With dynasty fantasy football leagues continuing to grow in popularity, player age is an extremely important variable to analyze in order to succeed in fantasy football. When it comes to running backs, most players generally are not enjoying long careers with long stints as a top-performing back. Reading this article will help you gain a better understanding of when running back production is likely to drop off.

Defining A Peak Season

To start this study, we must define a peak season for an NFL running back. Generally, the 12th highest scoring running back each season (a low-end RB1) averages about 230 fantasy points.

To examine at what age top running backs are producing, 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 requirements since 2000 and was generated by Pro-Football-Reference.com.

PlayerYearAgeTmGPPRTouchYscrmTD
LaDainian Tomlinson200627SDG16481.1404232331
Christian McCaffrey201923CAR16471.2403239219
Marshall Faulk200027STL14459.9334218926
Priest Holmes200330KAN16445394211027
LaDainian Tomlinson200324SDG16443.8413237017
Priest Holmes200229KAN14440.7383228724
Marshall Faulk200128STL14419.7343214721
Steven Jackson200623STL16415.4436233416
David Johnson201625ARI16407.8373211820
Edgerrin James200022IND16395.3450230318
Chris Johnson200924TEN16392.9408250916
Arian Foster201024HOU16392393222018
Saquon Barkley201821NYG16385.8352202815
Christian McCaffrey201822CAR16385.5326196513
Ahman Green200326GNB16385405225020
LaDainian Tomlinson200223SDG16384.2451217215
Todd Gurley201723LAR15383.3343209319
Jamaal Charles201327KAN15378329198019
Shaun Alexander200528SEA16376.8385195828
Ray Rice201124BAL16372.8367206815
Todd Gurley201824LAR14372.1315183121
Larry Johnson200627KAN16370.9457219919
Le'Veon Bell201422PIT16370.5373221511
Brian Westbrook200728PHI15368.4368210412
LaDainian Tomlinson200728SDG16367.6375194918
LaDainian Tomlinson200526SDG16366.1390183220
Ricky Williams200225MIA16362.6430221617
Larry Johnson200526KAN16360.3369209321
Tiki Barber200530NYG16359411239011
Alvin Kamara201823NOR15354.2275159218
DeMarco Murray201426DAL16351.1449226113
Tiki Barber200429NYG16347.6374209615
Adrian Peterson201227MIN16347.4388231413
Charlie Garner200230OAK16347.3273190311
Matt Forte201429CHI16346.6368184610
Le'Veon Bell201725PIT15341.6406194611
Matt Forte201328CHI16337.3363193312
LaDainian Tomlinson200425SDG15336.1392177618
Eddie George200027TEN16334.2453196216
Priest Holmes200128KAN16332.9389216910
Brian Westbrook200627PHI15330.6317191611
LeSean McCoy201325PHI16330.6366214611
Ezekiel Elliott201823DAL15329.138120019
Shaun Alexander200225SEA16328.5354163518
LeSean McCoy201123PHI15328.4321162420
Deuce McAllister200325NOR16326.742021578
Ray Rice200922BAL16326.133220418
Ezekiel Elliott201621DAL15325.4354199416
Jamal Lewis200324BAL16325.1413227114
Domanick Williams200424HOU15323.6370177614
Shaun Alexander200427SEA16323.6376186620
Maurice Jones-Drew200924JAX16323.5365176516
Frank Gore200623SFO1632337321809
Tiki Barber200227NYG16321.4373198411
Adrian Peterson200924MIN16320.9357181918
Alvin Kamara201722NOR16320.4201155413
Curtis Martin200431NYJ16319.2412194214
