Chris Carson is old, Chris Carson is injury prone, Chris Carson’s lost a step. All of the things fantasy football managers have either muttered under their breath scrolling through Twitter or seen from their favorite fantasy analyst. I intend to break through the barrier of groupthink and deliver what I believe is the truth about Carson.
There are age apex’s in the game of football. All this means for fantasy football is it continues to redefine at which point a player is at the peak of his career athletically. This impacts positions differently, no surprise to anyone, but running back has the earliest age apex of 24.9 years old. The significant fall off of production historically for running backs happens after their age 26 or 27 seasons. Chris Carson is currently entering his age 27 season, putting him on the edge of major fantasy relevancy. In dynasty, his transition into a veteran back is all but complete, meaning he is now a ‘win now’ only running back. For redraft, this means it is likely he will see a sizable drop in his average draft position for the 2022 season. This year, he is getting disrespected in preparation for his drop in 2022. Most of that is based upon his injury-prone title.
The Injury Bug
According to playerprofiler.com, Chris Carson has sustained five injuries. Of those five, two were labeled high severity, one medium, and two low severity.
Outside of those injuries in which he missed a total of nineteen games (30% of his career games) in which his biggest absence was from his 2017 ankle fracture. He has logged 45 regular season games played, which averages out to roughly 11.25 games a year (14.25 games removing the 12 game absence). The argument when presented with this information, well, he was injured a lot during games but just never officially missed a game. Out of his 45 games, Carson surpassed a snap share above 75-percent ten games. In his seasons, he played over twelve games Carson averaged 57.73-percent of the snap share. All the while, he saw an average market share of: 22.17-percent and a rushing share of: 57.36 (market share is percentage of total offensive yards for running backs). When you isolate the games, Carson was healthy in 2020 he had the best rushing share of his career. It is a small sample size, but we have a large enough history to know that it was not a fluke. This signals that Carson has shown no signs of decline from a base number perspective.
To The Numbers
Before I dive into PlayerProfiler.com, I wanted to get into the median points per game versus average points per game. Over the three years, Chris Carson has had more than twelve starts, he only saw a median over the average for one of them. In the 2020 season, he had a median average of 16.35 to 15.56, which is promising given that the past two years, he has had an average over the median in both of them. To catch those who are just reading my article for the first time simply means that a player whose median is over their average is more likely to exceed their average from a weekly standpoint. From an efficiency standpoint, I turn to yards per team attempt which Carson had a career average of: 1.28 (1.44), and his 2020 YPTA was: .99 (1.49). In parenthesis are the results when adjusting games in which Carson was fully healthy in 2020. Meaning that with every attempt the team had Carson saw 1.44 yards over his career. For reference Alvin Kamara, the overall PPR running back one in 2020 saw a YPTA of 1.64.
From a productivity standpoint, I am choosing to focus on the 2019 season since it is a larger sample size, and he was healthy for that season, gaining a better perspective on his performance. Player profiler offers overall ratings and summaries of performances which makes the healthy and unhealthy split difficult to discern. So I will dive into both years with an emphasis on his 2019 season for efficiency metrics.
Chris Carson was Top-15 in all opportunity metrics except targets (No.25) and finished No.10 in total yards and No.12 in fantasy points per game for running backs. From an efficiency standpoint, Carson was dynamic, ranking No.3 in breakaway runs, No.4 in yards created, and No.6 in evaded tackles. His rushing left room to be desired with No.24 true yards per carry and No.18 in yards created per touch. It is of note that this season the Seahawks offensive line run blocking efficiency ranked No.46 that season. Carson ranked running back No.12 on the season in PPR, which comes at no surprise when reviewing metric profile from that year.
In 2020 it was a bit of a different story, mostly attributed to the fact that Chris Carson’s mid-foot sprain was not fully healed for the second half of his season. His opportunities were significantly less, moving from Top-15 finishes to No.20-30 range. With the diminished opportunity, Carson’s productivity fell in line finishing No.25 in rushing yards and No.20 in receiving yards. Surprisingly Carson finished No.16 in total yards and No.11 in fantasy points per game (which can be attributed to playing four fewer games on average). His 2020 season was inverse from his 2019 season. Ranking lower in the dynamic metrics No.30 in breakaway runs, No.24 in evaded tackles, and No.35 in yards created. While rushing, ranking No.10 on true yards per carry. These numbers are understandably low given the fact that Carson had four less games to rank highly against running backs with a full 16 games.
Overall, I chalk up his lower 2020 numbers to the missed games and not being fully healthy for the final six games he played that season.
The Final Destination
Chris Carson is facing what many have already addressed and accepted as his ‘final countdown’ to being fantasy relevant in the meaningful rounds of a draft. Projections for Carson are not something I am necessarily interested in creating for him, strictly because there is a three year sample size of Carson being a reliable running back two with running back one upside in some cases. Different scenarios are what I am more interested in than providing a rough summary of how I view this season to unfold for him.
Scenario 1 – The Bad:
Entering his age 27 season, Chris Carson is now faced with a new offense and a new identity to keep him as healthy as possible for the duration of an extended season. Carson manages an opportunity snap share of around 55-percent and a rushing share of 58-percent. Carson loses snaps and rushes to Penny and Dallas as they come in to give him breaks for entire drives instead of plays. He also shares the goal-line work with Dallas, who proved suitable at that position with limited opportunity. The Seahawks also look to expand their offense in the passing area leading to a much more even run to pass split. Leading to an overall reduction of opportunities; even as the Seahawks attempt to manage Carson’s snaps, he ends up with an injury sidelining him for four games of the season, effectively rendering his upside null and void.
Scenario 2 – The Reasonable:
Entering his age 27 season, Chris Carson is now faced with a new offense with a similar offensive approach. A team still determined to run in order to set up the pass while also boosting the defense. Carson sees his average snap share of 57-percent and also sees a minimal decrease in his rushing share down to 55-percent. With Penny fully healthy and Dallas showing to be capable, the Seahawks use a three-pronged approach with Carson leading the way intermittently, ceasing drives to Penny and Dallas. Carson also loses a small amount of red zone snaps to his counterparts in hopes of extending his availability in season. Carson, slightly hindered by the new offense and his peers in the running back room, struggles to produce many week winning performances. Carson finishes as running back 22 on the season, providing the floor you drafted him for but failing to deliver on a very high ceiling.
Scenario 3- The Fun:
Entering his age 27 season, Chris Carson is now faced with a new offense with the same approach. Utilizing Carson’s ability to be a threat in the rushing and passing game, he puts together his first season scoring Top-15 in rushing and dynamic metrics. Spearheading the Seahawks offense, Carson sees a bump in his snap share to 60-percent and a bump in his rushing share to 59-percent. With the offense reimagined, Carson runs into fewer heavier boxes allowing him to maximize his potential. With the addition of Gerald Everett, the Seahawks red zone percentage jumps from 73.2-percent to 76-percent, netting Carson 11 touchdowns.
The fantasy impact of Chris Carson is a rather ambiguous secret. All too often it is easy for fantasy managers to fall into groupthink and recency bias. This often opens up value pockets on players to those managers who dig deeper than surface level to find the context behind any one player’s situation and performance. All of this is to say, I feel this article has achieved that, and as a bonus, put to rest the toxic title of Carson being injury prone. A minute difference in real life, but a large difference in fantasy is injury severity. A player can be banged up each year and be consistently on the injury report yet still stave off the title of injury-prone. Injury-prone is a crown best worn for those with consistent long absences each year. If a player is constantly missing one-third of his games each season (5 games), then he can wear that crown; until then, football is a brutal sport, and injuries don’t equate to injury proneness.