With dynasty fantasy football leagues becoming more popular, player age is an extremely important variable to determine value. When it comes to running backs, most players typically have a short shelf life. Reading this article will help you gain a more knowledgeable understanding as to when running back production will drop off.

Defining A Peak Season

To begin this study, we must define a peak season for an NFL running back. In 2018, Kareem Hunt was the 12th highest scoring running back in PPR leagues with 230.2 fantasy points. To examine at what age top running backs should be expected to produce, we’ll include all running backs who finished with at least 230 PPR fantasy points.

The list of 218 includes all individual running back seasons to meet the criteria since 2000 and was generated by Pro-Football-Reference.com:

PlayerYearAgeTmGPPRTouchYScmTDs
LaDainian Tomlinson200627SDG16483.1404232331
Marshall Faulk200027STL14459.9334218926
Priest Holmes200330KAN16447394211027
LaDainian Tomlinson200324SDG16443.8413237017
Priest Holmes200229KAN14442.7383228724
Marshall Faulk200128STL14425.7343214721
Steven Jackson200623STL16419.4436233416
David Johnson201625ARI16407.8373211820
Edgerrin James200022IND16403.3450230318
Chris Johnson200924TEN16398.9408250916
Arian Foster201024HOU16396393222018
Ahman Green200326GNB16395405225020
LaDainian Tomlinson200223SDG16386.2451217215
Saquon Barkley201821NYG16385.8352202815
Christian McCaffrey201822CAR16385.5326196513
Todd Gurley201723LAR15383.3343209319
Shaun Alexander200528SEA16378.8385195828
Jamaal Charles201327KAN15378329198019
Ray Rice201124BAL16376.8367206815
Larry Johnson200627KAN16374.9457219919
Brian Westbrook200728PHI15372.4368210412
Todd Gurley201824LAR14372.1315183121
Ricky Williams200225MIA16370.6430221617
Le'Veon Bell201422PIT16370.5373221511
Larry Johnson200526KAN16368.3369209321
LaDainian Tomlinson200526SDG16368.1390183220
LaDainian Tomlinson200728SDG16367.6375194918
Tiki Barber200530NYG16361411239011
Alvin Kamara201823NOR15354.2275159218
Tiki Barber200429NYG16351.6374209615
DeMarco Murray201426DAL16351.1449226113
Adrian Peterson201227MIN16347.4388231413
Charlie Garner200230OAK16347.3273190311
Matt Forte201429CHI16346.6368184610
Eddie George200027TEN16342.2453196216
Le'Veon Bell201725PIT15341.6406194611
LaDainian Tomlinson200425SDG15340.1392177618
Priest Holmes200128KAN16338.9389216910
Matt Forte201328CHI16337.3363193312
Jamal Lewis200324BAL16337.1413227114
Brian Westbrook200627PHI15334.6317191611
Tiki Barber200227NYG16333.4373198411
Frank Gore200623SFO1633337321809
Adrian Peterson200924MIN16332.9357181918
Deuce McAllister200325NOR16332.742021578
LeSean McCoy201325PHI16330.6366214611
Shaun Alexander200225SEA16330.5354163518
LeSean McCoy201123PHI15330.4321162420
Ray Rice200922BAL16330.133220418
Shaun Alexander200427SEA16329.6376186620
Domanick Williams200424HOU15329.6370177614
Ezekiel Elliott201823DAL15329.138120019
Ahman Green200124GNB16326.1366198111
Maurice Jones-Drew200924JAX16325.5365176516
Ezekiel Elliott201621DAL15325.4354199416
Ahman Green200023GNB16324.4336173413
Clinton Portis200221DEN16322.2306187217
Alvin Kamara201722NOR16320.4201155413
Curtis Martin200431NYJ16319.2412194214
Le'Veon Bell201624PIT12317.433618849
Deuce McAllister200224NOR15317372174016
Devonta Freeman201523ATL15316.4338163414
Clinton Portis200322DEN13314.5328190514
Edgerrin James200527IND15312.3404184314
Curtis Martin200027NYJ16311.9386171211
Doug Martin201223TAM16311.6368192612
Shaun Alexander200326SEA16311368173016
Edgerrin James200426IND16310.138520319
Arian Foster201125HOU13309.1331184112
DeAngelo Williams200825CAR16307.6295163620
Maurice Jones-Drew201126JAX16307386198011
Charlie Garner200028SFO16306.9326178910
Matt Forte200823CHI16306.5379171512
Shaun Alexander200124SEA16306.1353166116
Peyton Hillis201024CLE16304.9331165413
Ricky Watters200031SEA16302.534118559
Marshawn Lynch201428SEA16302.3317167317
Arian Foster201226HOU16302.1391164117
Travis Henry200224BUF16301.7368174714
Curtis Martin200128NYJ16301386183310
Tiki Barber200631NYG16300.738521275
LeSean McCoy201022PHI15299.228516729
Willie Parker200626PIT16298.6368171616
LeSean McCoy201628BUF15298.3284162314
LaMont Jordan200527OAK14296.8342158811
Knowshon Moreno201326DEN16296.6301158613
Tiki Barber200025NYG16296.528317259
Kareem Hunt201722KAN16295.2325178211
DeMarco Murray201628TEN16293.8346166412
Marshall Faulk200229STL14289292149010
Melvin Gordon201724LAC16288.1342158112
Jamaal Charles201024KAN16286.527519358
Maurice Jones-Drew200823JAX16284.9259138914
Fred Taylor200327JAX16284.239319427
Devonta Freeman201624ATL16284.1281154113
Fred Taylor200024JAX13283.9328163914
Ray Rice201225BAL16283.1318162110
