Breaking Down RBBCs Across the NFL
Ah yes, the dreaded running back by committee. The position that once dominated all of fantasy football for so many years, is now the one with the most muddled outlook. With running back being such a violent position by nature and most team’s being of the pass happy variety, the need for an uber-talented, three-down back has fallen by the wayside. Now, for the teams with superstars at the position, it doesn’t make sense to take the ball out of one of your best players hands (see: Cardinals, Cowboys, Steelers). But, with many teams seeing that it isn’t necessary to have a star running back to be a competitive, and even Super Bowl winning team, the need to draft or have a great running back is not as pertinent as it once used to be. And as we all very much know, the majority of teams prefer to approach the position with a committee, rather than going with the bell cow approach. We as fantasy players obviously hate this, since it makes it so much harder to determine who will get the lion’s share of the touches in the backfield. With that being said, we are here today to break down the five best running back by committees in the NFL, in hopes of clearing up some of the mess that these clusters bring to the table and provide you with the most appealing committee situations to target as fantasy players. We’re obviously still months away from the kickoff of the 2017 season, so these rankings and commentary are bound to change. But, this article serves to you give you a good understanding of the backfields around the league.
Since we’re covering the committees only, we must first acknowledge the backfields that have a clear number one, bell cow back. These teams are mentioned below:
- Arizona Cardinals (David Johnson)
- Buffalo Bills (LeSean McCoy)
- Chicago Bears (Jordan Howard)
- Dallas Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliot)
- Los Angeles Chargers (Melvin Gordon)
- Los Angeles Rams (Todd Gurley)
- Miami Dolphins (Jay Ajayi)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (Le’Veon Bell)
And now on to the best committees, counting down from five to one.
5. Minnesota Vikings – This might be the one with the least amount of certainty. But then again, that’s the inherent risk of RBBCs. Now, it’s possible that Jerrick McKinnon, Dalvin Cook, and Latavius Murray all end the season with similar stats. But what I think is more likely is that Murray and Cook split touches for the majority of the season, with McKinnon being purely a third down guy. If Cook can acclimate well to the NFL, he should start to see the majority of the carries, with Murray playing more of a Jeremy Hill goal line role (though I prefer Murray’s game to Hill’s). And while that isn’t ideal for fantasy players, it gives both Cook and Murray some appeal in year one, with Cook having the most upside going forward. Some might question how Minnesota can generate any type of ground game after a miserable year last year and average to below average quarterback play. All I can say is, look at the Bears from last year. Jordan Howard made it work and racked up yards while Chicago was getting smooshed week after week. Why can’t a similarly talented Latavius Murray and more talented player like Dalvin Cook do the same thing?
4. New Orleans Saints – This is the most intriguing committee in the league. I still have some hope for Adrian Peterson, because I think he still has some gas left in the ole tank. I’m not sure this is much of a “fire” take here, but with Drew Brees being 38 years old and the Saints trading away Brandin Cooks, I believe we may see a bit of a shift towards getting the ground game more involved in New Orleans. It certainly would help their defense, which is always on their heels because of the quick scoring and fast paced nature of their offense. AP and Mark Ingram could become a forceful two headed monster, with Ingram getting the majority of the carries and AP spelling him, similar to Tim Hightower in previous years. Who knows what Sean Payton will do with these two, but I think this duo, along with Alvin Kamara, have the ability to be one of the best committees in the league.
3. Carolina Panthers – Yes, I’m still a Jonathan Stewart truther. I know adding Christian McCaffrey will obviously sap most of his appeal, but I still think he has a role in this offense. An offense that I believe has a good chance to bounce back this year and return close to their 2015 levels when they went to the Super Bowl. This backfield is intriguing to me, because it can play out so many different ways and you have to obviously factor in some sort of running game from Cam Newton. Now while I don’t think Newton will ever return to his 2015 form, I think he still manages to pilfer a few goal line touchdowns. When Newton isn’t throwing, this offense will run through Stewart, McCaffrey, and maybe some sprinkled in touches for Curtis Samuel, who dabbled in running back at Ohio State. Call me crazy, but I’m not sure if I’m completely sold on McCaffrey being an every down back, which is part of the reason I think they kept J-Stew. We obviously have to take the wait and see approach since McCaffrey is a rookie, but I think this could be a split timeshare. That being said, I’m still happily taking my chances with either guy.
2. Tennessee Titans – A year ago many of us, myself included, were questioning a lot of the decisions that this team was making. From trading for DeMarco Murray to keeping Mike “That’s a Bunch of” Mularkey as the head coach, most of us were scratching our heads. Fast forward a year and this team has probably the second best offensive line in the league and now one of the most dynamic offenses in the AFC. Which brings us to the backfield, that consists of the aforementioned Murray, and sophomore Derrick Henry who is expected to see more playing time. We know that Murray has battled injuries for the majority of his career and he will be 29 entering his seventh season in the NFL. With these things in mind, I’m expecting a 60-40 split to begin the season with a 50-50 split soon to follow. Murray carried the ball 293 times last year compared to just 110 for Henry. Murray cannot handle a significant workload for much longer, which is why I believe these two will form one of the most potent RBBCs in the league this year, while Tennessee slowly and simultaneously hands over the reins of the backfield to Henry. I have Tennessee a smidge higher than Carolina because of the lack of uncertainty and the production we saw last year from their beastly offensive line.
1. Atlanta Falcons – This is more of a 1a and 1b sort of deal, because of how talented both of Atlanta’s running backs are (don’t sleep on Brian Hill, either). Freeman gets the starter designation, but both guys get plenty of run. Both of these guys are homerun hitters that make Hot-Lanta’s offense so dynamic, which is why they are both consistently on the field, sometimes at the same time. Freeman tends to be a fringe RB1, while Coleman a fringe RB2 who tends to have more boom or bust weeks. One thing to keep in mind is the loss of offensive coordinator Kyle Shannahan to the 49ers. This may make a dent in how effective this high-powered offense could be, but there’s no denying the talent in this backfield or the offense as a whole. This is quite possibly the only backfield in the NFL where more than running back is startable at an RB2 level, which is why I have them at number one on my list. No other team will consistently yield two startable running backs for fantasy purposes. Give me all the Atlanta running backs!
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, Chris Ivory
- Seattle Seahawks – Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, C.J. Procise
- Houston Texans – Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman, Alfred Blue
And that does it, there’s your list, folks. Make sure to check out the Trophy Time Podcast and give us all a follow on Twitter – @TheFantasyBoys, @TFFGurus, @DaFantasyFather, and @DecoyLife.