Welcome to the season’s first edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees. In this space, we’ll look at recent performances (later, anyway) and attempt to read the backfield tea leaves to help you with lineup decisions; please note that this week’s assessments will involve a bit more conjecture than we’ll have after actual games are played. 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!
As usual, this series will focus mainly on the more volatile and/or 50-50 situations, but there will be some non-committee and injury notes as well. If you have any questions, the FOXSports.com fantasy staff is always happy to help. The best ways to reach me are via Facebook or Twitter.
This isn’t a committee, but Bernard Pierce has been a favorite sleeper back among analysts this summer after carrying 83 times in the Ravens’ final nine games of 2012 (we’re throwing out Week 17, when Ray Rice got the day off). Pierce is intriguing, but until you see his workload increase, you can’t start him in fantasy matchups – he’s my RB43. The Ravens insist that Rice is still their guy.
Raise your hand if you jumped on the Giovani Bernard bandwagon! Bernard certainly looked impressive in the preseason, and might surpass BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the Bengals’ depth chart at some point this season. Will it happen in Week 1? Probably not. Bernard should only be considered in PPR formats for now, and Green-Ellis can be flexed in standard leagues. This situation will be fluid for awhile.
Ronnie Hillman is atop the Broncos’ official depth chart, with Montee Ball second and Knowshon Moreno third. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has used the word “committee" a few times this summer, so it’s hard to get too excited about any of the Bronco backs, at least right away. However, Ball is still the favorite around here, and at RB27 he can be cautiously flexed for Thursday night’s game against the Ravens.
Ben Tate carried 175 times for 942 yards and four touchdowns in 2011, and that’s about what you should expect from him this season. Arian Foster (calf, back) didn’t play during the preseason, and last week head coach Gary Kubiak said, “I don’t think Arian is going to be a 30-carry guy opening night." Plan to start Foster, who should get enough work to be productive, in Week 1. I’d also lean toward activating Tate unless you have studs in front of him.
One Colts’ beat writer thinks Ahmad Bradshaw will get most of the Colts’ carries this week, with Vick Ballard “filling in." Bradshaw appears to be a solid fantasy start against the weak Raiders.
The Dolphins made it official on Monday, naming Lamar Miller as their starter. You should start Miller against the Browns if you have him, and forget you ever heard the name Daniel Thomas.
New England Patriots
This isn’t a committee, but it is a situation where Stevan Ridley might carry 20-plus times while seeing teammate Shane Vereen become a receiving threat out of the backfield. Danny Woodhead caught 40 passes for the Pats last season, and that’s when their receiving corps still had Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. Now they have Danny Amendola, Vereen and a bunch of rookies. Still, Vereen is a shaky flex option until (or unless) we see the Pats unleash him.
New Orleans Saints
Here’s what I used to write in this space just about every week during the 2012 season: Start Darren Sproles, even if you’re in a standard league. Consider Mark Ingram as a flex option, since he’ll carry 10 times per game and get the goal-line touches in a potent offense. Sit Pierre Thomas until we have a reason not to.
It’s hard to see why anything has changed in this chaotic fantasy situation. Maybe Ingram will improve in his third year, but we need to see it before trusting him in this pass-first offense.
New York Jets
I’ve got Chris Ivory ranked at RB29 this week, with Bilal Powell at RB37. If the talented Ivory is healthy, he should be the busier back, but this one is hard to read after Ivory’s injury-slowed preseason. Ivory comes with risk and upside in what should be a run-heavy Jets’ offense in Week 1, while Powell is at least the third-down back. Are you feeling lucky?
LeSean McCoy is a stud who could get even studlier in Chip Kelly’s run-heavy offense. But is his backup worth a fantasy play as well? The Eagles’ website says that, “Though Bryce Brown and possibly even Chris Polk will see action, McCoy will receive the lion’s share of carries." I’ve thought all along that Brown will get enough work to be flex-worthy this season, but for Week 1, I’d try to bet on a safer option. Brown is my RB39.
Isaac Redman has been named as the Steelers’ Week 1 starter, and should keep that role until rookie Le’Veon Bell (foot) is ready to return later this month. Redman appears to have an appealing matchup against the Titans, but he began last season as the starter, and stumbled out of the gate with 45 carries for 113 yards in his first four games. I have Redman at RB36 due to role alone – I want to see some production before I trust him.
On the bright side, Redman isn’t Felix Jones. Don’t you dare ask me if you should start Jones after hearing Mike Tomlin say nice things about him.
San Diego Chargers
Ryan Mathews ran well during the preseason, but we’ve heard this before. Also, he’s got playing-time issues, with Danny Woodhead likely to appear on passing downs, and Ronnie Brown possibly showing his face as a goal-line vulture. I have Mathews at RB24 and Woodhead as a PPR flex option, but this mix is confusing.
No committee here, but there have been some rumblings (maybe we should call it speculation) about Shonn Greene stealing goal-line work from Chris Johnson. There’s NO WAY you should consider starting Greene, who’s simply not that good.
If you have questions on any RBBC situations or think other teams should be added to the mix next week, contact me via Facebook or Twitter. Thanks!