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Running Back Production By Quarter

Which running backs were most productive when healthy last season? Analyzing production on a per-quarter basis provides a more granular look than per-game stats.

NFL fans have spent decades arguing over whether a particular player is injury prone. Some view the NFL as a violent league where everyone is at risk of injury on every play: the players who actually suffer an injury are often simply victims of bad luck. Others believe that certain running backs are simply more injury prone than others.

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 or when he had a reduced role.

I looked at all running backs who scored at least 60 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues in 2012 (separate analysis follows at the end of this article for PPR leagues). I then noted how many quarters each of those running backs played in 2012. I included overtime quarters, so it's possible for a running back to play in more than 64 quarters, and two did so last season. 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 2012 -- at least, whenever they were on the field. The table below shows each running back's fantasy points in 2012, number of games played, number of quarters involved, fantasy points per game, fantasy points per four quarters, and the running backs' ranks among these 53 RBs in FP, FP/G and Fantasy Points per Four Quarters (FP/4Q).

Running BackTeamFPGQuartersFP/GFP/4QFP RkFP/G RkFP/4Q Rk
Adrian Peterson MIN 309.4 16 63 19.3 19.6 1 1 1
Arian Foster HOU 264.8 16 63 16.6 16.8 2 2 2
Doug Martin TAM 264.6 16 65 16.5 16.3 3 3 3
Marshawn Lynch SEA 250.6 16 63 15.7 15.9 4 4 4
Alfred Morris WAS 246.3 16 65 15.4 15.2 5 5 5
Ray Rice BAL 222.1 16 60 13.9 14.8 6 6 6
C.J. Spiller BUF 218.3 16 60 13.6 14.6 7 7 7
Trent Richardson CLE 203.7 15 58 13.6 14 9 8 8
Andre Brown NYG 95.1 10 28 9.5 13.6 32 28 9
Jamaal Charles KAN 210.9 16 63 13.2 13.4 8 9 10
Knowshon Moreno DEN 93.5 8 28 11.7 13.4 34 15 11
Willis McGahee DEN 119.2 10 36 11.9 13.2 24 14 12
Stevan Ridley NWE 203.4 16 62 12.7 13.1 10 10 13
Ahmad Bradshaw NYG 162 14 50 11.6 13 16 16 14
LeSean McCoy PHI 151.3 12 47 12.6 12.9 21 11 15
Frank Gore SFO 198.6 16 62 12.4 12.8 11 12 16
Matt Forte CHI 179.4 15 57 12 12.6 13 13 17
Maurice Jones-Drew JAX 62 6 21 10.3 11.8 52 23 18
DeMarco Murray DAL 115 10 39 11.5 11.8 26 17 19
Reggie Bush MIA 175.8 16 60 11 11.7 14 20 20
Chris Johnson TEN 182.9 16 64 11.4 11.4 12 18 21
Mikel Leshoure DET 155.2 14 56 11.1 11.1 20 19 22
Shonn Greene NYJ 169.4 16 62 10.6 10.9 15 22 23
Darren Sproles NOR 139.1 13 51 10.7 10.9 22 21 24
BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN 155.8 16 59 9.7 10.6 19 26 25
Danny Woodhead NWE 116.7 16 45 7.3 10.4 25 32 26
Michael Turner ATL 159.1 16 62 9.9 10.3 18 25 27
Shane Vereen NWE 64 13 25 4.9 10.2 49 49 28
Steven Jackson STL 160.3 16 63 10 10.2 17 24 29
Darren McFadden OAK 114.5 12 45 9.5 10.2 28 27 30
