Stats Study: 25 Year Old Running Backs Following 300 Touch Seasons Since 2000

With the deadline for the Pittsburgh Steelers to sign running back Le’Veon Bell to a new long-term contract inching ever so closer, the talk about his age and mileage appears to be ramping up somewhat and that’s certainly understandable. Not only is Bell now 25 years of age, he’s already registered 1135 total regular season touches during his career despite only playing 47 games. More significantly, perhaps, is the fact that he’s coming off another regular season of touching the football more than 300 times and 336 to be exact.

I was curious to see how other NFL running backs have fared at the age of 25 coming off years where they touched the football at least 300 times during the regular season since 2000. According to my fact find finding mission on Pro Football Reference, there have been 25 running backs that match that criteria and below is a table that shows not only their stats at the age of 24, but how each fared the following season at 25 years of age along with the differences in their two years.

Before we get into digesting the results, however, I should point out that the age listed of each of the running backs below is based on how old each was come December 31 of that season. While obviously not listed in the table below, it’s worth pointing out that Bell turned 25 in February and thus he’ll be a lot closer to 26 by the time the 2017 regular season comes to an end.

Now, also before we get into the results, I need to make sure all of you can identify each of the column headings. Most should be pretty straight forward outside of “Prior TT” and that stands for prior total touches entering that particular season. This is an important number, in my opinion, and I’ll explain why later in the post.

The first thing that jumps out in the differences of each player’s yearly stats below is the fact that 14 of these running backs missed at least two regular season games the year following them registering 300 or more touches.

The next difference that pops out is the fact only four of the 24 running backs, Edgerrin JamesDeuce McAllisterMatt Forte and Ricky Williams, saw an increase in total rushing yards the season immediately following their 300-plus touch season at the age of 24. Additionally, only seven running backs in total had an increase in average yards per carry. And, only six running backs on this list saw their receiving yards increase the season following them touching the football 300 times or more.

As far as total touches (TT) go, only four running backs had that number increase the following season and Shaun Alexander just made the list with an increase of one touch.

As you can see by the blue numbers, Edgerrin James, Deuce McAllister, Matt Forte and Ricky Williams are the only four players on this list of 24 running backs who really had several statistical increases across the board the season following them touching the football at least 300 times at the age of 24. Let me point out, however, that McAllister was a fairly fresh running back when he was 25 as he entered his 2003 season having only touched the football 403 times. Ricky Williams, who for all practical purposes, was built a lot like McAllister, entered his 2002 season having touched the football 946 times. Forte was right between those two with 694 total touches. James, on the other hand, had 1394.

Bell, as I pointed out earlier in the post, has already registered 1135 total regular season touches entering the 2017 season and when you look at other running backs on this list who had at least 900 or more touches at the age of 25, there’s only eight of them with Clinton Portis leading the way with 1399.  Of those eight, only Ricky Williams and James saw an increase in total yards from scrimmage from the previous season. It’s worth noting, however that Maurice Jones-Drew and Adrian Peterson came close to accomplishing that feat and probably would have had each played in all 16 games.

Let me close this post by saying that stats are stats and history is history. Additionally, offensive line and quarterback play are certainly not measured in any of this study. With that all said, the fact that Bell registered his 1884 total yards from scrimmage in just 12 games last season should allow him to come close to either equaling or exceeding that number in 2017 if he’s able to stay fully healthy as he’s sure to touch the football at least 300 times if all goes well. However, it probably won’t be surprising to see his yards per carry and total touch average both decrease some just the same.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Ride him hard…. draft a new one. He should get us a high comp pick (3rd) too, right? I am not sure if it works the same coming off of a franchise year.

  • walter

    Thats one scenario. But better he gives a hometown discount and stays in Pittsburgh. But its his choice

  • HiVul

    Not nearly as bad a I thought it would be, most of these guys played all or 14/15 games out of the next season.

