Westbrook could be fantasy gamble in 2009

(Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

(Jim McIsaac / Getty Images)

If you’re a fan of the NFL and fantasy football, there’s a good chance you know about the trend of running backs wearing down around the age of 30.

It’s not an absolute statistical death sentence in all cases, as Thomas Jones proved with the New York Jets last season. But past superstars such as Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk and Eddie George (to name a few) have seen their numbers slide at an extended age.

Next season, one of the more prominent names to reach the age of 30 will be Brian Westbrook.

The versatile Eagles RB started to show some signs of wear and tear last season, as he missed two games with injuries and saw his numbers fall across the board. Westbrook also looked like a broken-down back in the playoffs, recording seven receptions and  238 yards from scrimmage in three starts. He also averaged an awful 2.4 yards per carry.

Now comes a report out of the Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News that Westbrook might need a surgical procedure on his knee during the offseason.

“I think they’re running medical tests to determine the source of the irritation,” an Eagles source told the Inquirer. “If he does need surgery, it’s only going to be minor and he may not need it at all. We know he will rest and work hard in the offseason, and we’re optimistic he’ll come back healthy.”

Westbrook hasn’t had the same number of carries as Campbell or Faulk in his career (both those backs were absolute workhorses), but the combination of his age and continual knee problems could be warning signs for the future.

In fact, it’s a virtual certainty that we won’t ever see the Westbrook who led the league in yards from scrimmage in 2007 again.

With a rise in backfield committees around the league, the Eagles could decide to take a running back in April’s draft to pair with Westbrook in an effort to ease his workload. Such a scenario could push the veteran down fantasy rank lists at the position.

As it stands, though, Westbrook’s skills as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield still make him a special back. Just don’t be shocked if he turns out to be far less consistent, a la LaDainian Tomlinson, in 2009.

Have a burning question for Michael Fabiano on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com, and the best questions will be answered throughout the season right here on NFL.com!

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