On Thursday, I began looking back at the past decade of running backs who emerged in the second half of a season, to see if there was anything we could use going forward, or to estimate how frequently it happens.
As it turns out, the number of backs who shot into what we might consider as RB #1 or RB #2 territory (averaged over 11 points a game in non-PPR) was almost equally distributed between injury replacements who had previously been backups, members of a running back platoon, and starting backs who had a much better second half.
In part I, I looked at the injury replacements, so today we turn to the platoon guys. Here are a list of guys who met our breakout requirement in the second half of a season, and had between 30 and 70% of the carries for their team when healthy in games 1 to 8.
Here are the 15 running backs over the last decade who finished well while playing in a platoon situation early:
Willis McGahee was kind of his own special category. Yes, he started as the 2nd back behind Travis Henry in 2004 after missing the previous season while still recovering from the knee injury. Everyone knew he was talented. He missed some games early, but by week 6 had moved past Henry and relegated him to the bench.
If you compare this list to the first one, you’ll notice that there is more upside in nailing injury replacements. Seven of them had a higher second half point total than Reggie Bush, second on this list.
What do these platoon situations have in common? Well, there’s no real thread through all. It was almost evenly split between being the #1 guy and #2 guy by rush attempt distribution in the first half of the season. A handful had huge games because of injury (Barlow and Stewart both got 4 games where Hearst and Williams were injured). Most were still part of platoons but saw their productivity improve, particularly in the hard to predict touchdown category.
If I were to try to gamble on a couple of things, it would be talent, regardless of age, and team situation. Bettis, Williams, and Taylor emerged when many might have written them off. The average win total for these teams was 9.5 wins; platoons from good offenses provide upside.
Remember, I’m looking for guys outside the Top 20 who could improve their production, I shouldn’t need to tell you that C.J. Spiller has upside while still playing in a platoon right now.
Jonathan Stewart presents the most obvious platoon upside this year. He’s talented and underutilized and the talk this week, in the wake of GM changes, is that the team is altering its running game to more of a power approach. The Panthers are 7th in net yards per pass and are underachieving in late game situations and the red zone, so scoring doesn’t reflect that. Stewart hasn’t scored a rushing TD yet, but if things improve his stock rises dramatically.
Pierre Thomas is getting the most carries in New Orleans, with Sproles getting the catches. We know the Saints offense can be explosive, and if they play with the lead more in the last ten games than in the first six, Thomas will see his value rise. Unlike the previous two, he comes at a pretty cheap price.
The Andre Brown/David Wilson combo in New York has accounted for 362 yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns playing behind Ahmad Bradshaw. If the splits even up, or Bradshaw misses a game, they will be big.
I know I recommended Daryl Richardson as the potential breakout behind Steven Jackson in the previous post, but their prices are such that you could play both. Steven Jackson presents a buy low opportunity if he turns it around like Fred Taylor in 2007, I would just have him handcuffed with Richardson and hope something broke one way or another.
[photo via US Presswire]