The term Running Back By Committee (RBBC) has come to give almost any Fantasy Football player more headaches than figuring out the next athlete to have his career ruined by a Kardashian. As a result of the NFL becoming more of a passing league and Points Per Reception Fantasy Leagues are gaining steam, RBBC’s can now be seen more as running back platoons.
Different running backs on the same team fill different roles (between-the-tackles, pass-catching, goal-line, etc). As a result, we end up with running back platoons.
Instead of trying to guess which back will break out between a couple of options or just avoiding RBBC’s in general, why not try to hoard the whole backfield? On the surface, one might think this to be a terrible idea: so you want to start two running backs that are guaranteed to split carries and targets? Why not just get two lead backs that are the bell cows, or sole running backs getting the majority of their team’s snaps?
The Last of the Bell Cows
Now these 12 backs are not exactly prototypical for the bell cow running back, but each player has no competition for the majority of his team’s carries/targets at this point. While it would be great to have three or four of these guys on your roster, at least eight will be picked in most first rounds.
Some of these backs also fit the traditional handcuff scenario (Knile Davis for Jamaal Charles), but the majority have a muddled mess of a backup situation that would be hard to distinguish which guy to take (Juwan Thompson, Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman for C.J. Anderson?). What I consider as the new bell cow is the guy that is the only Fantasy relevant option in that team’s backfield… for the time being.
Teams With Bell Cow Backs: Baltimore Ravens (Justin Forsett), Buffalo Bills (LeSean McCoy),Carolina Panthers (Jonathan Stewart), Chicago Bears (Matt Forte), Denver Broncos (C.J. Anderson), Green Bay Packers (Eddie Lacy), Indianapolis Colts (Frank Gore), Kansas City Chiefs (Jamaal Charles), Minnesota Vikings (Adrian Peterson), Pittsburgh Steelers (Le’Veon Bell), Seattle Seahawks (Marshawn Lynch), Washington Redskins (Alfred Morris)
Value of the Platoon
If I was to guarantee you that your two starting running backs would finish in the Top 15 at their position, would you not take it? I would definitely take it, even if they were my first two picks. As I had mentioned in my Early Round Draft Strategy article, the turnover for the players drafted as RB1s is ridiculously high with a strong chance of the guy being a complete bust.
However, if you waited until the middle-to-late rounds and started the top two healthy running backs each game for Detroit over the last three seasons, then you had yourself a Top 15 running back average. Seriously, between Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick, if you take just the top two that suited up every game then you had the production two starter-worthy running backs.
The RB Platoons
Now let’s get to the backfield situations that could be beneficial to stack together on your team.
Houston Texans: Arian Foster, Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes
With Foster out until November, this backfield is just a mess. Stay away.
New England Patriots: LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, James White and Travaris Cadet
I think we should have all learned our lesson with a Belichick backfield.
Jacksonville Jaguars: T.J. Yeldon and Denard Robinson
Early reports were that Yeldon would be more of a bell-cow, but I am thinking Robinson will take the majority of third-down work.
Tennessee Titans: Bishop Sankey and David Cobb
I would not be surprised if Marcus Mariota challenges for the team lead in rushing.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Martin, Charles Sims and Bobby Rainey
The problem with this backfield is if Martin is as healthy/fit as his rookie year, he’s the only one you need; if he’s closer to the last two seasons, you might not want any of the three.
New York Jets: Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, Zac Stacy and Stevan Ridley
Chris Ivory could break out, but I don’t want any part of this “punch”-less offense.
Miami Dolphins: Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi
I think that the Dolphins are closer to bell cow status with Miller than a full-time share.
St. Louis Rams: Todd Gurley and Tre Mason
This pair is tough to judge since we won’t have any idea of the workload split until Gurley is fully healthy.
San Diego Chargers: Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead
This could be similar to the Jacksonville situation in which Gordon takes over completely. There is the common thought that Woodhead will handle all of the pass-catching duties because of Gordon’s lack of receptions in college, but I think that may have just been more to do with their offensive system at Wisconsin.
San Francisco 49ers: Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush
For the RB platoon to work you need to get a bunch of dump-off receptions and almost all of the rushing touchdowns. This does not fit well with a running quarterback.
And now we get to the Top 10 backfields that consist of running back platoons:
10. *Atlanta Falcons: Tevin Coleman, Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith
Until the recent hamstring issues of Coleman and Freeman, I would have had the Falcons at the second spot. Now that both of the front-runners will be missing a couple of weeks, the door has opened for the explosive Antone Smith to get a shot.
This might be the most crucial situation to watch throughout training camp. Coleman and Freeman should drop down the ADP list, but if they get healthy and show that they can be a two-headed monster, you could get some really good value.
