Running Back By Committees: Things to Think About (AFC Edition)

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IJune 13, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 21: Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders runs against the Houston Texans during an NFL game on December 21, 2008 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

More and more, fantasy football is seeing an emergence of the running back tandems. Drafting an elite running back who takes the bulk of his team’s carries has gotten about 10 times more difficult than it used to be.

You’re going to have to select running backs who share carries whether you like it or not, but RBBCs may have more than one valuable fantasy contributor. In this two part series, Bruno Boys' Jimbo will take a look at those tandems that will prosper and those that will flounder. He starts with five RBBCs from the AFC.


San Diego Chargers – LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles

LT may have been dethroned as the king of fantasy football, but he still has great fantasy value. He is still the featured running back on the San Diego Chargers and will take the bulk of the carries, but Darren Sproles will definitely get a good piece of the action in 2009.

The Chargers will need to take care of LT in order to keep him healthy for the full season. Look for San Diego to pass more than run this season. Still, this backfield should still get plenty of opportunities. LT will remain the goal line back, which keeps him as a borderline top-10 RB.

Sproles, however, should rack up the yards with his blazing speed. He may end up becoming Philip Rivers' favorite target out of the backfield. Last year, when Rivers and Sproles played catch, he averaged 11.8 yards per reception and had five touchdowns.


Oakland Raiders – Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, and Justin Fargas

Darren McFadden has the ability to be an elite running back in the NFL, and he’s got the supporting cast to help him if the Oakland Raiders use this committee correctly. Justin Fargas has been the team’s leading rusher, but that may not have been the case last year if McFadden was able to stay healthy.

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With the Raiders’ passing game not looking too dangerous for 2009, a lot of running plays could be on the menu and all three of these guys should get the ball a fair share of times.

Obviously, McFadden is No. 1 on the depth chart and should be regarded as an RB2. But Fargas and Michael Bush also have fantasy value with Fargas as the steady and consistent option and Bush as the risk-reward option. I like Bush to have an increased role in catching swing passes and dump-offs out of the backfield.

If McFadden gets injured again, both the values of Fargas and Bush will rise significantly. There’s no denying this backfield had a bad 2008 campaign, but the addition of Lorenzo Neal and a healthy McFadden brings an encouraging outlook to 2009.


Tennessee Titans – Chris Johnson, Lendale White, and Javon Ringer

I’m not a big fan of this RBBC simply because I doubt it’s going to be one this season.

Jeff Fisher recently admitted that Chris Johnson could have had a more prominent role last year, but they decided to keep the leash on him a little bit since he was a rookie. Now in his second year, look for Johnson to be even more involved in this offense.

The drafting of Javon Ringer means there’s a good chance that Lendale White will be wearing a different jersey in 2010. Does that mean he will still vulture TDs from Johnson? Of course. That was their bread and butter last year.

But, will he vulture as many as he did in 2008? Doubtful. You can expect Johnson to be the featured back more this year, while Javon Ringer will learn the ropes and likely take White’s spot next year.


Pittsburgh Steelers – Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, and Mewelde Moore

You’re kidding yourself if you think you can ride your fantasy hopes on the back of Willie Parker. He had a great fantasy performance in Week 1 last year, scoring 31 points in standard scoring leagues. But then his next best performance was 17 points in Week 17. He scored over 10 points in only five of the 11 games he played in last year.

Don’t get fooled by the fact that the best team in football is a run-first offense. With three capable—but no dominant—running backs in the system, all three should get a piece of the action, which limits all three fantasy values.

Obviously, Parker is the best choice since he’s still No. 1 on the depth chart, but the Pittsburgh Steelers know they need to keep him healthy for the postseason if they want to repeat in ’09, meaning they won’t be afraid to spell him often.


Baltimore Ravens – Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, and Leron McClain

Ray Rice has potential to be a sleeper in ’09, but even if he does, this looks like it’s going to be the poor man’s version of the Tennessee Titans’ offense.

Rice will get yards, and then Leron McClain will steal most of the touchdowns. McClain will be featured in the fullback role first and foremost, so don’t think he’ll be exactly like the 2008 version of Lendale White.

Willis McGahee is going downhill fast and will only get drafted by somebody in your league who is just going by names and hasn’t done their homework. If nobody drafts Rice, keep an eye on him because he may become a valuable waiver wire pick-up. But he is an RB3 at best.


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