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UPDATED

The 2-3 Year Window

If you have been playing dynasty fantasy football for more than a season, you have most likely heard the saying, “2-3 year window” in regards to running backs.  With the recent explosion of running back production from the likes of Todd Gurley, Zeke Elliott, Alvin Kamara and others, as well as continued success from Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson, and Le’Veon Bell, this theory has been taking a hit.  A recent poll ran in our Facebook Group returned a staggering 65% that do not believe in this theory.
https://gty.im/897757520
It seems that I am in the minority, because I would rather get out from a running back while I can still get close to peak value.  I decided to do some research to see if I am losing my mind, or if the perceived long-term value of the running back aligned with my thought process.
Just like in my “Le’Veon Bell – Curse of 400 Touches” article, I decided to go back to 2003 for my data.  Yes, some of these guys included are early in their careers, but it is worth noting so you can keep an eye on them going forward.
EDIT: After some blow back, I decided to change my data from 2003 to RB’s drafted between 2000-2014, which actually supported my claim further.

RB1’s DRAFTED Between 2000-2014

Between 2000-2014, there have been 66 running backs drafted to have at least one top 12 PPR season.
Out of the running backs that have had at least one RB1 season:

  • 32 (48.5%) accomplished RB1 production once.
  • 34 (51.5%) repeated RB1 production.
  • 10 (15.2%) had exactly 2 seasons of RB1 production.
  • 10 (15.2%) had exactly 3 seasons of RB1 production.
  • 4 (6.1%) had exactly 4 seasons of RB1 production.
  • 6 (9%) had exactly 5 seasons of RB1 production.
  • 2 (3%) had exactly 6 seasons of RB1 production.
  • 0 had exactly 7 seasons of RB1 production.
  • 2 (3%) had exactly 8 seasons of RB1 production.

RB2’s DRAFTED Between 2000-2014

94 running backs have had at least one RB2 season.
Out of the running backs that have had at least one RB2 season

  • 52 (55.3%) accomplished RB2 production once
  • 42 (44.7%) repeated RB2 production.
  • 27 (28.7%) had exactly 2 seasons of RB2 production.
  • 13 (13.8%) had exactly 3 seasons of RB2 production.
  • 1 (1.1%) had exactly 4 seasons of RB2 production.
  • 0 had exactly 5 seasons of RB2 production.
  • 0 had exactly 6 seasons of RB2 production.
  • 1 (1.1%) had exactly 7 seasons of RB2 production.

RB1/RB2 DRAFTED BETWEEN 2000-2014

115 running backs have had at least a single season with RB1 or RB2 production.

  • 46 (40%) accomplished RB1 or RB2 production only once.
  • 69 (60%) repeated RB1 or RB2 production.
  • 19 (16.5%) had exactly 2 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production.
  • 21 (18.3%) had exactly 3 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production.
  • 11 (9.5%) had exactly 4 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production.
  • 8 (7%) had exactly 5 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production.
  • 2 (1.7%) had exactly 6 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production.
  • 2 (1.7%) had exactly 7 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production.
  • 3 (2.6%) had exactly 8 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production.
  • 1 (.9%) had exactly 9 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production.
  • 1 (.9%) had exactly 10 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production.
  • 1 (.9%) had exactly 12 seasons of RB1 or RB2 production.

Totals Since 2003

We can see that over 40% of running backs that have produced a top 24 season were never heard from again.  For me, that is a staggering number.  In most cases, a top 24 season will inflate a running backs price, leaving buyers in a tough spot.  Yes, it is more likely that the RB will repeat at least once, but what are the odds you will get two more RB1/RB2 seasons out of them?

  • 65 (56.5%) had 2 or fewer RB1 or RB2 seasons.
  • 86 (74.8%) had 3 or fewer RB1 or RB2 seasons.
  • 97 (84.3%) had 4 or fewer RB1 or RB2 seasons.
  • 105 (91.3%) had 5 or fewer RB1 or RB2 seasons.
  • 10 (8.7%) had 6 or more RB1 or RB2 seasons.
SAN DIEGO – SEPTEMBER 29: LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the San Diego Chargers stiff arms Ty Law #24 of the New England Patriots to get a first down during a game on September 29, 2002 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

What Does It All Mean

For me, once a player has had 2 seasons of top 24 performances, it is time to move him.  With most owners ignoring this huge tell, you can still get a lot of value out of a back that has a 60% chance of never producing RB2 numbers for you.  The fact that there is only a 27.1% chance that that player will accomplish this for another 2 seasons is enough to force my hand.
Of course, there are outliers, but guys like Frank Gore, Matt Forte, LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Maurice Jones-Drew are FEW & FAR between.
Guys like Cedric Benson (#4 overall NFL pick in 2005), Cadillac Williams (#5 – 2005), Reggie Bush (#2 – 2006), Laurence Maroney (#21 – 2006), Joseph Addai (#30 – 2006), Darren McFadden (#4 – 2008), Knowshon Moreno (#12 – 2009), Beanie Wells (#31 – 2009), C.J. Spiller (#9 – 2010), Ryan Mathews (#12 – 2010), Jahvid Best (#30 – 2010), Trent Richardson (#3 – 2012) and Doug Martin (#31 – 2012) are the norm.
All of these were highly touted first-round selections that had a top 24 season, saw their price explode, to ultimately fall off a cliff.  Chasing that 5+ year production at RB can be detrimental to your dynasty roster.

Why I Don’t Carry RB’s With Value During A Rebuild

When considering everything above, I have a strict “Trade All My Running Back Assets” rule when rebuilding.  Now, there are exceptions to every rule, so let me explain further.
If you do not see yourself realistically competing over the next two seasons, get out from under all RB’s with value.  There is no reason to hold on to these guys when you can bring in future assets.  By the time you are ready to compete, most of these guys will hold a fraction of the value they had at the time of your rebuild.  Plus, by trading them, you not only add future assets, but you also make your team worse, which in turn, almost guarantees you better draft capital.
In rookie drafts where I am rebuilding, I prefer to trade those picks if RB is the best player available.  Get the huge hauls you can get out of them and build a young, high ceiling, wide receiver core.  Once you have those players in place, you turn your concentration to running backs.
I mentioned above that there are exceptions to every rule.  Like in 2018 where Saquon Barkley’s value is just too high to pass up.  If you can’t trade the draft pick, you HAVE to take him.  Continue looking for the right trade, but if you have a decent roster, he could be the type of guy that gets you back into contention quicker than expected.  Don’t settle for less than market value.

In Conclusion

The 2-3 year running back window is very real.  It can’t be denied.  Yes, there are outliers to every rule.  But, there is never a guarantee that just because a running back is talented, that he will be able to beat the odds .  All I can say is that I am not willing to bet my fantasy seasons on a running back breaking the trend.  There will ALWAYS be the NEXT guy, so don’t miss out on getting your value while you can.

Am I Wrong?  Let Me Know!

As always, please come over to the Facebook Group and let me have it!
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