Robert Smith200028MIN16282.9331186910
Clinton Portis200726WAS16282.7372165111
Frank Gore200926SFO14282.6281152613
Ricky Williams200326MIA16282.3442172310
Michael Turner200826ATL16282382174017
Mike Anderson200027DEN16280.6320165615
James Conner201823PIT13280270147013
Maurice Jones-Drew200621JAX16279.7212137715
LaDainian Tomlinson200122SDG16279.3398160310
Brian Westbrook200425PHI13278.525015159
Mark Ingram201728NOR16278288154012
Thomas Jones200830NYJ16277.9326151915
Adrian Peterson201025MIN15277.9319163913
LaDainian Tomlinson200829SDG16277.6344153612
Ricky Williams200124NOR16277.637317567
Darren Sproles201128NOR16277.317313139
Chris Johnson201025TEN16276.9360160912
Joseph Addai200724IND15276.6302143615
Ray Rice201023BAL16276.637017766
James White201826NWE16276.6181117612
Clinton Portis200524WAS16275.9382173211
Steve Slaton200822HOU16275.9318165910
Melvin Gordon201825LAC12275.5225137514
Marshawn Lynch201327SEA16275.3337157314
Ahman Green200225GNB14274.334316339
Arian Foster201428HOU13273.5298157313
Darren McFadden201023OAK13273.4270166410
Eddie Lacy201424GNB16272.6288156613
Edgerrin James200325IND13272.1361155111
Brian Westbrook200829PHI14271.8287133814
Fred Taylor200226JAX16271.233617228
Reggie Bush200621NOR16270.724313078
Marshawn Lynch201226SEA16269.6338178612
Adrian Peterson200823MIN16269.5384188510
Corey Dillon200430NWE15268.8360173813
Matt Forte201025CHI16268.628816169
Jamal Lewis200223BAL16265.935517697
Corey Dillon200127CIN16264.3374154313
LeSean McCoy201729BUF16263.634615868
Stephen Davis200026WAS15262.1365163111
Eddie George200229TEN16262379142014
Lamar Smith200030MIA15261340134016
Adrian Peterson201530MIN16260.7357170711
DeMarco Murray201325DAL14258.1270147110
Duce Staley200227PHI1625832015708
Adrian Peterson200722MIN14257.9257160913
Tiki Barber200328NYG16256.734716773
C.J. Spiller201225BUF16255.325017038
Trent Richardson201222CLE15254.7318131712
Warrick Dunn200025TAM16253.529215559
Clinton Portis200827WAS16252.537017059
Alfred Morris201224WAS16252346169013
Ahmad Bradshaw201024NYG16251.932315498
Moe Williams200329MIN16251.923913898
Chris Johnson200823TEN15251.8294148810
Ricky Williams200932MIA16251.5276138513
Jamal Lewis200728CLE15251.2328155211
Melvin Gordon201623SDG13250.6295141612
Jamaal Charles201428KAN15250.4246132414
Joseph Addai200926IND15250.3270116413
Rudi Johnson200526CIN16249.8360154812
James Stewart200029DET16249.1371147111
Steven Jackson200926STL15248.837517384
Marshawn Lynch201125SEA15247.6313141613
Justin Forsett201429BAL16246.927915298
David Johnson201827ARI16246.6308138610
Corey Dillon200228CIN16245.935716097
Rashard Mendenhall201023PIT16245347144013
Steven Jackson201027STL16244.437616246
Travis Henry200325BUF15243.4359151411
Joe Mixon201822CIN14243.428014649
Danny Woodhead201530SDG16243.117810919
Ladell Betts200627WAS16242.929815995
Frank Gore200724SFO15242.831315386
Eddie Lacy201323GNB15242.5319143511
Tiki Barber200126NYG14242.223814424
Mark Ingram201627NOR16242.2251136210
Marion Barber200724DAL16241.7248125712
Clinton Portis200423WAS15241.638315507
Rudi Johnson200425CIN16240.8376153812
Ryan Mathews201124SDG14240.627215466
Ricky Williams200023NOR10240.329214099
Chris Johnson201328TEN16240.2321142210
Thomas Jones200931NYJ16240341146014
Steven Jackson200522STL15239.6297136610
Jamaal Charles201226KAN16239.532017456
Reggie Bush201328DET14239.227715127
Michael Pittman200025ARI16238.825712986
Curtis Martin200229NYJ16238.631014567
Rudi Johnson200627CIN16238.3364143312
Maurice Jones-Drew201025JAX14238.133316417
Michael Bennett200224MIN16237.729216476
Jamaal Charles200923KAN15237.723014178
Ahman Green200427GNB15236.629914388
Marion Barber200825DAL15236.229013029
Ryan Grant200927GNB16236307145011
Thomas Jones200426CHI14235.529613757
Willis McGahee200726BAL15234.833714388
Fred Jackson201332BUF16234.7253127710
Marshawn Lynch200822BUF15234.629713369
Warrick Dunn200227ATL15234.428013049
Tarik Cohen201823CHI16233.917011698
Frank Gore200825SFO14233.928314098
Carlos Hyde201727SFO16233.829912888
Michael Turner201129ATL16233.8318150811
Domanick Williams200323HOU14233.228513828
LeGarrette Blount201630NWE16232.9306119918
Garrison Hearst200231SFO16232.926312899
Adrian Peterson201328MIN14232.7308143711
Michael Pittman200429TAM13232.7260131710
Doug Martin201526TAM16232.332116737
Lamar Miller201524MIA16231.9241126910
Antowain Smith200129NWE16231.9306134913
Charlie Garner200129OAK16231.728314173
DeAngelo Williams201532PIT16231.4240127411
Earnest Graham200727TAM15231.2271122210
Jamal Lewis200021BAL1623133616606
Leonard Fournette201722JAX13230.2304134210
Kareem Hunt201823KAN11230.2207120214
Jordan Howard201622CHI15230.128116117
Steven Jackson200825STL12230.129314218

