- Neil Hornsby, NFL
With the 2012 fantasy season over for many owners, it's time to start looking ahead to next year. Given how important running backs are in fantasy football, we at Pro Football Focus thought it would be best to break down the RB position in a little different way.
The way people talk about running backs sometimes, you would think nobody else was playing any part in getting the yardage. However, if the commentator's script determines a different agenda, sometimes the blockers can be showered with praise they frankly don't deserve.
So where does the truth lie? Is it possible to differentiate how much credit for yardage accumulated should go to the running back versus his blocking? One way to determine this is to see how many yards come before and after contact. If a halfback picks up 3 yards of his 4-yard average per attempt before contact, look to give the blocking the kudos it deserves, and vice versa if the positions are reversed.
Note that I'll be referring to blocking in this analysis, but not only the offensive line. Although the linemen play the largest part in this equation, it's a mistake to discount the role tight ends and fullbacks play.
Let's look at the best and worst teams in terms of support for the running game, and determine the running backs who do the most on their own.
Best blocking teams
1. Tennessee Titans (2.65 yards before contact)
There is no question Tennessee's blocking has improved markedly in 2012. The biggest issue last year was the play of center Eugene Amano, but his replacement by unknown free agent Fernando Velasco has made a huge difference. Add in the high quality support they've been getting, in particular from TE Taylor Thompson, and it's not surprising that Chris Johnson has cracked 1,000 yards already -- even though he's not gaining many yards after contact (see table below).
13hPhil Steele and Will Harris
14hMel Kiper Jr. and Mike Sando
15hMark Schlabach and Sharon Katz