Blitz recently started a firestorm with his comparison of Willie Parker to the other top running backs in the NFL. The interest and discussion that it stirred up got us thinking even more about which backs we would take over FWP. We decided to look not only at production in the league but also workload (both in the NFL and college) and the amount of money each one currently made. For the sake of this discussion, we left out any player who was a rookie in 2007 since their lack of history in the league would make objective comparisons much more tricky.
Most running backs begin their decline somewhere around 30 years of age, but their workload is another big factor into how quickly their decline turns into their retirement. Running backs like Earl Campbell and Natrone Means are testaments to how heavy workloads can significantly shorten a running backs career. For the sake of this argument though we decided to look back at not only NFL touches, but also their collegiate workload to see just who exactly has taken the most physical punishment amongst the league's experienced and proven backs.
Now we all know that one of the great things about FWP is that he wasn't ever a starter or even part of a regular rotation at UNC, but his lack of playing time wasn't as significant as I had thought. Since he did not play very much, he stayed in school until his senior season where as most of these guys left after their junior year. Therefore, his low number of collegiate carries seems to have saved him a season's worth of `total touches' but not much more. Interestingly Parker's NFL touches are also held pretty low thanks to his lack of receptions. That remains the only category in which he's nearly bottom of the barrel. One thing that amazing to me on this list is the god-awful amount of touches that LaDainian Tomlinson has had over the past 11 years (7 NFL seasons and 4 at TCU) averaging just over 342 touches a season.
Some looking at this list might point out that Jones, Rudi, Jackson and Westbrook haven't been starters for their entire careers or that McGahee wasn't healthy for the beginning of his career, but the fact is that each one of those guys has at least as many starts as FWP. Parker and Jackson have both started 46 games through 4 seasons and Jackson has actually played in three more games in total. The trio of McGahee, Rudi, and Jones has each had at least 13 more starts than FWP. The only guy on the list that has a significantly higher amount of 100 yard games per start is Larry Johnson who has amassed his 27 100 yard games in just 36 starts.
So FWP hasn't been overworked at any point during his career so far, and his production rivals just about every back in the league. The NFL though is a `what have you done for me lately?' business. With that in mind, here are the leading rushers in terms of both yards and attempts for the past three seasons.
So the question that I have for you now is who would you trade straight up for FWP? Before you answer though, look at not only age and workload but also production and contract status.