The average age of this cohort is 25.68. Below is a distribution graph of the ages of the peak seasons.

5ppdev.com/web/apex/public


Last season Saquon Barkley became just the 5th running back to score at least 230 fantasy points at age 21 since 2000. The oldest players to accomplish the feat were 32 – Ricky Williams, Fred Jackson, and DeAngelo Williams. The peak is from age 23 to 28 as 74.3 percent of the seasons fall within this range.

While 10 percent of the peak seasons have taken place at age 28, just 7.3 percent have taken place in age 29 – a noticeable drop-off. From there, just 4.1 percent of the seasons happen at age 30. Father time has a big impact after that, as no running back since 2000 has scored at least 230 fantasy points at the age of 33 or older.

The age distribution of running backs confirms with our previous studies that wide receivers have longer careers than running backs.

Re-Defining A Stronger Peak

If we raise the floor of a peak season, let’s see how the age is impacted. With a peak season requiring at least 250 PPR fantasy points, the sample size of player seasons is 157. We can still draw conclusions with a sample size of 157.

PlayerYearAgeTmGPPRTouchYScmTDs
LaDainian Tomlinson200627SDG16483.1404232331
Marshall Faulk200027STL14459.9334218926
Priest Holmes200330KAN16447394211027
LaDainian Tomlinson200324SDG16443.8413237017
Priest Holmes200229KAN14442.7383228724
Marshall Faulk200128STL14425.7343214721
Steven Jackson200623STL16419.4436233416
David Johnson201625ARI16407.8373211820
Edgerrin James200022IND16403.3450230318
Chris Johnson200924TEN16398.9408250916
Arian Foster201024HOU16396393222018
Ahman Green200326GNB16395405225020
LaDainian Tomlinson200223SDG16386.2451217215
Saquon Barkley201821NYG16385.8352202815
Christian McCaffrey201822CAR16385.5326196513
Todd Gurley201723LAR15383.3343209319
Shaun Alexander200528SEA16378.8385195828
Jamaal Charles201327KAN15378329198019
Ray Rice201124BAL16376.8367206815
Larry Johnson200627KAN16374.9457219919
Brian Westbrook200728PHI15372.4368210412
Todd Gurley201824LAR14372.1315183121
Ricky Williams200225MIA16370.6430221617
Le'Veon Bell201422PIT16370.5373221511
Larry Johnson200526KAN16368.3369209321
LaDainian Tomlinson200526SDG16368.1390183220
LaDainian Tomlinson200728SDG16367.6375194918
Tiki Barber200530NYG16361411239011
Alvin Kamara201823NOR15354.2275159218
Tiki Barber200429NYG16351.6374209615
DeMarco Murray201426DAL16351.1449226113
Adrian Peterson201227MIN16347.4388231413
Charlie Garner200230OAK16347.3273190311
Matt Forte201429CHI16346.6368184610
Eddie George200027TEN16342.2453196216
Le'Veon Bell201725PIT15341.6406194611
LaDainian Tomlinson200425SDG15340.1392177618
Priest Holmes200128KAN16338.9389216910
Matt Forte201328CHI16337.3363193312
Jamal Lewis200324BAL16337.1413227114
Brian Westbrook200627PHI15334.6317191611
Tiki Barber200227NYG16333.4373198411
Frank Gore200623SFO1633337321809
Adrian Peterson200924MIN16332.9357181918
Deuce McAllister200325NOR16332.742021578
LeSean McCoy201325PHI16330.6366214611
Shaun Alexander200225SEA16330.5354163518
LeSean McCoy201123PHI15330.4321162420
Ray Rice200922BAL16330.133220418
Shaun Alexander200427SEA16329.6376186620
Domanick Williams200424HOU15329.6370177614
Ezekiel Elliott201823DAL15329.138120019
Ahman Green200124GNB16326.1366198111
Maurice Jones-Drew200924JAX16325.5365176516
Ezekiel Elliott201621DAL15325.4354199416
Ahman Green200023GNB16324.4336173413
Clinton Portis200221DEN16322.2306187217
Alvin Kamara201722NOR16320.4201155413
Curtis Martin200431NYJ16319.2412194214
Le'Veon Bell201624PIT12317.433618849
Deuce McAllister200224NOR15317372174016
Devonta Freeman201523ATL15316.4338163414