Ahman Green200124GNB16318.1366198111
Le'Veon Bell201624PIT12317.433618849
Ahman Green200023GNB16316.4336173413
Devonta Freeman201523ATL15316.4338163414
Clinton Portis200221DEN16316.2306187217
Aaron Jones201925GNB16314.8285155819
Clinton Portis200322DEN13312.5328190514
Ezekiel Elliott201924DAL16311.7355177714
Doug Martin201223TAM16311.6368192612
Deuce McAllister200224NOR15311372174016
Edgerrin James200527IND15310.3404184314
Austin Ekeler201924LAC16309224155011
Curtis Martin200027NYJ16307.9386171211
DeAngelo Williams200825CAR16307.6295163620
Edgerrin James200426IND16306.138520319
Arian Foster201125HOU13305.1331184112
Shaun Alexander200326SEA16305368173016
Maurice Jones-Drew201126JAX16305386198011
Matt Forte200823CHI16304.5379171512
Marshawn Lynch201428SEA16302.3317167317
Arian Foster201226HOU16302.1391164117
Charlie Garner200028SFO16300.9326178910
Tiki Barber200631NYG16298.738521275
Ricky Watters200031SEA16298.534118559
LeSean McCoy201628BUF15298.3284162314
Shaun Alexander200124SEA16298.1353166116
LeSean McCoy201022PHI15297.228516729
Curtis Martin200128NYJ16297386183310
Knowshon Moreno201326DEN16296.6301158613
Kareem Hunt201722KAN16295.2325178211
Peyton Hillis201024CLE16294.9331165413
LaMont Jordan200527OAK14294.8342158811
Derrick Henry201925TEN15294.6321174618
DeMarco Murray201628TEN16293.8346166412
Dalvin Cook201924MIN14292.4303165413
Tiki Barber200025NYG16290.528317259
Willie Parker200626PIT16288.6368171616
Melvin Gordon201724LAC16288.1342158112
Devonta Freeman201624ATL16284.1281154113
Travis Henry200224BUF16283.7368174714
Ray Rice201225BAL16283.1318162110
Marshall Faulk200229STL14283292149010
Jamaal Charles201024KAN16282.527519358
Maurice Jones-Drew200823JAX16280.9259138914
Robert Smith200028MIN16280.9331186910
James Conner201823PIT13280270147013
Fred Taylor200024JAX13279.9328163914
Frank Gore200926SFO14278.6281152613
Mark Ingram201728NOR16278288154012
Michael Turner200826ATL16278382174017
Maurice Jones-Drew200621JAX16277.7212137715
LaDainian Tomlinson200829SDG16277.6344153612
Darren Sproles201128NOR16277.317313139
Joseph Addai200724IND15276.6302143615
Ray Rice201023BAL16276.637017766
James White201826NWE16276.6181117612
Brian Westbrook200425PHI13276.525015159
Fred Taylor200327JAX16276.239319427
Thomas Jones200830NYJ16275.9326151915
Adrian Peterson201025MIN15275.9319163913
Melvin Gordon201825LAC12275.5225137514
Marshawn Lynch201327SEA16275.3337157314
Arian Foster201428HOU13273.5298157313
Chris Johnson201025TEN16272.9360160912
Clinton Portis200726WAS16272.7372165111
Mike Anderson200027DEN16272.6320165615
Eddie Lacy201424GNB16272.6288156613
Ricky Williams200326MIA16272.3442172310
Steve Slaton200822HOU16271.9318165910
Clinton Portis200524WAS16271.9382173211
Brian Westbrook200829PHI14269.8287133814
Marshawn Lynch201226SEA16269.6338178612
LaDainian Tomlinson200122SDG16269.3398160310
Ahman Green200225GNB14268.334316339
Darren McFadden201023OAK13267.4270166410
Fred Taylor200226JAX16267.233617228
Reggie Bush200621NOR16266.724313078
Edgerrin James200325IND13266.1361155111
Ricky Williams200124NOR16265.637317567
Matt Forte201025CHI16264.628816169
