Home > Research > Knees Please Part 2

By Taylor Mascia

Inspired by some discussion in r/dynastyff last week in regard to the first article (here), I decided to dig a little deeper. I’ve taken

  • Career averages (as starter) before the injury and
  • Career averages after injury (TWO YEARS OUT through the end of their career)
  • How many years they were starter quality (which I defined as >=200 carries).

My hope is this would give some insight into whether or not a player returned to form and what their durability as a starter looked like.

Player Draft Round Career Years Following Injury Before/2 Yrs Out G Att Rush Yds Yds/Att Rec Yds TD
Olandis Gary 4 0 Before 12 276 1,159 4.20 159 7
Olandis Gary 4 0 2 Yrs Out 13 75 266 3.54 109 2
Edgerrin James 1 8 Before 16 378 1,631 4.31 590 13
Edgerrin James 1 8 2 Yrs Out 14 263 1,048 3.98 234 7
Jamal Lewis 1 8 Before 16 309 1,364 4.40 296 6
Jamal Lewis 1 8 2 Yrs out 14 275 1,131 4.11 163 7
Dominic Rhodes Undrafted 0 Before 15 233 1,104 4.70 224 9
Dominic Rhodes Undrafted 0 2 Yrs Out 12 91 338 3.72 123 3
Deuce McAllister* 1 1 Before 13 256 1,099 4.18 282 9
Deuce McAllister* 1 1 2 Yrs Out 5 44 170 3.89 48 2
Ronnie Brown 1 3 Before 15 207 907 4.40 232 4
Ronnie Brown 1 3 2 Yrs Out 14 83 326 3.92 136 3
Kevin Smith 3 0 Before 16 238 976 4.10 286 8
Kevin Smith 3 0 2 Yrs Out 10 55 245 4.50 129 3
Jamaal Charles 3 3 Before 16 210 1,472 6.15 383 6
Jamaal Charles 3 3 2 Yrs Out 15 233 1,160 5.00 492 11
Rashard Mendenhall 1 1 Before 16 242 1,108 4.60 261 7
Rashard Mendenhall 1 1 2 Yrs Out 15 217 687 3.17 134 8
Knowshon Moreno 1 1 Before 15 215 863 4.10 293 6
Knowshon Moreno* 1 1 2 Yrs Out 10 136 863 4.36 278 6
Adrian Peterson 1 3 Before 15 300 1,446 4.90 293 13
Adrian Peterson 1 3 2 Yrs Out 14 279 1,266 4.54 171 10

*2 ACL tears

For the sake of discussion, I will define “return to form” as a player who maintaining RB1 status in 0.5 PPR leagues.

I want to go ahead and be the first to say that this isn’t anywhere near perfect.  There are a lot of variables at play.  Olandis Gary played second fiddle to Mike Anderson upon his return in 2009.  Then Clinto Portis showed up and put them both on the bench.  Dominic Rhodes was Edgerrin James’ backup so his big year is due to James recovering from his ACL tear.  Upon James’ return, Rhodes was dealing with his own ACL tear then returned to being James’ backup in 2003.  Ronnie Brown had to split time following his injury with Ricky Williams after Williams decided to return from his football hiatus.  Kevin Smith couldn’t stay healthy in general plus the Lions drafted Jahvid Best in 2010 when Smith was poised to return.  Moreno had some fumbling issues that cut his time upon return from his injury.  Adrian Peterson had to sit out last year for the child abuse issue.  Coaching and scheme changes, offensive line injuries, skill position injuries can all affect the play of a starting running back.  Age also is something to consider (James and Lewis played at starter quality for another 8 years after injury so their averages likely show the effect of old age).

However, I think we can use this as a general directional analysis.  It does appear that even those who return to form (James, Lewis, Charles, AP) still weren’t back to their pre-injury level.  Here I like to look at Yds/Att since it accounts for missed games, decreased touches, etc.  None of them could attain their pre-injury Yds/Att.  While everything I listed in the above paragraph can contribute to down years, the fact is all of them suffered in Yds/Att following injury.  That seems more like a trend than coincidence.

I think its also important to recognize that the 4 to return to form are on a different level in terms of athleticism/talent/skill than those who did not.  I’m not sure we can prove this but I feel comfortable labeling all 4 as elite and I would be equally comfortable putting my money on the idea that elite talents/athletes recover from injury better than lesser talents/athletes.

I’d like to mention AP because I think the jury is still out on whether he can truly return to his pre-injury form.  In 2012 when he returned he averaged 6.0 Yds/Att and rushed for over 2,000 yards.  2013 saw his touches drop drastically but his Yds/Att was also down (4.50).  And we all know what happened last year.  It will be interesting to see what he does in 2015.  Does he continue the trend of declining Yds/Att or pull a classic AP move and shit all over it?

As for Gurley, I think we can all agree that if he lives up to the hype he will be on the level of the 4 to return to form.  He may not end up being what he could have been without the injury but he should still, according to the trend, be a RB1.

Follow me

Taylor Mascia

Obsessed with my dogs and all things football--NFL and CFB. Avid snowboarder. I'm on reddit a lot in the fantasy football subreddits. You can find me commenting @ idpdynasty_tm.
Follow me

Latest posts by Taylor Mascia (see all)

One Comment, RSS

  • Dominic Kopek

    says on:
    August 26, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    I think you made a pretty good correlation for RBs that tear their ACLs get replaced before they heal or the team already has a backup plan. That is unless you are Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Lewis and Edgerrin James who are/were all elite RBs and focal points on their offenses.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*