Player Points - Cedric Benson
By Chase Stuart
May 25th, 2010

Fantasy owners love to complain about how runningback-by-committee is ruining their pastime. Are there any dinosaurs left from the stud running back era? Among the contenders, Cedric Benson stands out as the T-Rex. The former Longhorns star was responsible for half of the six games in the NFL last season where a running back had 34+ carries; he was also the force behind the only such game in 2008. In six of his 13 games in 2009, he had at least 29 carries; no other running back had five such games. The Bengals have been a power rushing team since Benson moved into the starting lineup, and their strong defense has allowed them to lean on him early and often in games. So how unique is Benson -- is he one of the only workhorse running backs left? Or are the talks of the stud running back era being swept aside by RBBC premature?

There are a ton of different ways to measure how prevalent RBBC is in the league at any point in time. One metric I prefer is to measure how many times a running back received at least 20 carries. In 2008, a running back had at least 20 carries in 182 games out of a possible 512 (32 teams playing 16 games); that amounts to 5.7 twenty-carry games per 16 games.

From 1998 to 2008, the NFL average was 6.7 20-carry games per 16 games. From '88 to '97, the average was just 5.0; from 1970 to 1986, the average was 4.8. There's no doubt that the past twelve or so seasons have been the era of the stud running back. But the trend now appears to be curving back down again, as the rate has been dropping over the past six seasons.

Year
Num
LGGM
Per16Gm
2009
163
512
5.1
2008
182
512
5.7
2007
209
512
6.5
2006
226
512
7.1
2005
222
512
6.9
2004
239
512
7.5
2003
228
512
7.1
2002
203
512
6.3
2001
208
496
6.7
2000
208
496
6.7
1999
187
496
6.0
1998
229
480
7.6
1997
171
480
5.7
1996
192
480
6.4
1995
179
480
6.0
1994
161
448
5.8
1993
148
448
5.3
1992
122
448
4.4
1991
120
448
4.3
1990
99
448
3.5
1989
131
448
4.7
1988
117
448
4.2
1987
126
420
4.8
1986
138
448
4.9
1985
156
448
5.6
1984
160
448
5.7
1983
170
448
6.1
1982
72
252
4.6
1981
141
448
5.0
1980
101
448
3.6
1979
121
448
4.3
1978
139
448
5.0
1977
149
392
6.1
1976
130
392
5.3
1975
103
364
4.5
1974
97
364
4.3
1973
126
364
5.5
1972
108
364
4.7
1971
73
364
3.2
1970
68
364
3.0

Last year dropped us back to pre-1998 levels. Is RBBC here to stay? I doubt we're going to drop back below 5.0 again on a consistent basis like we saw in the late '80s, but the glory days of the early '00s are probably over, too. That means a lot more stress for fantasy owners.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.