is the Titans' starter and will lead the team in touches. He seems to have at least one more year before we sweat him breaking down. However, the Titans might decide that using Derrick Henry more will save Murray from getting hurt. It's a factor, but not a large enough deterrent.

Feel-good draft spot: Round 2

Jamaal Charles RB / Denver (career stats)
ATT: 1,344 YDS: 7,360 TD: 44 TAR: 410 REC: 286 REC YDS: 2,472 REC TD: 20 TEN: 1,439

Problems: Is he the same player he once was? ... Multiple knee surgeries over the past three years is a gigantic issue ... Broncos are going to split reps ... In eight games over two years, Charles has topped 100 rush yards once and 100 total yards two other times.

Can he overcome? First, he has to stay healthy. Then, he has to prove he still has his trademark cutting ability and speed. After that he'll need to earn more than just a complementary role behind C.J. Anderson. Could he possibly be a regular at the goal line? It seems like a lot to expect.

Feel-good draft spot: Round 10

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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