  • kev4heels

    JMO – he won’t give us a discount and he shouldn’t. bell works his butt off to be a great RB in all facets. i hope he will take between 10-12mil per year. if not, he won’t be here next year…simple as that. not much you can do. you can only pay these guys so much…especially at a position that incurs a lot of wear and tear. le’veon has already accumulated a few injuries and his time to strike it rich is now. i hope he gets the deal done soon. dude is the best RB in the league.

  • falconsaftey43

    Nice research, but as you said history is history. Not sure how much this says. IMO, you’d have to compare how RBs faired coming off 300 touch seasons to those that were not coming off 300 touch seasons to see if it means anything. And even then it get’s hard unless you look at RB load shares (did they have a quality backup one year and not the other? Was there a committee approach, did the player change teams?). Think there might just be too many variables to draw any conclusions from, unless there was a consistent drastic change, which it doesn’t look like there is.

    Always love these type of studies though. Interesting discussions.

  • Luis Grove

    Love this chart, I really hope we sign him despite the RB stigma, not many Hall Of Fame backs burnt out early. I enjoy witnessing his greatness

  • PaeperCup

    Peyton Hillis…Whatever happened to that guy!?

  • dany

    The universe woke up and remembered he was a brown

  • israelp

    This is good. From the headline, I thought they were going to be falling off the cliff.

    Of course if you mean to doscuss for the contract, you need to do three-four years, not one.

  • walter

    Well its his choice. We wont pay him the 15 mil he raps about

  • kev4heels

    You really think he is asking for 15 mil per year?

  • NW86

    Wow. these two comments are perfect examples of how many fans see players as objects. We want to “ride him hard and draft a new one”, spitting him out and forgetting about him, or we want him to “take a hometown discount” and play for millions less than he could get. Nobody says “treat him fairly, give him the contract he deserves”.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    Bell has a unique style that doesn’t rely on a quick burst of speed to get through the line. He can average 5 yds/carry by smartly weaving his way through the defense. I think that will allow him to continue to be productive as he ages and to play longer than expected for an RB.

  • Denny

    It would also be interesting to see if there was any correlation between production and pay for each year. In other words, was there a production drop-off in the year that the player got a new contract?

  • cencalsteeler

    My biggest concern with Bell is his greatest asset,.. his patience. That style opens up holes and creates most of his yards. With that being said, DCs now have enough tape on him to combat his style. My fear is Defenses will soon catch on to his style between the tackles and that could slow his production. We could see a big increase in tackles for loss with him.

  • walter

    I think the Steelers will treat him fairly, thats a given. It doesnt need to be said. If he doesnt sign, I would see that as a sign of greed, not a sign that he is being treated unfairly.

  • walter

    I dont know he sings about it lol. It wouldnt surprise me.

  • PA2AK_

    Still think it’s comical that we expect him to take the discount or he’s gready. He plays for a coach that literally could not care less for his health and has said as much on tape …’ride him till the wheels fall off’…lol if Bell doesn’t treat the business end just like he is treated in the business end…he’s much dumber than he sounds.

  • PA2AK_

    I see your point but i think it’s harder to teach a defender to ‘slow’ play enough to counteract his style, than it is for Bell and the offense to just turn it right back up. Not like he can’t come at you with power and decisiveness when needed. we will see for sure though.

  • walter

    I used to repair ACs. I charged what i thought was a fair price for my services not what i thought i could get. Thats a big problem in our modern world. Everyone is out for themselves to see what they can get. The world was not always like this. Inflation and greed is out of control.

  • PA2AK_

    No. I think it’s comical that you find this as a valid comparison…

  • walter

    Ha ha. Well let me put it another way. If I was Bell, I would be happy with my millions and would gladly give a little hometown discount. Its the same thing. But according to you, I would be stupid. And maybe I am stupid for not being greedy. But from all my life experiences have taught me that money doesn’t make a person happy. And greed will not either. I think its actually a sin. But this is the world we now live in.