Going Deep: Are fantasy RBs endangered species?

You know what's weird? When someone is eating something they find disgusting and asks if you want a bite. Sure, it's OK if you're with the guys and you're giving each other a hard time. But why would someone who claims to care about your well-being ask you to purposely taste something foul?

You know what else is weird? Only three players ran for 100-plus yards in Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season -- and one was a quarterback (Terrelle Pryor)! That factoid came to our attention before one of this week's tapings of "NFL Fantasy LIVE". Of the two running backs, only LeSean McCoy really was expected to have that type of day. No offense, Shane Vereen, but as a sleeper, a day like that wasn't even in fantasy owners' wildest dreams.

However, it prompted me to look a little deeper into what Week 1 meant for running backs. We're Going Deep, as it were, with big thanks to the top notch research team here at NFL.com. Turns out the last time three or fewer players rushed for 100 yards was Week 6 of 2012. And similar to last week, one of the three was a quarterback (Robert Griffin III).

But the bigger picture should take into account what teams are doing as a whole. After all, a player can rip off one big run, get to 100 yards and throw the whole thing out of whack. As it so happens, teams were pretty lackluster in the rushing department in Week 1 as well -- just 11 squads reached 100 rushing yards. The last time that happened? Week 8 of last season.

Yet, it made us wonder if there was a declining trend when it came to rushing the football in the opening week and if that should worry fantasy owners. The answers? Yep and ... maybe.

Over the past 10 seasons, there is a notable decline in Week 1 average rushing yards across the league, finishing with the 93.3 yards last week. That number might not be so surprising when you figure some of the league's bigger star running backs (Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch, to name three) didn't get to 100 yards -- and two of those players had pretty subpar days.

It's probably less surprising when you take into account that Week 1 saw a league-record 63 touchdown passes, surpassing a mark last set in 2007.

But still, what gives? Are defenses getting that much better at stopping the run? It wouldn't seem so with offensive coordinators across the league favoring the read option. Could it be that NFL running backs aren't quite as talented? Doubtful when you consider that two of the biggest rushing seasons in league history have come from a pair of backs who are still in their primes.

That leaves one other credible option. Teams are just running the ball less.

It ends up being a good news, bad news situation. The good news is that the average rushing attempts were up from a season ago. The bad news is they've dipped quite a bit from even 2008.

So is that alone enough for fantasy owners to be concerned about the state of their respective running games? Actually, no. If there's a reason to be concerned about your fantasy running back, the word would be diversification.

It's great for financial portfolios, bad for fantasy football rosters. Below is a list of the number of players who posted five or more rushing attempts in Week 1 going back to 2004.

2004 - 53
2005 - 49
2006 - 52
2007 - 53
2008 - 63
2009 - 54
2010 - 59
2011 - 56
2012 - 58
2013 - 64

What exactly happened in 2008 remains a mystery. Still, the point remains that more teams are using more players to rush the football. That number is certainly being affected by the number of quarterbacks that are likely to take off running at any given moment. And when you have more players running the ball, but fewer overall rushing attempts, well ... it doesn't take a math genius to determine the outcome.

It is worth noting that at the end of all of the seasons we looked at, the average rushing yards per game didn't vary a whole lot -- going anywhere from 110 to 117 yards per game. But the start to 2013 isn't particularly reassuring if you don't have one of the big workhorse running backs. Then again, with some of those guys not playing particularly big in their season openers, alarm bells could be sounding for you, too.

It could somehow turn out that those guys don't live up to expections. Now wouldn't that be weird?

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a guy who'll try just about any type of food once. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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