Fantasy watch: Goodbye to sure-thing RBs

November 21, 2013

Alfred Morris is among only a handful of running backs on whom fantasy owners can count on consistently. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

With the NFL’s push for stricter enforcement of rules designed to protect quarterbacks and encourage more passing, fantasy owners are faced with the new reality that must-start running backs have become all but obsolete. This includes Adrian Peterson, who had been among the last sure things at RB1 until this season.

Peterson is nowhere near approaching his career high of 2,097 yards from last season, which made him a consensus No. 1 overall fantasy pick in August. In fact, the reigning NFL rushing champion has run for more than 75 yards in just one of his past six games, and his three 100-yard games overall are seven fewer than his total last season. He’s become a matchup play, at least until his numbers mandate otherwise.

Such is the state of the league, and concurrently fantasy football, when Bobby Rainey can run for more yards in Week 11 (163) than any other player. Rashad Jennings, another player included on virtually zero fantasy football draft boards, was next at 150, and Ray Rice‘s 131 yards were an anomaly to an otherwise horrible season.

Rice is yet another illustration of how unpredictable, and frustrating for fantasy owners, RB1s are these days. Over the past four seasons, Rice has rushed for at least 1,143 yards. At 420 through nine games in 2013, there’s only a slight chance he can reach 1,000 again. The same holds for Maurice Jones-Drew, widely considered a top 10 fantasy RB, who has 455 yards playing for one of the more inept teams in the league.

C.J. Spiller is another darling of fantasy football drafts who has disappointed owners greatly, having run for 507 yards and one touchdown. We probably could excuse the likes of Doug Martin, Arian Foster and Darren McFadden because of injury, but it’s not like they were exactly tearing it up before getting injured.

So consider yourself fortunate if you drafted LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris or Jamaal Charles, part of the dwindling group of RB1s owners can feel secure rolling out week to week. And even McCoy, who leads the NFL in rushing, has only six total touchdowns, which are three fewer than Knowshon Moreno and as many as Mike Tolbert, whose primary function in the Carolina Panthers offense is as a blocker.

Have a fantasy football question? Tweet at Gene Wang at @gene_wang.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins practice at 1 p.m. Coordinators Kyle Shanahan and Jim Haslett are expected to speak to reporters.

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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