(Algren) Every soldier has nightmares.
Only one who is ashamed of what he has done.
– Katsumoto, The Last Samurai (2003)
There’s an old saying in the Pigpen regarding WRs, and it goes: if there are more than two pigs in the room, then there are no pigs. If I were to extrapolate that to the RB position, it would be the same, except the math changes slightly to one instead of two. While it’s technically possible (and has happened before) for two pigs to emerge in the backfield, it generally requires extraordinary circumstances.
Lance Leipold’s legendary Buffalo Bulls fit this description. Kevin Marks and Jaret Patterson each effectively produced at a strong level together in 2019 and 2020 (shortened season). Ashton Jeanty and George Holani have had moments where both ate their share of chuff at Boise State. Even this past year, SJSU had two backs who each demanded a roster spot at various points in the season.
But this is the exception and not the norm. In general, if there are two RBs heavily involved in the backfield, you want nothing to do with these players as a College Fantasy Football (CFF) player. Side note: while his name is in the public discourse, let me just say that I’ll never forgive former UB head coach Maurice Linguist for what he did to Leipold’s CFF kingdom at Buffalo. There, I got that off my chest, and now I feel much better.
Back to the topic at hand. In case you missed it, Quinshon Judkins has completed a transfer from Ole Miss to Ohio State. In addition, former five-star RB TreVeyon Henderson announced that he’ll be returning in 2024 with the Buckeyes. This is great news if you’re a Buckeye fan. However, for everyone else, and especially CFF players, this situation couldn’t have worked out any worse. Not only does it tank Judkins’ value that he had at Ole Miss, but our friend here had to go and sabotage Henderson’s potential value at OSU in the process.
Why We Have A Problem
If you look at the top rushers by yardage or TDs at the end of each season, you’ll notice that the correlation between touches and yards/scores is very high. Hell, it’s literally the inspiration for the mantra of this publication. Volume, volume, volume. Do you want to win your league? Just follow the volume (I mean that in a literal sense, and as a clever figure of speech, you can follow me on ‘X’ here if interested).
The top five rushers by yardage last season each received more than 250 carries. Only one of the top ten finished the year with less than 200 carries, and they averaged 7.2 yards a pop. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever assume someone is going to finish a 12-game season averaging more than seven yards per carry.
There are only two RBs who received more than 250 carries last season and didn’t finish in the top ten for yardage. UM’s Blake Corum (he led the country in TDs, though) and — coincidently — Judkins.
Judkins was not the same player last season that he was when he was a freshman. That’s the word around the Ole Miss camp as well, and probably partly explains the (apparently) mutual parting of ways. Like Henderson, Judkins was also banged up last year, and that would have affected his performance.
The point remains, however, that almost all of the time, the RBs who get the most carries are going to get the most yards and TDs. That’s just pretty simple math, really. You can give the hypothetical greatest RB to ever play the game one carry a game, and then give Ryan Day’s goofy ass 25. The chances are high that even in that ridiculous scenario, the latter would outproduce the former. So when you’re asking the question of who the best CFF RBs are going to be next season, you are effectively asking: who’s going to get the most carries?
Speaking of Day, I am a fan of his RB usage, more or less. He was the head coach when JK Dobbins had his legendary season in 2019. He facilitated TreVeyon’s breakout in 2021. Furthermore, I expect that OSU will skew more run-heavy this year than in years past. Which is part of what makes QJ’s move such a tragedy in hindsight. We know Day will hand it off 300+ times to one runner because he’s done it before. Would a healthy Henderson have been that guy in 2023? Now, we’ll never know (barring injury).
Side note: how utterly disgusting is it that we had ZERO running backs finish 2023 with 300 or more carries? That’s a damn shame.
Speaking of, while Henderson dealt with injuries in 2023, which undoubtedly would have affected his output, he also had the benefit of not having to compete with his QB for TDs.
As can be seen below, in 2023, Will Howard finished second on KSU in rushing TDs with nine. That number doesn’t happen accidentally. You will have the odd statue QB who manages to score a few each season. But nine? Nah, Howard’s officially a TD bandit. That would be enough to give me concern by itself before adding in that Henderson might not even be RB1 anymore on his own team.
We’ve already seen via the above exercise that 250 carries is the most immediate path to CFF relevancy. Even Judkins, despite walking wounded with his 4.3 ypc on 271 totes, finished the year averaging a hair under 20 PPG (19.8 in 1PPR formats). The correlation is extremely strong.
So, with that in mind, where do I recommend you stand on the OSU RBs? I think my thought process should be fairly clear and predictable at this point of the article: I would recommend avoiding this backfield as much as possible. Yeah, maybe OSU figures out the elixir of pig farming a la Leipold and facilitates 1,000-yard seasons for both runners or conjures up some ridiculous TD production, but the chances of that are not in our favor.
In a year that is so solid at RB (I might literally refer to 2024 as the year of the RB…), there’s no need to chance it here. The entire situation is not good. We want our pigs fat and greedy. Not health conscious and lean, the way you get with two RBs sharing the load.
Like this type of content? I’ve got good news for you; there’s an ungodly amount of it over here: VolumePigs.
You can also find me occasionally tweeting about CFF and CFB over here.