Clinton Portis200322DEN13314.5328190514
Edgerrin James200527IND15312.3404184314
Curtis Martin200027NYJ16311.9386171211
Doug Martin201223TAM16311.6368192612
Shaun Alexander200326SEA16311368173016
Edgerrin James200426IND16310.138520319
Arian Foster201125HOU13309.1331184112
DeAngelo Williams200825CAR16307.6295163620
Maurice Jones-Drew201126JAX16307386198011
Charlie Garner200028SFO16306.9326178910
Matt Forte200823CHI16306.5379171512
Shaun Alexander200124SEA16306.1353166116
Peyton Hillis201024CLE16304.9331165413
Ricky Watters200031SEA16302.534118559
Marshawn Lynch201428SEA16302.3317167317
Arian Foster201226HOU16302.1391164117
Travis Henry200224BUF16301.7368174714
Curtis Martin200128NYJ16301386183310
Tiki Barber200631NYG16300.738521275
LeSean McCoy201022PHI15299.228516729
Willie Parker200626PIT16298.6368171616
LeSean McCoy201628BUF15298.3284162314
LaMont Jordan200527OAK14296.8342158811
Knowshon Moreno201326DEN16296.6301158613
Tiki Barber200025NYG16296.528317259
Kareem Hunt201722KAN16295.2325178211
DeMarco Murray201628TEN16293.8346166412
Marshall Faulk200229STL14289292149010
Melvin Gordon201724LAC16288.1342158112
Jamaal Charles201024KAN16286.527519358
Maurice Jones-Drew200823JAX16284.9259138914
Fred Taylor200327JAX16284.239319427
Devonta Freeman201624ATL16284.1281154113
Fred Taylor200024JAX13283.9328163914
Ray Rice201225BAL16283.1318162110
Robert Smith200028MIN16282.9331186910
Clinton Portis200726WAS16282.7372165111
Frank Gore200926SFO14282.6281152613
Ricky Williams200326MIA16282.3442172310
Michael Turner200826ATL16282382174017
Mike Anderson200027DEN16280.6320165615
James Conner201823PIT13280270147013
Maurice Jones-Drew200621JAX16279.7212137715
LaDainian Tomlinson200122SDG16279.3398160310
Brian Westbrook200425PHI13278.525015159
Mark Ingram201728NOR16278288154012
Thomas Jones200830NYJ16277.9326151915
Adrian Peterson201025MIN15277.9319163913
LaDainian Tomlinson200829SDG16277.6344153612
Ricky Williams200124NOR16277.637317567
Darren Sproles201128NOR16277.317313139
Chris Johnson201025TEN16276.9360160912
Joseph Addai200724IND15276.6302143615
Ray Rice201023BAL16276.637017766
James White201826NWE16276.6181117612
Clinton Portis200524WAS16275.9382173211
Steve Slaton200822HOU16275.9318165910
Melvin Gordon201825LAC12275.5225137514
Marshawn Lynch201327SEA16275.3337157314
Ahman Green200225GNB14274.334316339
Arian Foster201428HOU13273.5298157313
Darren McFadden201023OAK13273.4270166410
Eddie Lacy201424GNB16272.6288156613
Edgerrin James200325IND13272.1361155111
Brian Westbrook200829PHI14271.8287133814
Fred Taylor200226JAX16271.233617228
Reggie Bush200621NOR16270.724313078
Marshawn Lynch201226SEA16269.6338178612
Adrian Peterson200823MIN16269.5384188510
Corey Dillon200430NWE15268.8360173813
Matt Forte201025CHI16268.628816169
Jamal Lewis200223BAL16265.935517697
Corey Dillon200127CIN16264.3374154313
LeSean McCoy201729BUF16263.634615868
Stephen Davis200026WAS15262.1365163111
Eddie George200229TEN16262379142014
Lamar Smith200030MIA15261340134016
Adrian Peterson201530MIN16260.7357170711
DeMarco Murray201325DAL14258.1270147110
Duce Staley200227PHI1625832015708
Adrian Peterson200722MIN14257.9257160913
Tiki Barber200328NYG16256.734716773
C.J. Spiller201225BUF16255.325017038
Trent Richardson201222CLE15254.7318131712
Warrick Dunn200025TAM16253.529215559
Clinton Portis200827WAS16252.537017059
Alfred Morris201224WAS16252346169013
Ahmad Bradshaw201024NYG16251.932315498
Moe Williams200329MIN16251.923913898
Chris Johnson200823TEN15251.8294148810
Ricky Williams200932MIA16251.5276138513
Jamal Lewis200728CLE15251.2328155211
Melvin Gordon201623SDG13250.6295141612
Jamaal Charles201428KAN15250.4246132414
Joseph Addai200926IND15250.3270116413