David Wilson NYG 69.2 16 28 4.3 9.9 47 50 31
Fred Jackson BUF 89.4 10 38 8.9 9.4 36 29 32
DeAngelo Williams CAR 134.4 16 58 8.4 9.3 23 31 33
Joique Bell DET 107.9 16 47 6.7 9.2 29 35 34
Ryan Mathews SDG 101.9 12 46 8.5 8.9 30 30 35
Michael Bush CHI 79.4 13 38 6.1 8.4 43 38 36
Jackie Battle SDG 65.9 16 32 4.1 8.2 48 51 37
Bryce Brown PHI 86 16 42 5.4 8.2 39 46 38
Vick Ballard IND 114.6 16 56 7.2 8.2 27 33 39
Jonathan Dwyer PIT 84.9 13 42 6.5 8.1 40 36 40
Marcel Reece OAK 82.7 16 43 5.2 7.7 41 47 41
Felix Jones DAL 96.8 16 51 6.1 7.6 31 39 42
Bilal Powell NYJ 81.7 14 44 5.8 7.4 42 41 43
Mike Tolbert CAR 87.1 16 47 5.4 7.4 38 45 44
Jonathan Stewart CAR 61.3 9 34 6.8 7.2 53 34 45
Daniel Thomas MIA 72.1 12 40 6 7.2 45 40 46
Isaac Redman PIT 77.4 14 43 5.5 7.2 44 43 47
Pierre Thomas NOR 94.7 15 54 6.3 7 33 37 48
LaRod Stephens-Howling ARI 70.3 14 41 5 6.9 46 48 49
Jacquizz Rodgers ATL 88.4 16 54 5.5 6.5 37 44 50
Mark Ingram NOR 93.1 16 60 5.8 6.2 35 42 51
Bernard Pierce BAL 63.9 16 45 4 5.7 50 52 52
Daryl Richardson STL 63.8 16 50 4 5.1 51 53 53
  • Incredibly, the top seven running backs in fantasy points were also the top seven in fantasy points per game and fantasy points per quarter. That's pretty rare, which indicates that last year was a pretty healthy year for top backs.
  • Andrew Brown ranked 9th in fantasy points per quarter, while Ahmad Bradshaw was 14th in that metric. This lets us know that the Giants running back -- whoever it was -- was very valuable last year. That's a good sign if you're expecting good things from David Wilson, although he will still have to compete with Brown for touches.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew was 52nd in fantasy points, but 18th in fantasy points per quarter last year. He doesn't need to bounce back to be an RB2: he just needs to stay healthy.
  • I'm not sure what to make of the fact that Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee were both in the top ten in fantasy points per quarter. But I do think drafting Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman is a viable strategy in most leagues: the odds are good that one of them will be very productive most weeks. Denver usually plays with the lead, which should mean good things for either Ball or Hillman (or both).
  • Chris Johnson ranked 12th in fantasy points, but just 21st in fantasy points per quarter.  Much of his value was tied in him staying healthy and getting a large number of carries. His ADP (RB13) includes some of that risk, but I would still avoid him at that price.
  • Steven Jackson and Michael Turner finished 17th and 18th in fantasy points last year, but just 29th and 27th in fantasy points per quarter. Some are high on Jackson's potential in the Falcons offense (ADP of RB12), but perhaps this throws some cold water on those projections. Atlanta was a very pass-happy team last year despite their good record, and I don't expect that to change this year.

