Posted by Jason Lisk on January 21, 2008
Let's take a look at Marion Barber's historically comparable players at age 24. Here is the method I used:
1. Start with 1000 points;
2. Subtract 1 point for every difference of 1 rushing attempt (Barber had 204 in the regular season);
3. Subtract 20 points for every difference of 0.1 in yards per rushing attempt (Barber averaged 4.78 per attempt);
4. Subtract 2 points for every difference in receptions (Barber had 44)
5. Subtract 20 points for every difference of 1 touchdown (Barber had 12).
I then looked at all backs who had 150 or more rushing attempts at age 24, since 1970. Thirty-four different backs have a similarity score of 800 or better. I am actually going to provide the similar players broken down into three lists.
Table 1. Similar players to Marion Barber, who had 200 or more rushing attempts at age 24, and were rookies or also had 200 or more attempts in a previous season.
player year sim score ================================================= Tony Collins 1983 926 Ricky Watters 1993 921 Thurman Thomas 1990 907 Curtis Dickey 1980 886 Fred Taylor 2000 862 Marcel Shipp 2002 849 Ahman Green 2001 819 Lawrence McCutcheon 1974 807 Tony Dorsett 1978 805 =================================================
Table 2. Similar players to Marion Barber, who had 200 or more rushing attempts at age 24, for the first time in their career.
player year sim score ================================================= Greg Pruitt 1975 900 Neal Anderson 1988 882 Wilbert Montgomery 1978 881 Wendell Tyler 1979 873 Franco Harris 1974 844 Napoleon Kaufman 1997 844 Rudi Johnson 2003 840 Kevan Barlow 2003 825 Otis Armstrong 1974 821 Terry Allen 1992 820 Craig James 1985 801 Jamal Anderson 1996 801 Marion Butts 1990 800 =================================================
Table 3. Similar players to Marion Barber, who had fewer than 200 rushing attempts at age 24.
player year sim score ================================================= Terry Metcalf 1975 907 Lorenzo Hampton 1986 902 Sam Cunningham 1974 899 Elvis Peacock 1980 873 Duane Thomas 1971 870 Art Malone 1972 861 Mercury Morris 1972 860 Herschel Walker 1986 855 John L. Williams 1988 843 Lorenzo White 1990 839 Sherman Smith 1978 825 Gary Brown 1993 816 =================================================
Now, Barber finished with 204 rushing attempts in the regular season, so in between tables 1 & 2 on the one hand, and table 3 on the other. Table 3 contains some guys who physically don't fit Marion Barber, as speedier parts of a platoon, like Terry Metcalf or Mercury Morris. It also contains alot of career fullback types back when fullbacks ran the ball, including some who were very good at what they did, like John L. Williams and Sam Cunningham, still the all-time rushing yardage leader for the Patriots.
While Marion Barber may physically resemble some of the past fullbacks, I don't think his career path is going to follow the running full backs. If the playoff game is an indication of where the Cowboys are going with Marion Barber (12.8 carries per game in 2007), and Julius Jones (10.3 carries per game) of the 3.5 yards per carry, I think you should expect Barber to be the starter, and Jones trying to make another roster in 2008. The Cowboys can afford to bring in a cheap replacement and shift carries from the Jones' replacement to Barber, without overworking Barber.
And in looking at Tables 1 and 2, if he is the starter entering next season, he has a lot of comparables who put up big numbers over the next three seasons. Yes, there are a few cautionary tales, but the vast majority of these players would go on to some very good seasons between ages 25 and 27. 70% of them would play in at least one pro bowl over the next three seasons, with many playing in multiple pro bowls. For fantasy players (using standard scoring), 35% of them would score 200 or more fantasy points at age 25, 55% of them would score 200 or more fantasy points at age 26, and 45% would score 200 or more fantasy points at age 27. The main reason for the downturn at age 25 was severe injury, as Allen, Armstrong, Taylor and Tyler all suffered season-ending injuries either before the season or early in the season. All would turn in productive seasons the next year.
13 of the 20 players in tables 1 & 2 would score 200 or more fantasy points at least once in the next three years, and Armstrong and Pruitt would have likely also reached that number with a 16 game schedule. Just over half (11/20) would accomplish that twice by age 27.
So, I am going to start up the Barber bandwagon early. One website that will go nameless has him ranked 13th in their very early 2008 rankings, behind such luminaries as a soon to be 29 year old Larry Johnson coming off a broken foot (check the algorithm in this post by Doug to evaluate Johnson's chances), and a soon to be 28 year old Willie Parker coming off a broken leg. If he is the starter entering next year (and I am betting he is), I think he has to be on the short list of running backs at the very top of fantasy draft boards. In addition to the info above, here is my case for why he should be considered a top 5 fantasy pick at running back in 2008:
1. He's not a one year wonder, as he produced similar rate stats in 2006;
2. He is not solely a product of the offensive system, as evidenced by the difference between Jones and Barber with similar opportunities;
3. He plays in a top offense with a good quarterback, and that situation should remain in 2008, which means lots of red zone opps and second half leads;
4. As I pointed out in this post, running backs age 24 to 26 have made up about half of all top 12 backs, and he, along with Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, and Addai, are the most talented backs in that age group next year. But see previous paragraph compared to Jackson and Gore's situations. And if you like Addai that high, Barber should have the same advantages and is arguably the better goalline/short yardage runner;
5. He's versatile and can pass block and receive, and should be on the field for a variety of situations;
6. Tomlinson and Westbrook, the two guys most likely to be ranked at the top, will both will be 29 next season;
7. He's healthy, and though every running back is an injury risk, there are no specific red flags or concerns.
Of course, the biggest question is whether he will get more carries than he has over the past two seasons. But the fact that this question exists in the mind of some is the reason why he could be tremendous value entering 2008.