The average age of this grouping drops ever so slightly to 25.55 years old. Below is a distribution graph of the ages of the peak seasons.

5ppdev.com/web/apex/public


The peak of 23 to 28 rises to include 76.4 percent of the individual seasons. With the previous peak, 84.9 percent of the seasons took place before the age 29 season. With the new peak, 87.3 percent of the seasons take place before the age 29 season. The two most common ages are 24 and 25 years old.

When searching for top-end production, the player is more likely to produce in his prime – which is typically prior to turning 29.

What does this mean for 2019?

Of the 12 running backs with at least 230 fantasy points last season, only David Johnson over 26 years old. Johnson will be 28 next season and is not as desirable after a down season in 2018.

At 33 years old, Adrian Peterson rushed for 1,042 yards last season but only finished 19th in fantasy points because of his lack of receiving work. Derrius Guice will return this season, giving Peterson very little guaranteed value.

Young studs Saquon Barkley (will be 22), Joe Mixon (23), Christian McCaffrey (23), Ezekiel Elliott (24), Alvin Kamara (24), and Todd Gurley (25) have nothing to worry about. All look ready to continue to dominate the NFL and fantasy leagues.

Lamar Miller will be 28 years old this season and has been in the NFL since he was 21. Despite D’Onta Foreman missing almost the entire season, Miller lacked consistency last season and is trending down heading into 2019.

Rookies Kerryon Johnson (will be 22), Sony Michel (24), Nick Chubb (24), and Phillip Lindsay (25) could still improve in Year 2. Heading into 2019, targeting young running backs is a good idea.

Despite a new deal with the Ravens, Mark Ingram will be 30 years old this season. Ingram was productive on a great Saints offense last season but will have to fend off father time heading into his 9th NFL season.