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'Skins, Panthers highlight 2012 RBBC
Welcome to the first edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees. In this space, we’ll attempt to read the tea leaves to help you with lineup decisions. We’ll post this article each Tuesday, and offer updates in our fantasy coverage throughout the week, including in the Friday morning edition of the FOX Sports Fantasy Buzz Blog!
This series will focus mainly on the more confusing and/or injury-related situations. Here are a few things to consider:
• If a team – like the Ravens, Eagles or Titans – doesn’t really have a committee issue, it won’t be addressed here.
• If a team has two backs but they’re clearly 1 and 1A – like the Bears with Matt Forte and Michael Bush, or the Texans with Arian Foster and Ben Tate – we’ll usually leave them out as well unless the situation starts to change.
• This week’s article will probably feature more teams than future editions, as we’ll be speculating a little more.
Let’s get going!
Matt Forte is an every-down type of back, and is an obvious starter in all formats. But can Bush, who projects as a goal-line vulture, start for your fantasy squad as well? If we knew the Colts would be as horrendous on defense as they were last season, the answer would be yes … but we don’t quite know that yet. Even with the Bears as a big favorite this week, starting Bush is risky.
New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said early in the offseason that the Bengals plan to use some sort of rotation in the backfield. BenJarvus Green-Ellis projects to be the lead back early on, but the smaller, quicker Scott was used as a change-of-pace back when Cedric Benson was in town, and could fill the same role again (though he did just return to practice after missing a few weeks with a hand injury). This week, you’ll want to start Green-Ellis – even against the Ravens – and keep Scott on the bench, but keep an eye on this situation.
The Pack’s backfield is confusing, with newcomer Cedric Benson and youngster Alex Green as the primary candidates for touches in the Pack’s pass-heavy offense. Benson has surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in each of the last three seasons, but isn’t much of a receiver, averaged fewer than four yards per carry in 2010 and 2011, and fumbled 12 times in those two seasons. Consider flexing Benson (depending on your roster) and sit Green for Week 1 against the tough Niners’ defense, but Benson is by no means a must-start. Down the road, Green could play a big role. Ignore James Starks and occasional TD vulture John Kuhn until you have good reason not to.
Maurice Jones-Drew finally reported to camp on Sunday, but it’s hard to know if he’ll be in game shape this week, and there’s the small matter of a new offense to learn. Also, head coach Mike Mularkey said Monday that Rashad Jennings will start, and declared that, “"Whoever starts, the other one will handle third downs and then get series on their own to give the other guy a blow so they can come back fresh.” It sounds like MJD’s touches will be limited against the Vikings, and keeping him out this week seems like the smart play. If you own Jennings, look to start him in Week 1 unless you have a pair of no-doubters ahead of him.
The Chiefs said during the offseason that they wanted the backfield duo of Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis to combine for 500 touches, and Kansas City Star beat writer Adam Teicher said in an interview last week that the carry split would be “pretty close” between the two backs. This update probably makes Hillis’ fantasy owners happy, and disappoints those who own Charles. You’re obviously starting Charles if you have him, and Hillis sounds like a flex play as well.
As noted in Tuesday’s blog entry, Adrian Peterson’s status is up in the air for the Vikes’ Week 1 matchup against the Jaguars. It sounds like Peterson will be at least somewhat limited if he’s active, so Toby Gerhart appears to be a solid start.
This team’s backfield situation is almost as annoying as the Redskins’, because there’s a bunch of good backs that share the load. Plan to start Darren Sproles – especially in PPR leagues – since he got 1,313 yards on 173 touches (including 86 receptions) last season. Prepare to bench Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas until we see how the non-Sproles portion of this timeshare shakes itself out. Ingram will probably offer more value than Thomas if healthy, as he averaged a dozen carries over 10 games in 2011, while Thomas averaged only seven in the six games Ingram missed.
Rookie David Wilson stated these 2012 objectives on Saturday: “… five yards per carry, score at least 10 touchdowns, allow no sacks on my behalf. Each game have a play of at least 20 yards or more. At least 6 100-yard games and no fumbles.” The pro-Wilson fantasy mafia must love this. As a Giants fan, I know I do. For Week 1 and the foreseeable future unless Ahmad Bradshaw gets injured (which isn’t far-fetched considering his history), look for him to get 60-65 percent of the Giants’ backfield touches. However, Wilson appears to be a home-run hitter, and can make an impact even with limited work. Go ahead and flex him.
Ryan Mathews (broken clavicle) is back at practice and says he wants to play in the season opener against the Raiders, but he hadn’t been cleared for contact as of Monday, and the San Diego Union-Tribune noted that “all indications have been Mathews will miss the start of the season.” With the Chargers’ opener scheduled for Monday night, you can’t risk starting Mathews unless you know he’s playing. Ronnie Brown and Curtis Brinkley appear to be Mathews’ top backups, but Brinkley battled a thigh injury before returning to practice a couple of days ago, so Brown could be in a good spot. I’d still plan to avoid this situation in Week 1.
The depth chart has Evan Royster at No. 1, Roy Helu at No. 2, and rookie Alfred Morris at No. 3, but who the heck knows if that means anything. Helu, who has been suffering from Achilles issues since training camp started, broke out with 90 yards and two touchdowns in the Redskins’ final preseason game. Also, Mike Shanahan’s contempt for fantasy football owners knows no bounds. I avoided these guys in most drafts, but here’s what I’d do in Week 1: Maybe start Helu as a flex play if your alternatives aren’t so great. Bench Royster as long as you have someone likely to get a dozen touches to start ahead of him. And stay away from Morris until he produces in the regular season.
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