FanPost

Mileage on Fred Jackson's legs




I read MRW's article yesterday on resigning Fred Jackson. Matt seemed to hypothesize that running backs over 30 were not worth resigning because there typically is a drop off in production at that age. There were several running backs cited as having excellent careers that seemed to take nosedives after they turned 30.

It was interesting to read some of the comments after which ranged from cut him now to sign him to a three/four year contract. Many of the comments cited low "mileage" as a reason to resign Jackson. The thought was that he had fewer carries or the hits were not as hard in the other leagues as in the NFL. I decided to carry out a little research to see where Jackson stacks up in career carries and receptions compared to other top performing backs in their careers. I looked at most of the running backs Matt cited with the exception of one who I can't remember the name.

I found a website that listed statistics by age and calculated the number of carries before 30 and in their careers and the percentage of carries by running backs after age 30. I also looked at the number of yards gained after 30 compared to before. Although I am not going to show any of the yardage stats because it is complicated using the Buffalo Rumblings format. There is no way (that I know of) to attach a spreadsheet. If anyone wants the sheet, leave a comment with your email address unless the rumblings staff can somehow put it in a post or put up a link.

The running backs reviewed

Fred Jackson =FJ

Jerome Bettis=JB

Shaun Alexander=SA

LaDanian Tomlinson=LT

Priest Holmes=PH

Marshall Faulk=MF

Marcus Allen=MA

Walter Payton=WP

Barry Sanders=BS, he doesn't add anything to the review because he retired at 30. So we don't know if he would have lost his running ability after 30.

Ricky Williams= RW

When reviewing the data I assumed three things. I didn't differentiate between carries in different leagues. NFL Europe has a bunch of players just below NFL standard so there is a good chance they hit as hard as the real NFL players with the exception of maybe Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis. I didn't look at any college stats. Some of the players started their NFL career at 21 and others 24. Players who started their NFL careers at 24 were no doubt getting hit for a number of years in college. I didn't look at those stats at all though because I think that would complicate the process. Which college years to include, where they played and other things made stat collection difficult and would add a degree of uncertainty to the discussion. The last thing I assumed is that carries were equal throughout time. Each carry by Payton is the same as Bettis or Tomlinson. I am not sure if this is a good assumption. The players were smaller when Payton played, but so was Payton I think. I also didn't take in to account return touches. They seemed minimal although I only looked at Jackson's numbers. I think he has less than 60 returns in his whole career in the NFL, but I couldn't find stats for other leagues.

What I found.

Matt's right for most running backs after age 30. The decline in production was pretty significant. Out of the 8 running backs that played into their 30's there were only nine 1000 yard seasons between all of them and that includes rushing and receiving stats. Marcus Allen had 4 of them and Walter Payton had 2. One of Paytons years after 30 he had 2000 yards from scrimmage, which is amazing, but the Bears beat him to a pulp.

The number of touches on the ball varied quite a bit and there seems to be some correlation to the number of carries and performance after age 30. Many of the rushers Matt cited had a lot of touches on the football, but others did not. One thing that is true though is that Jackson has had fewer touches than any other player looked at. Out of the players looked at, some of the players have had almost twice as many touches when they turned 30 as Fred.

The other thing is that only Marcus Allen, Jerome Bettis and Ricky Williams had more than two or three productive years after 30. The table below shows carries up to and including the year they were 30 in the first column. Sorry the heading is a little misleading. The second column is number of carries for their career and the last column shows percent of carries after they turned 30. The second chart shows the same stats for rushes plus receptions.

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Up to 30

Career

% after 30

RushesFJ

1524

1524

0%

RushesJB

2873

3479

17%

RushesSA

2176

2187

1%

RushesLT

2880

3174

9%

RushesPH

1615

1780

9%

RushesMF

2576

2836

9%

RushesMA

1960

3022

35%

RushesWP

3047

3838

21%

RushesBS

3062

3062

0%

RushesRW

1763

2431

27%

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Rush+RecFJ

1800

1800

0%

Rush+RecJB

3050

3679

17%

Rush+RecSA

2390

2402

0%

Rush+RecLT

3410

3798

10%

Rush+RecPH

1928

2119

9%

Rush+RecMF

3249

3603

10%

Rush+RecMA

2376

3622

34%

Rush+RecWP

3420

4330

21%

Rush+RecBS

3414

3414

0%

Rush+RecRW

2009

2773

28%

Looking at the data, three players had more than 20% of their touches after they turned 30. I guess that means they were effective after 30. As stated above, Payton had 20% of his caries after 30, all in 3 years after 30, and only 2 of which were really productive. it is amazing though, he had a lot of years with more than 350 touches in a season, even after turning 30. Going back to the 3 players with over 20% of their carries after 30, two of the three had about the same number of touches as Fred and one had a lot more. Out of the other group of players who were not successful. Out of the remaining players 2 of the five had around 2000 career touches and three had over 3000. Looking at it another way, 2/4 of the running backs with fewer carries had successful careers after 30. Out of the running backs with more than 2500 carries before 30, 1 of 5 had a successful career.

Jackson would definitely fit in with the group of rushers with fewer carries. It would seem that based on other rushers with fewer carries, there would be a 50% chance he has a long, productive career into his 30s. That being said, I am not even sure if Jackson is really that comparable to someone like Shaun Alexander. Alexander was done by 30 with 2400 touches. Jackson has 1800 so far in his career, so even Alexander has 1/3 more touches at this point in his career than Jackson.

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.

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