The full-fledged "feature" starting running back is dying in the NFL.
Whether it's injuries or wear-and-tear, teams are finding it much easier to just pair two solid running backs together and split the weathering load, rather than appease fantasy football nerds everywhere and give the rock to one guy all day .
It's too early for bonafide rankings. Well, not really , but we felt it'd do all fantasy owners a great service by taking a quick glance at every team's running situation , rather than just one running back per team, or (gasp) even less.
The fact is, early mocks have suggested what we've been fearing for years; that the 300+ carry back is hard to come by, and even when we find him, he's no lock to stay healthy or repeat his numbers for a second straight year.
LaDainian Tomlinson is in decline and a back-up on a new team. Thomas Jones is now a back-up in Kansas City. Truly, it's extremely difficult to assess who can carry a full load on an NFL team, let alone a fantasy roster .
And what's even worse than that? Trying to find a second elite fantasy back to pair with your first one in your starting line-up.
Read on for all the situations in every NFL team's backfield heading into June:
1. Buffalo Bills - Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch
Fred Jackson is clearly the favorite to start for Buffalo.
He was running the ship just fine last year before Marshawn Lynch returned to duty and all hell broke loose.
It's clear that no runner in Buffalo will be running with the wind at his back as long as that offensive line is still in shambles, but you could have worse fantasy options.
C.J. Spiller obviously factors in as well, but how much?
Some reports say he'll get 5-6 touches out of the back-field and mainly stick to return and slot duties. Others say he should be the top back-up to Jackson, and could even vie for the starting gig.
When it's your pick, let your decision fall somewhere in the middle. Lynch has to be off-limits until he's either traded or the Bills commit to him to some degree.
Jackson should be the first Bills back drafted, while Spiller has the versatility and explosiveness to make a fantasy impact in year one, regardless of where he's lining up.
Early Favorite: Fred Jackson
2. New York Jets - Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, Joe McKnight
Shonn Greene takes over where a 32-year old Thomas Jones left off, and considering we've already seen the mash-job Greene can do (all the way to the AFC Championship, mind you), you have to feel pretty good about his potential.
That, and the only guy keeping him from a 300+ carry season is the weathered, declining future Hall of Famer, LT.
Sure, the former Bolt may have a few miles left in him, but if the Jets didn't want Jones around, that's a pretty good sign they don't want a different 30-year old back toting the ball the majority of the time.
Joe McKnight might be used to spell Greene and LT, but the early look doesn't carve out a significant role for him in year one.
Early Favorite: Shonn Greene
3. Miami Dolphins - Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown
Ricky Williams may be 33, but is coming off a fantastic season that saw him rushing for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in lieu of Ronnie Brown being lost for the season due to injury.
Williams still has a ton left in the tank and is in amazing shape, as he sat out of football for two seasons in the middle of his career, and was playing back-up minutes prior to the 2009 season.
Ronnie Brown is expected to re-assume starting duties, of course, if he ever fully recovers from the foot injury that ended his 2009 season prematurely.
Brown is attempting to come back from a lisfranc injury, one that is not only difficult to return from, but hard to maintain a high-level of play with.
Early Favorite: Ricky Williams
4. New England Patriots - Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney
Both Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor are at least 33 and dealt with significant injuries in 2009, and are once again solid candidates to miss action in 2010.
Maroney is a quality back when he's on top of his game, but he lost the ball way too much in critical situations last season, and lost the confidence of his teammates and coaching staff. Maroney was benched in Week 16, and went on to carry the ball just one time over the team's final two games.
It's a muddled, ugly picture in the Patriots running back corps, and it's looking to be a very pass-heavy offense if the coaching staff can't figure something out.
If Maroney isn't traded, it's still plausible that he combines his talent and potential with a strong work ethic and great attitude. However, it's not very likely.
Early Favorite: Sammy Morris
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