RB Production Per Quarter
By Chase Stuart
August 17th, 2011

Fantasy football players and NFL fans have spent decades arguing over whether a particular player is injury prone. Some view the NFL as a violent league and everyone is at risk of injury on any play; whichever players actually go down with an injury has more to do with bad luck than is commonly believed. Others argue that some running backs are simply more injury prone than others - although even they will admit that some players start out as injury prone and then end up becoming very durable. One might claim that being an every-down, every-game running back wears on a player, and that it's easier to look good with a lighter workload.

Fantasy football is a complex game. But sometimes, I just want to see how a player performed when he actually played. The more specific you can get, the better, and I like gauge a player's fantasy potential before worrying about injuries.

I looked at all running backs who ranked in the top 50 in either fantasy points in 2010 or in Footballguys' official 2011 projections; excluding the running backs drafted in April, there were 58 such running backs from that were on at least one list. I then noted how many quarters in which each of those running backs played in 2010. I included overtime quarters, so it's possible for a running back to play in more than 64 quarters (Jamaal Charles played in 66 quarters last season, for example). If the running back had at least one rush attempt or one target in a quarter, he gets credit for playing in that quarter. But if a player was injured early in the first quarter, his production in that game will in essence be divided by just one-fourth of a game instead of a full game. By using a more granular approach to per-game numbers, we can really see which running backs played well in 2010 -- at least, whenever they were on the field. The table below shows each running back's fantasy points in 2010, number of games played, number of quarters played, fantasy points per game, fantasy points per game, and the running backs' ranks among the 58 RBs in FP, FP/G and Fantasy Points per Four Quarters (FP/4Q).

Running Back
FPs
Gms
Quarters
FP/G
FP/4Q
FP Rk
FP/G Rk
FP/Q Rk
Arian Foster
329.8
16
63
20.6
20.9
1
1
1
Darren McFadden
226.4
13
52
17.4
17.4
6
2
2
Adrian Peterson
241.9
15
58
16.1
16.7
3
3
3
Frank Gore
160.5
11
41
14.6
15.7
20
8
4
Maurice Jones-Drew
206.1
14
54
14.7
15.3
12
7
5
LeSean McCoy
221.2
15
58
14.7
15.3
8
6
6
Peyton Hillis
243.4
16
64
15.2
15.2
2
4
7
Jamaal Charles
241.5
16
66
15.1
14.6
4
5
8
Chris Johnson
232.9
16
65
14.6
14.3
5
9
9
Rashard Mendenhall
222.1
16
62
13.9
14.3
7
10
10
Michael Turner
217.6
16
61
13.6
14.3
9
11
11
Matt Forte
215.6
16
62
13.5
13.9
10
12
12
Knowshon Moreno
163.1
13
47
12.5
13.9
18
15
13
Mike Tolbert
161.1
15
47
10.7
13.7
19
21
14
Ray Rice
213.9
16
66
13.4
13.0
11
13
15
Ahmad Bradshaw
202.9
16
63
12.7
12.9
13
14
16
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
187.3
16
59
11.7
12.7
15
18
17
Steven Jackson
198.4
16
63
12.4
12.6
14
16
18
Ryan Torain
122.7
10
39
12.3
12.6
33
17
19
LeGarrette Blount
138.1
13
44
10.6
12.6
24
23
20
Ryan Mathews
124.0
12
41
10.3
12.1
32
25
21
Michael Bush
132.9
14
44
9.5
12.1
27
28
22
Danny Woodhead
128.6
14
45
9.2
11.4
28
30
23
Cedric Benson
176.9
16
62
11.1
11.4
16
19
24
LaDainian Tomlinson
164.2
15
59
10.9
11.1
17
20
25
Joseph Addai
85.9
8
31
10.7
11.1
45
22
26
Brandon Jacobs
142.2
16
54
8.9
10.5
22
31
27
Fred Jackson
156.2
16
60
9.8
10.4
21
27
28
Chris Ivory
103.3
12
40
8.6
10.3
36
33
29
Brian Westbrook
79.0
15
31
5.3
10.2
49
52
30
Jahvid Best
141.0
15
58
9.4
9.7
23
29
31
Rashad Jennings
92.2
13
38
7.1
9.7
41
40
32
Thomas Jones
137.8
16
57
8.6
9.7
25
32
33
Maurice Morris
80.6
13
34
6.2
9.5
47
44
34
Pierre Thomas
59.0
6
25
9.8
9.4
51
26
35
Mike Goodson
94.2
16
40
5.9
9.4
39
47
36
Ryan Grant
4.5
1
2
4.5
9.0
58
55
37
Felix Jones
137.0
16
62
8.6
8.8
26
34
38
DeAngelo Williams
48.2
6
22
8.0
8.8
53
35
39
Marshawn Lynch
124.2
12
57
10.4
8.7
31
24
40
Tim Hightower
117.2
16
54
7.3
8.7
34
39
41
Jason Snelling
92.7
14
43
6.6
8.6
40
42
42
Jonathan Stewart
105.3
14
49
7.5
8.6
35
38
43
Ronnie Brown
127.6
16
62
8.0
8.2
30
37
44
Keiland Williams
87.0
16
43
5.4
8.1
44
50
45
Brandon Jackson
128.5
16
64
8.0
8.0
29
36
46
Donald Brown
82.2
13
41
6.3
8.0
46
43
47
Jerome Harrison
47.5
8
24
5.9
7.9
54
46
48
Cadillac Williams
97.2
16
52
6.1
7.5
38
45
49
Willis McGahee
79.2
15
46
5.3
6.9
48
51
50
Shonn Greene
100.6
15
59
6.7
6.8
37
41
51
Darren Sproles
91.0
16
56
5.7
6.5
42
48
52
Justin Forsett
89.2
16
56
5.6
6.4
43
49
53
Bernard Scott
41.9
16
28
2.6
6.0
55
58
54
Reggie Bush
41.8
8
28
5.2
6.0
56
53
55
Chris Wells
59.1
13
41
4.5
5.8
50
54
56
C.J. Spiller
50.0
14
45
3.6
4.4
52
57
57
James Starks
11.6
3
11
3.9
4.2
57
56
58