LeSean McCoy201729BUF16263.634615868
Adrian Peterson200823MIN16261.5384188510
Corey Dillon200430NWE15260.8360173813
Adrian Peterson201530MIN16260.7357170711
Eddie George200229TEN16260379142014
Leonard Fournette201924JAX15259.434116743
Corey Dillon200127CIN16258.3374154313
DeMarco Murray201325DAL14258.1270147110
Duce Staley200227PHI1625832015708
C.J. Spiller201225BUF16255.325017038
Nick Chubb201924CLE16255.233417728
Lamar Smith200030MIA15255340134016
Trent Richardson201222CLE15254.7318131712
Stephen Davis200026WAS15254.1365163111
Alfred Morris201224WAS16252346169013
Jamal Lewis200223BAL16251.935517697
Adrian Peterson200722MIN14251.9257160913
Warrick Dunn200025TAM16251.529215559
Melvin Gordon201623SDG13250.6295141612
Jamaal Charles201428KAN15250.4246132414
Moe Williams200329MIN16249.923913898
Chris Johnson200823TEN15249.8294148810
Rudi Johnson200526CIN16249.8360154812
Alvin Kamara201924NOR14248.525213306
Joseph Addai200926IND15248.3270116413
Ricky Williams200932MIA16247.5276138513
Jamal Lewis200728CLE15247.2328155211
Justin Forsett201429BAL16246.927915298
David Johnson201827ARI16246.6308138610
Clinton Portis200827WAS16246.537017059
James Stewart200029DET16245.1371147111
Steven Jackson200926STL15244.837517384
Tiki Barber200328NYG16244.734716773
Saquon Barkley201922NYG13244.126914418
Marshawn Lynch201125SEA15243.6313141613
Joe Mixon201822CIN14243.428014649
Danny Woodhead201530SDG16243.117810919
Mark Ingram201930BAL15242.5228126515
Eddie Lacy201323GNB15242.5319143511
Steven Jackson201027STL16242.437616246
Mark Ingram201627NOR16242.2251136210
Corey Dillon200228CIN16241.935716097
Marion Barber200724DAL16241.7248125712
Rashard Mendenhall201023PIT16241347144013
Chris Johnson201328TEN16240.2321142210
Thomas Jones200931NYJ16240341146014
Ahmad Bradshaw201024NYG16239.932315498
Jamaal Charles201226KAN16239.532017456
Reggie Bush201328DET14239.227715127
Curtis Martin200229NYJ16238.631014567
Tiki Barber200126NYG14238.223814424
Travis Henry200325BUF15237.4359151411
Ladell Betts200627WAS16236.929815995
Frank Gore200724SFO15236.831315386
Ryan Mathews201124SDG14236.627215466
Clinton Portis200423WAS15235.638315507
Fred Jackson201332BUF16234.7253127710
Rudi Johnson200627CIN16234.3364143312
Ricky Williams200023NOR10234.329214099
Maurice Jones-Drew201025JAX14234.133316417
Ryan Grant200927GNB16234307145011
Tarik Cohen201823CHI16233.917011698
Carlos Hyde201727SFO16233.829912888
Steven Jackson200522STL15233.6297136610
Thomas Jones200426CHI14233.529613757
LeGarrette Blount201630NWE16232.9306119918
Rudi Johnson200425CIN16232.8376153812
Michael Pittman200025ARI16232.825712986
Adrian Peterson201328MIN14232.7308143711
Chris Carson201925SEA15232.631514969
Marshawn Lynch200822BUF15232.629713369
Doug Martin201526TAM16232.332116737
Lamar Miller201524MIA16231.9241126910
Michael Bennett200224MIN16231.729216476
Jamaal Charles200923KAN15231.723014178
DeAngelo Williams201532PIT16231.4240127411
Frank Gore201229SFO16230.828614489
Marion Barber200825DAL15230.229013029
Leonard Fournette201722JAX13230.2304134210
Kareem Hunt201823KAN11230.2207120214
Jordan Howard201622CHI15230.128116117

