How Does a Running Back Fit Into a Dynasty Rebuild?

While there are many different ways to ‘rebuild’ a fantasy roster, one action you will want to avoid is trading FOR a running back, even relatively young backs. Unless you are only one year away from competing, you most likely will not yield enough elite scoring from the running back to warrant the cost to acquire. Looking at some of the data of the top-12 running backs in the past eight years, we can see why that is the case.

Since 2012, 50 different running backs have finished as RB1s in PPR scoring. Of those 50 backs, 30 were drafted in 2012 or later. We will look closer at those 30 in particular for the purpose of this article to ensure that the arbitrary cut-off of 2012 is not discounting a player’s performance prior to then, which could have been elite and left unaccounted for in the 2012-2019 data.

The Top Performers

From 2010 – 2019, 63 different running backs have finished as RB1s in PPR scoring. The group is paced by Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy, who both achieved top-12 status six times in that time span. Six more players had four top-12 seasons during that time, meaning only 8/63 (12.7%) provided fantasy owners with 4+ RB1 seasons. The majority of your running backs are one and done as RB1s.

# of times accomplish top-12# of players to do so
135
211
39
46
50
62
From 2010-2019, most RB1’s were one and done as fantasy assets.

How Does Age Fit In?

Most running backs who finish as RB1s  in fantasy do so early in their careers. Here is the breakout of RB1 seasons by age:

Age# of Top-12 Seasons% of all Top-12 Seasons
2143%
221210%
231815%
242118%
251613%
261210%
27108%
281311%
2965%
3054%
3100%
3222%
3311%

If we are thinking of dynasty in three-year windows, the most productive window for backs has been age range 23-25.  If you are in a rebuild that will last until 2022, you would want to look at players currently 21-22 years old to ensure you are maximizing their elite seasons. 

Players that fit that bill:

Notice a trend? Each of these backs are in year one or two and in 2022 could still be in the midst of elite production. In the same vein, backs that will be rookies in 2021 would be appealing in the form of 2021 rookie draft picks. In reality, most fantasy owners understand to offload older vets for youth in the midst of a rebuild but understanding that investing significant capital in or sitting on a current star is also unwise. Yes, that means selling Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, among others. So as a dynasty owner, consider these steps:

Evaluate your team

Be honest with the current state of your squad. Are you realistically competing for a championship this season or next? If not, start the rebuild now

Move on from the ‘veteran’ running backs, even those who are not necessarily ‘old.’

Ageism can create real discounts on some players, but it is important to be wary that backs that are 25 years of age or older are most likely on the downturn of their careers in terms of production.

Resist the urge to buy the ‘discount’ on players like Barkley or McCaffrey. 

While the price may be a little lower now than it was a week ago, it still will most likely cost you valuable draft capital that you could use to draft younger running backs in 2021. Even if you can buy those players without using many picks, you are unlikely to be enjoying their peak production come 2022.

This article was originally published at Dynasty Happy Hour in September 2020, and has been updated in January 2021.

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