By: Kyle Richardson (Twitter: @krich1532)
The RBBC Blues
If you jumped on the Thomas Rawls band wagon after 2015, you hated hearing the dreaded phrase running back by committee (RBBC) heading into 2016. This has become a staple in the NFL as coaches try to keep their running backs healthy for a full 16 game schedule. Reduce the hits, wear on the knees and hopefully come playoff time, they can run them out there to control the game. 20 rushes per game is going to be on the high end for our top tier backs that don’t have much competition behind them.
We are now in a time where you may start one in your RB 1 or 2 spot and start his backup in your flex spot. I don’t think a RBBC should scare you away from owning a running back. You always want to keep tabs on the backups to your running backs, whether you roster them or pay close enough attention to jump on them when the time is right (Jordan Howard or Jay Ajayi anyone?). If you are playing in a dynasty league with larger rosters, it help to grab backups on a year to year basis for your studs in case injuries come calling, which they will. In a redraft league with smaller rosters, keep the backups on your watch list.
The information in this article will be good for both dynasty and redraft formats. While I may say I don’t like the RBBC for a team this year, it doesn’t mean you pass on a great young prospect because of that. It just depends on the needs of your team and how long you can wait on a guy to perform. Without further ado, let’s look at the RBBC I like and dislike for 2017.
CJ Anderson, Jamal Charles, Devonte Booker
There are way too many unknowns here for me to feel comfortable owning any shares of these players. I am an owner who was let down by Anderson at one point, Charles hasn’t been able to stay healthy and people in Denver talk like they like Booker, but then turn around and sign Charles. Charles could get hurt again leaving the door wide open for Anderson to be a strong RB1 play week to week and everything I write here could be wrong. Or, Charles could be healthy taking plays away from Anderson making them potential flex plays at best on a week to week basis. Of these backs, I honestly think Charles ends up having the best season (if healthy) so keep him on your watch list. If you own CJ Anderson, you better be ready to grab Charles, already own him or find yourself another back. Your stomach won’t be able to take relaying on CJ Anderson for 16 weeks.
Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, CJ Prosise
I mentioned Rawls above already. If you bought into him last year, you probably did not get a good return. The addition of Lacy just makes things that much more interesting, or frustrating depending if your glass half empty or not. Lacy was able to meet his first weight goal of 255 pounds and may be getting back into the shape that helped him get to 2,317 yards and 20 touchdowns between 2013 and 2014. If he does in fact get back to that shape, he is the guy to own here. The Seahawks either were very cautious with him last year or did not trust him as much as they led on. Over the course of the last 7 games of the year, when he returned from injury, he averaged just under 13 carries a game. That wouldn’t be awful for a flex position, but his YPC during the same period was just 3.48. Prosise has the ability to be a great change of pace back and will get time this year. I see touches being pretty even across the board with Lacy getting more of the share. I’m not trusting them on my team though, unless a long term injury gives the job to one of the three.
Johnathan Stewart, Christian McCaffery
Christian McCaffery is by far one of my favorite players in this year’s draft, and my love for him went up even more after being picked by Carolina. He is going to fit perfectly into this system and will be a huge fantasy asset for years to come. I have some late first rounders this year that I would love to turn into McCaffery. He won’t be there late in the first round, but I guarantee I will be working the phone on draft day trying to move up. This will be a time share to begin with, neither Stewart nor McCaffery will run away with the job to open the season. Stewart has seemed to have injury issues every year for as long as I can remember (although 13 games played each of the last three years) and Carolina has always been one of the most frustrating teams when it comes to fantasy running backs, outside of New England. But this year will be different, as I feel we will finally see the Panthers try to take better care of Cam by using McCaffery in several roles. They will allow him to be dynamic and makes plays all over the field. By the end of the year, McCaffery will be the guy to own.