Which players stand out as possible sleepers when looking at fantasy points per quarter?

  • Frank Gore was 3rd in yards from scrimmage after 11 weeks, trailing only Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson. His 20th place ranking in FP last season belies his true ability. How essential is he to the San Francisco offense? Gore was injured in week 12 and never returned, but his 244 combined rushes and receptions led all players after week 11. His touchdown production was ugly last year, and that might not improve much this year. But Gore's such an important cog for the 49ers that, as long as he stays healthy, he is a steal at his current ADP (RB11).

  • Darren McFadden comes with the injury-prone label, but only Arian Foster averaged more FP/4Q last year than McFadden. On one hand, I urge caution: 36% of his fantasy production came in two games against Jacksonville and Denver, two of the worst run defenses in football. But McFadden is an elite talent who should be a huge part of the Raiders' offense in 2011, especially after losing leading receiver Zach Miller. With an ADP of RB9, the fantasy community is banking on another injury or a Raiders implosion. Both are possibly, but don't ignore the potential McFadden has is he can stay on the field. I can't say I love McFadden's fantasy prospects, but the numbers don't lie. Only Foster was better last year on a per-quarter basis.

  • Ryan Torain has an ADP of RB36, but he could be much more valuable than that. Like Gore and McFadden, Torain has suffered more than his fair share of injuries. There may not be a starting running back with a less attractive ratio of injuries to production than Torain. But don't ignore that Torain is the best runner on the Redskins roster and will be given the chance to lead the team if he can stay healthy. Mike Shanahan drafted him in Denver and then brought him over to Washington. Last year, Torain ranked in the top 20 in FP/G and FP/4Q while playing in 10 games. In his first game of the year, he entered as a reserve and had just seven carries; against the Lions in week 8, he left the game with an injury in the first half. In his other 8 games, Torain rushed 148 times for 686 yards (4.64 YPC) and 4 touchdowns. He averaged 99 yards from scrimmage in those 8 games, showing the sort of potential he has in 2011 if he can stay healthy. A big "if," to be sure, but I think his talent is underrated. With an unsettled passing attack, look for Washington to leave heavily on the running game early in the year. Torain's currently out with a broken hand, but that won't sideline him once the regular season starts.

  • Unlike Gore, McFadden and Torain, Hillis isn't undervalued because of his injury history. The #2 fantasy back in fantasy football last season played in 64 quarters, and as a result, he ranked "only" 7th in FP/Q. Still, with an ADP of RB14, it's worth remembering that Hillis had a dominant 2010 and will again be running behind one of the NFL's best run-blocking lines. Hillis was the Browns offense last year: he had a touch in 64 different quarters, including one overtime period. He didn't get a carry in the final quarter of the season, as the Browns chose to rest a clearly banged up Hillis. In fact, before the final game of the year, Hillis was averaging over 16 FP/4Q. There's every reason to believe that Hillis will again be the centerpiece of the Cleveland offense, and note that before the week 17 finale he was fourth in FP/G among all running backs.

  • Knowshon Moreno didn't win many people over with his performance as a rookie in 2009, and his season last year left a similar taste in people's mouths. But he increased his yards per carry and FP/G average in 2010. This article helps highlight why a player like Moreno might be undervalued. He missed three games early in the year due to a hamstring injury, and then left games early in weeks 15 and 16 due to injury. But before the injury in week 15, how was Moreno doing? His 15.4 FP/G average ranked 6th in the NFL with three games left in the season. It's easy to pick on Moreno, but he was a legitimate RB1 when healthy last season. Moving from Josh McDaniels to John Fox is likely a good switch for Moreno's fantasy prospects as well.
  • Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.

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