So I am going to leave them at 10, but with an asterisk that if they come back and it looks like a 50/50 share between them, then they will shoot up the list.
- Arizona Cardinals: Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson
Ellington’s YPC fell off a cliff from 2013 to 2014 and the once-trendy sleeper to jump into the bell cow role has seen his own ADP slip quite a bit. David Johnson received terrible reviews from the beginning of camp, so the team signed Chris Johnson. This could be an interesting couple if CJ2K has anything left in the tank.
- Dallas Cowboys: Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden
Dallas has the best offensive line in the league but no set strategy at running back. Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones seem to believe (and I agree with them) that any back would be successful in the situation.
As it stands, Randle and McFadden are both dealing with some minor injuries so this is another group to keep a close eye on as the preseason continues. Randle could break out, McFadden can make it a 50/50 with a strong end of camp, or the team could sign another back (Ray Rice or Steven Jackson).
- Oakland Raiders: Latavius Murray and Roy Helu
The next few groups have what might seem as a feature back, but I would argue they are not quite bell cows yet. Take Latavius Murray, for example: he had such a small sample size to go off of last season that I think he will have more of a 60/40 split with Helu. Helu is an accomplished pass-catching back, averaging over 40 catches and almost 400 yards in his three full seasons. With more opportunity in Oakland, I can see him being Fantasy relevant.
- Philadelphia Eagles: DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews
This is a unique situation as far as the platoons go in that you are having to spend a second round pick on Murray. I see it as a fallback plan, should there be too much value in Murray to pass up. You can then snag Mathews and Sproles around picks 103 and 125 respectively, so they have extremely cheap price tags.
This group of three is still profitable because of Murray and Mathews’ injury risk. Whichever back is not hurt at the time gets paired with Sproles as starters, and you should have an average of two Top 15 backs each week.
- New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller
This might be the toughest pair to snag, as both have 4th round ADPs right now. You’re either going to have to reach on Ingram or get lucky with Spiller falling to you. If you do snag three WR1s in the first few rounds and get these two as your top two running backs, you could be in good shape.
New Orleans running backs had 132 catches on 166 targets for 949 yards and four touchdowns last season. That’s about 251 points in a PPR league just from receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns with your running backs.
I know that the Saints are trying to run the ball more this season, so even if you get 80 percent of that production to go with the (low-ball) estimated 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing combined, you get 25 points a game from your running backs. I’ll take that in the 4th and 5th rounds.
- Cleveland Browns: Isaiah Crowell, Terrence West and Duke Johnson
In one of our SCFE leagues, I recently got these three at picks 90, 163, and 107 respectively. In games that Johnny Manziel did not partake in last season, the starting running back from the Browns had at least 10 points every time except the Jacksonville game (which was the first game after All-Pro center Alex Mack missed causing a reshuffling on the line).
Mack is back this year and this Cleveland offensive line is like a 1B to the Cowboys. I want whatever running back is getting to take advantage of those holes. With the cheap price tags on all three of these guys, they provide more value than almost anyone else on this list. If one of them takes a step forward, then you could have yourself a RB1.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard
This pair is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Browns platoon. Hill is going off the draft board as the eighth running back while Bernard is on the verge of starter-worthy at RB26. What you get though? Hill was the 11th ranked back last season (despite not getting more than 15 carries until Week 9) and Bernard was the 18th (even though he missed three games).
Of all of the RB Platoons, the Bengals are definitely the safest with the highest floor. If the picks fall your way to get both, I would jump all over it.
- New York Giants: Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen
I am definitely higher on this pair than most other analysts. It starts with Jennings: he averaged 19.2 points per game in the weeks he finished the game. I know he’s 30 and injuries are likely, but that is the whole point of the platoon with Vereen.
I have always been a Shane Vereen fan, and he proves me right when he gets the carries (24+ points per game the past two seasons when he has 10 or more carries). I can see defenses giving way too much respect to Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz, so there will be more than the 99 targets Eli threw to running backs last season.
- Detroit Lions: Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah
I started writing this article last week, but wanted to wait through the first round of preseason games to get a better feel. I had the Lions pair at No. 1 before Ameer Abdullah drew Barry Sanders comparisons.
Abdullah’s ADP is soaring up (38th overall) while Bell’s has taken a hit (81st). There is still enough value to grab both because of how successful Detroit running backs have been as a group. The Lions top two running backs per game average over the past two seasons has been 26.3 points. Getting that kind of value with fourth and seventh round picks is too much to pass up. Add in that breakout potential of Abdullah and this is the perfect running back platoon to roll with into the 2015 Fantasy season.
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