Verdict: Like (A lot)
Leonard Fournette, TJ Yeldon, Chris Ivory
Let’s take a moment to stay on the rookie hype train for a second. Come take a seat on the Leonard Fournette express and discuss why I will say I like this RBBC but also think Fournette is as overhyped as they come. Look, I think Fournette has all of the physical tools to be a capable NFL running back, but his lack of production against teams like Alabama while in college worries me. I don’t think he gets near the level some think he will, and I don’t see him coming anywhere near Ezekiel Elliot like rookie numbers. However, I will say the same thing about Fournette that I said about Zeke last year, you do not waste a fourth overall pick on a running back to watch him sit behind two other guys. Fournette is going to get every chance to be the guy this year, and even though Jacksonville has done their best to revamp the line, I think he has other factors working against him. I still don’t know how good Jacksonville actually is. If they are the same old Jacksonville, you could see Fournette get extended rest times to ensure he doesn’t get hurt and can’t help in the future. Let Yeldon and Ivory go get beat up on and protect that fourth overall investment. I also don’t know if Blake Bortles will be better this year. If the picks continue to happen, the Jacksonville defense doesn’t keep them in the game and they have to throw more, Fournette could also see less carries. Now this may have seemed pretty negative, but as far as a RBBC standpoint is concerned, Fournette is your guy to own and could very well give you the volume needed to be a RB2 this year.
Verdict: Like (Kind Of)
Kansas City Chiefs
Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Kareem Hunt, CJ Spiller
There is a new sheriff in the KC backfield and his name is Spencer Ware. Gone are the days of position battles with then incumbent starter Jamaal Charles and now Ware has been handed the keys to the KC backfield……….maybe. Ware is going to be pushed a lot by Charcandrick West, newly drafted Kareem Hunt and, stop if you’ve heard this before, CJ Spiller. Word out of Chiefs camp is that Spiller finally looks explosive again, which is what I have heard several times over the last few years. Kareem Hunt has a lot of expectations from the Chiefs, but is considered to be a work in progress. Fumbles were an issue at times with Ware last year, and when you play in an offense with Alex Smith, that is designed to control the game, you cannot do that. He is going to get the starting nod, but you also have to worry about Tyreek Hill taking touches away with some gimmick plays that worked very well out of the backfield last year. This is another RBBC that I am not interested in handing my 2017 season hat on.
Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zack Zenner, Dwayne Washington
On a warm Monday night in Dallas, the Lions were doing their best Lions impression by limping into the playoffs. On top of that however, the legend of Zach Zenner was growing. Even though the rise was quick, the fall will be even quicker. Zenner is not the every down back the Lions need and that flash you saw, will not carry over to this season. If you are in a league that utilizes flex positions, Theo Riddick is a must own back. He’s going to rack up fantasy points as Matthew Stafford’s safety valve, he’s a PPR machine with touchdown upside. With that being said, this is still going to be Ameer Abdullah’s backfield and the Lions are going to continue to give him the ball. 2016 was cut short due to injuries and only 2 games is not enough evidence to see that he is turning into the every down playmaker, but he did average 5.6 YPC and had 5 receptions. The Lions offense is going to be very good and Abdullah will be a key part of that. There will be a RBBC here, but Abdullah will get enough touches to offer RB2 upside or at least a flex play.
Jeremy Hill, Gio Bernard, Joe Mixon
As far as dynasty formats go, Mixon is your guy. Grab him, hold onto him and wait. It may be 2018 before you can reap the rewards, but Mixon is a fantasy stud in the waiting. His 2017 outlook though, not so much. Gio Bernard may be coming off a knee injury and Jeremy Hill may be more up and down than any roller coaster you could find, but they will still be big parts of the team and will get touches. There were times last year when the Bengals were willing to give Bernard more shares of the backfield work, but Hill still showed flashes and is a threat to get you touchdowns every week (29 rushing TDs since 2014). Three backs with the ability to produce on any given Sunday will mean lots of question marks come Sunday. An injury will be the only way this RBBC gains clarity.
Verdict: Dislike (Until the first injury comes)