Mileage Matters? The Value of RB Wear & Tear

Photo: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Mileage matters, right? I mean, we're told every year that running backs that had a ton of carries in college football have more of a risk of getting injured and less of a career lifespan outlook because of all the punishment they took earlier in their careers. If we're told that every year there has to be some truth to it, yes?

Well, there is some, as there often in is most points of emphasis in a business where we are predicting the future and have no exact way of knowing what will correlate to success with each player. But there is definitely push back to that narrative as well.

Ben Fennell on twitter was going through some stats, as he likes to do to constantly educate us draft fans, and was combing through some running back usage the other day. He pointed out that backs like Elijah Holyfield (215), Josh Jacobs (251), Dexter Williams (257) and Miles Sanders (276) all not only have talent but a limited amount of tread on their tires, if you will. On the other hand, Fennell pointed out that guys like Trayveon Williams (600), David Montgomery (624), Justice Hill (632), Devin Singletary (714), and Benny Snell (737) have a lot of carries to their name.

Normally the reason one points out such a statistic is to make you aware of some guys with fresh legs while throwing up a yellow caution flag for some of the guys who have already been through a lot when it comes to hits. But how much of that carry count correlates?

Well, market share stans would tell you that injuries, even to running backs, are often more random than just saying that a guy has had a lot of usage, and will also point out that most of the top backs in the NFL are guys who came from heavy carry loads due to how good they were early on in their college careers.

David Johnson - 866

Kareem Hunt - 782

Ezekiel Elliott - 592

Todd Gurley - 510

Saquon Barkley - 671

Le'Veon Bell - 671

Melvin Gordon - 631

Nick Chubb - 758

Alex Collins - 665

James Connor - 668

Jay Ajayi - 678

Christian McCaffrey - 632

Dalvin Cook - 687

Aaron Jones - 658

Jordan Howard - 647

Kerryon Johnson - 519

Leonard Fournette - 616

Marlon Mack - 586

Derrick Henry - 602

Phillip Lindsay - 765

Honestly, from that list, which is basically most of the top rushers in the NFL, the only ones who you could hang your hat on with mileage being a concern are Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook, but Fournette's chronic injures problems were well documented before he was drafted, and Cook's injury was a random ACL injury. As for the rest, usage is a good indicator of future success, not future injury.

In the under 300 club, Alvin Kamara (210), Chris Carson (213), Damien Williams (290), Peyton Barber (248) Kenyan Drake (233),  and Nyheim Hines (258) are the ones who lead the way, but as you can see, those who had under 300 carries in college are far outnumbered by those who had over 500 carries when it comes to significant roles in the NFL.

Past injuries can be a concern, but don't fool yourself into thinking that just because a guy had a lot of carries in college means his legs are any less useful to produce at the next level, especially early on in their careers, which is where running back make most of their impact anyways.

The ones who received a lot of carries in college did so for a reason.

They're good.