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Curse of 370 Shows Value of RB Depth

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ESPN has a piece on the poor track record of running backs the year after they carry the ball over 370 times.

That's right, folks, there's such a thing as the "Curse of 370," the 370, of course, serving as a defined number of a player's regular-season rushing attempts. The curse dictates that any player who exceeds that benchmark suffers a significant drop-off in production the following season, even if he doesn't get hurt and miss time in said season. Much like baseball has pitch counts, football seemingly has "carry counts." Blow past the recommended number, and suffer the consequences in subsequent seasons.

Not that I'd claim it's any invention of mine; the curse has been oft-discussed in the fantasy football industry for more than five years now, dating back at least to 2004, when it appeared on FootballOutsiders.com. But those who have followed my work on these pages know I'm not one to take blanket statements as gospel without first checking the facts, and that I'm not opposed to playing a trend if backed by sufficient evidence.

Well, I've checked the historical data, and let me say that I'm fully behind the existence of a curse. In the history of the NFL, 27 running backs have amassed 370 or more carries in a season … and all but one of them declined in terms of total fantasy points the next year. (That one, LaDainian Tomlinson, somehow escaped the clutches of the curse despite 372 rushing attempts in 2002.)

I'm not sure calling it a curse is really accurate. A curse implies bad performance is unexplained, even controlled by supernatural forces. It's pretty obvious why this trend occurs. Backs eventually wear down after taking too much of a pounding. A lot of people have said taking Shonn Greene was overkill because the Jets had considerable depth in the backfield. This article helps explain one rationale. Teams that want to pound the football (say because they have a rookie quarterback) are smart to add as much running back depth as possible to spread out the workload.