The table includes total touches, yards from scrimmage, and touchdowns.

The average age of the running backs to meet the criteria is 25.57. Below is a distribution graph of the ages of the peak seasons.

5ppdev.com/web/apex/public


Saquon Barkley is one of five running backs 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 22 to 28 as 83.9 percent of the seasons fall within this range.

While 10 percent of the peak seasons have taken place at age 28, just 5.96 percent have taken place at age 29 – a noticeable drop-off. From there, just 3.21 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.

Filtering For The Elite

From looking at these seasons, I’m beginning to believe that older players were producing more frequently in the early 2000s. Let’s remove all running back seasons that took place prior to 2010.

In addition, we’ll raise the floor of a peak season, to see how the age is impacted. Including all peak seasons since 2010 with at least 250 PPR fantasy points, the sample size of player seasons is 67.

PlayerYearAgeTmGPPRTouchYscrmTD
Christian McCaffrey201923CAR16471.2403239219
David Johnson201625ARI16407.8373211820
Arian Foster201024HOU16392393222018
Saquon Barkley201821NYG16385.8352202815
Christian McCaffrey201822CAR16385.5326196513
Todd Gurley201723LAR15383.3343209319
Jamaal Charles201327KAN15378329198019
Ray Rice201124BAL16372.8367206815
Todd Gurley201824LAR14372.1315183121
Le'Veon Bell201422PIT16370.5373221511
Alvin Kamara201823NOR15354.2275159218
DeMarco Murray201426DAL16351.1449226113
Adrian Peterson201227MIN16347.4388231413
Matt Forte201429CHI16346.6368184610
Le'Veon Bell201725PIT15341.6406194611
Matt Forte201328CHI16337.3363193312
LeSean McCoy201325PHI16330.6366214611
Ezekiel Elliott201823DAL15329.138120019
LeSean McCoy201123PHI15328.4321162420
Ezekiel Elliott201621DAL15325.4354199416
Alvin Kamara201722NOR16320.4201155413
Le'Veon Bell201624PIT12317.433618849
Devonta Freeman201523ATL15316.4338163414
Aaron Jones201925GNB16314.8285155819
Ezekiel Elliott201924DAL16311.7355177714
Doug Martin201223TAM16311.6368192612
Austin Ekeler201924LAC16309224155011
Arian Foster201125HOU13305.1331184112
Maurice Jones-Drew201126JAX16305386198011
Marshawn Lynch201428SEA16302.3317167317
Arian Foster201226HOU16302.1391164117
LeSean McCoy201628BUF15298.3284162314
LeSean McCoy201022PHI15297.228516729
Knowshon Moreno201326DEN16296.6301158613
Kareem Hunt201722KAN16295.2325178211
Peyton Hillis201024CLE16294.9331165413
Derrick Henry201925TEN15294.6321174618
DeMarco Murray201628TEN16293.8346166412
Dalvin Cook201924MIN14292.4303165413
Melvin Gordon201724LAC16288.1342158112
Devonta Freeman201624ATL16284.1281154113
Ray Rice201225BAL16283.1318162110
Jamaal Charles201024KAN16282.527519358
James Conner201823PIT13280270147013
Mark Ingram201728NOR16278288154012
Darren Sproles201128NOR16277.317313139
Ray Rice201023BAL16276.637017766
James White201826NWE16276.6181117612
Adrian Peterson201025MIN15275.9319163913
Melvin Gordon201825LAC12275.5225137514
Marshawn Lynch201327SEA16275.3337157314
Arian Foster201428HOU13273.5298157313
Chris Johnson201025TEN16272.9360160912
Eddie Lacy201424GNB16272.6288156613
Marshawn Lynch201226SEA16269.6338178612
Darren McFadden201023OAK13267.4270166410
Matt Forte201025CHI16264.628816169
LeSean McCoy201729BUF16263.634615868
Adrian Peterson201530MIN16260.7357170711
Leonard Fournette201924JAX15259.434116743
DeMarco Murray201325DAL14258.1270147110
C.J. Spiller201225BUF16255.325017038
Nick Chubb201924CLE16255.233417728
Trent Richardson201222CLE15254.7318131712
Alfred Morris201224WAS16252346169013
Melvin Gordon201623SDG13250.6295141612
Jamaal Charles201428KAN15250.4246132414

The average age of this group drops significantly to 24.79. Below is a distribution graph of the ages of the elite peak seasons.

5ppdev.com/web/apex/public


The peak of 23 to 25 includes 58.2 percent of the individual seasons. 92.5 percent of the seasons take place between the ages of 22 and 28. With the previous peak season, 86.2 percent of the seasons took place prior to the age-29 season. With the new peak, 95.5 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 2020?

12 running backs scored at least 230 fantasy points last season. The players are listed below.

PlayerYearAgeTmGPPRTouchYscrmTD
Christian McCaffrey201923CAR16471.2403239219
Aaron Jones201925GNB16314.8285155819
Ezekiel Elliott201924DAL16311.7355177714
Austin Ekeler201924LAC16309224155011
Derrick Henry201925TEN15294.6321174618
Dalvin Cook201924MIN14292.4303165413
Leonard Fournette201924JAX15259.434116743
Nick Chubb201924CLE16255.233417728
Alvin Kamara201924NOR14248.525213306
Saquon Barkley201922NYG13244.126914418
Mark Ingram201930BAL15242.5228126515
Chris Carson201925SEA15232.631514969

Turning 31 next season, Mark Ingram is five years older than any of the other RB1’s. While he didn’t show any signs of slowing down last season, Ingram remains a shaky investment due to age concerns.

Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones, and Chris Carson will play the 2020 season at 26 years old. Recognize that when we filtered for the elite recent seasons, there were over twice as many seasons taking place at age 25 than 26. The sample size isn’t extremely large but it’s a good reminder that the decline is coming.

Half of the RB1’s from last season were 24 years old. That’s favorable for each player as the age-25 season remains directly in a running back’s prime.

All-world running backs Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley remain the best dynasty investments in terms of age. McCaffrey will be 24 this season, while Barkley turns 23 this February. Both likely have plenty of good football ahead of them.