One curse I’ve never written about, though, is the “Curse of 370.”
Discovered by Football Outsiders founder Aaron Schatz in 2004, this hex suggests that a running back who carries the ball 370 or more times during the regular season is in imminent danger of a statistical downfall the following season.
The facts that support this curse are enough to scare the shoulder pads off of Michael Turner.
On 27 different occasions, a running back has carried the football at least 370 times. All but one – LaDainian Tomlinson in 2002-03 — failed to score the same number of fantasy points the following season.
Sure, other runners like Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith were also able to produce well (albeit on a slightly decreased basis) after a 370-carry season, but overall this has been a statistical death sentence.
In talking to my good friend from ESPN (and fellow former CBS writer) Tristan Cockcroft, it’s amazing just how dead-on this curse has been during the course NFL history.
He pointed out that the last five running backs to hit the 370-carry mark, Larry Johnson (2006), Shaun Alexander (2005), Curtis Martin (2004), and Jamal Lewis and Ricky Williams (both in 2003) saw an average drop off of 193 fantasy points the following year.
OK, so Williams didn’t play in 2004. But even if he’s omitted from the list, the average decrease is still significant.
Here’s another little factoid we discussed — out of the 27 occasions where the 370-carry mark was met, the running back missed part or most of the following season due to injuries on 19 occassions.
So what does this mean for Turner, who had a league-high 376 carries last season?
Well, I wrote earlier in the offseason that I expect to see a decrease in Turner’s numbers regardless of how many carries he had in 2008. That was before word came out that the Falcons planned to monitor his carries and use Jerious Norwood to spell him more often.
The reason is simple — unlike most of the backs on that list of 27, Turner hadn’t been a featured back in the past.
During his time with the Chargers, Turner posted a combined 228 carries. That’s nothing when compared to someone like Martin, who over 3,000 career carries when the “curse” hit him.
While fantasy leagues should expect to see Turner’s numbers fall — more in the range of 1,300-1,500 yards and 13-15 touchdowns — the “Curse of 370″ isn’t reason enough to pass on him in the first round in this case.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to draft Norwood in the middle rounds as a handcuff.
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