What if we do the same analysis for PPR leagues, using 75 FP as our minimum?

Running BackTeamFPGQuartersFP/GFP/4QFP RkFP/G RkFP/4Q Rk
Adrian Peterson MIN 349.4 16 63 21.8 22.2 1 1 1
Arian Foster HOU 304.8 16 63 19.1 19.4 3 3 2
Doug Martin TAM 313.6 16 65 19.6 19.3 2 2 3
Ray Rice BAL 283.1 16 60 17.7 18.9 4 4 4
Trent Richardson CLE 254.7 15 58 17 17.6 8 7 5
LeSean McCoy PHI 205.3 12 47 17.1 17.5 16 5 6
C.J. Spiller BUF 261.3 16 60 16.3 17.4 6 9 7
Marshawn Lynch SEA 273.6 16 63 17.1 17.4 5 6 8
Darren Sproles NOR 214.1 13 51 16.5 16.8 13 8 9
Knowshon Moreno DEN 114.5 8 28 14.3 16.4 36 15 10
Willis McGahee DEN 145.2 10 36 14.5 16.1 28 14 11
Alfred Morris WAS 257.3 16 65 16.1 15.8 7 10 12
Matt Forte CHI 223.4 15 57 14.9 15.7 11 13 13
Jamaal Charles KAN 246.9 16 63 15.4 15.7 9 11 14
Andre Brown NYG 107.1 10 28 10.7 15.3 39 30 15
DeMarco Murray DAL 149 10 39 14.9 15.3 26 12 16
Ahmad Bradshaw NYG 185 14 50 13.2 14.8 20 19 17
Frank Gore SFO 226.6 16 62 14.2 14.6 10 16 18
Maurice Jones-Drew JAX 76 6 21 12.7 14.5 52 23 19
Reggie Bush MIA 210.8 16 60 13.2 14.1 14 20 20
Danny Woodhead NWE 156.7 16 45 9.8 13.9 24 32 21
Darren McFadden OAK 156.5 12 45 13 13.9 25 22 22
Chris Johnson TEN 218.9 16 64 13.7 13.7 12 17 23
Joique Bell DET 159.9 16 47 10 13.6 23 31 24
Mikel Leshoure DET 189.2 14 56 13.5 13.5 18 18 25
Stevan Ridley NWE 209.4 16 62 13.1 13.5 15 21 26
Fred Jackson BUF 123.4 10 38 12.3 13 34 25 27
Steven Jackson STL 198.3 16 63 12.4 12.6 17 24 28
Marcel Reece OAK 134.7 16 43 8.4 12.5 31 37 29
Ryan Mathews SDG 140.9 12 46 11.7 12.3 30 27 30
Shonn Greene NYJ 188.4 16 62 11.8 12.2 19 26 31
BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN 177.8 16 59 11.1 12.1 22 29 32
Michael Turner ATL 178.1 16 62 11.1 11.5 21 28 33
Jacquizz Rodgers ATL 141.4 16 54 8.8 10.5 29 35 34
DeAngelo Williams CAR 147.4 16 58 9.2 10.2 27 33 35
Jackie Battle SDG 80.9 16 32 5.1 10.1 49 52 36
Pierre Thomas NOR 133.7 15 54 8.9 9.9 32 34 37
Jonathan Dwyer PIT 102.9 13 42 7.9 9.8 40 39 38
Mike Tolbert CAR 114.1 16 47 7.1 9.7 37 43 39
Felix Jones DAL 122.8 16 51 7.7 9.6 35 41 40
Ronnie Brown SDG 108.1 14 45 7.7 9.6 38 40 41
Bryce Brown PHI 99 16 42 6.2 9.4 42 50 42
Vick Ballard IND 131.6 16 56 8.2 9.4 33 38 43
Michael Bush CHI 88.4 13 38 6.8 9.3 45 46 44
Jonathan Stewart CAR 78.3 9 34 8.7 9.2 50 36 45
Bilal Powell NYJ 98.7 14 44 7.1 9 43 44 46
Isaac Redman PIT 96.4 14 43 6.9 9 44 45 47
Daniel Thomas MIA 87.1 12 40 7.3 8.7 48 42 48
LaRod Stephens-Howling ARI 87.3 14 41 6.2 8.5 47 48 49
Alex Green GNB 77.9 12 37 6.5 8.4 51 47 50
Shaun Draughn KAN 75.1 16 36 4.7 8.3 53 53 51
Daryl Richardson STL 87.8 16 50 5.5 7 46 51 52
Mark Ingram NOR 99.1 16 60 6.2 6.6 41 49 53
  • LeSean McCoy was a top-six running back on both a per-game and per-quarter average last year in PPR leagues. He is healthy entering the season, so fantasy owners should have no reservations drafting McCoy as their RB1.  That goes double for PPR leagues.
  • When using PPR, we see Sproles vault into the top ten on both a per-game and per-quarter basis.  And again, the two Denver running backs were both excellent in those splits, too.
  • In non-PPR leagues, Alfred Morris is a less attractive pick.  Even with 13 touchdowns in 2012, he was only RB12 on a per-quarter basis in this scoring system. Frank Gore is another player who drops quite a bit once you include PPR and per-quarter production.
  • Reggie Bush is a trendy pick this year, and I'm buying the hype: I think he'll excel working with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. That said, Bush was only RB20 in fantasy points per quarter last year, as he was already a huge part of his team's offense (which is why he ranked 14th in fantasy points).
  • Danny Woodhead was a RB2 in PPR leagues on a per-quarter basis last year. If you think the Chargers might struggle in 2013, that might lead to Woodhead seeing the field a lot, he could be a solid flex play (or RB3) that you can get very late in your drafts. In any event, if you draft Ronnie Brown, I'd certainly handcuff Woodhead to him in PPR leagues.

More from Chase Stuart:

Running Back Workload Part II - July 18
Running Back Workload - July 11
Running Back Fantasy Production in Wins and Losses - July 7
Quarterback By Committee 2014 - June 19
Rearview QB - June 5
A Starting Point for 2014 Running Back Projections - May 27
How to Project Receiving Yards In 2014 - May 14
Cross-Team Running Back Handcuffs - August 28
Search our Stats: A Guide to the Data Dominator, Historical Data Dominator, and Game Log Dominator - August 14
Quarterback By Committee - August 12