Each year, more NFL teams are converting to a running back by committee, or RBBC offensive build. This means that teams are regularly using two, three or even four ball carriers in a game and fewer teams are going with one “bell-cow” running back who will get 30-40 touches per game. As with most things in football, there are pros and cons. Let’s take a look, shall we?
The first result of the RBBC is preservation of health. The more players used at the position means more chances for the players to be spelled from the game. This allows them to rest and recuperate, reducing wear and tear on their bodies. The reduction of wear and tear should allow players to enjoy elongated careers and this is in everyone’s best interests. It also allows them to stay fresher in games, giving them more energy to pull off big plays late in games.
Another result of the RBBC is the ability to use complementary backs – players with different running styles that work well off of each other. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are a prime example of a successful use of complementary backs in 2018. Howard was the strong, downhill runner who would knock over tacklers and could catch a pass or two if needed. Cohen was the spry, pass-catcher who excelled outside of the tackles. The ability to have two different running backs on the field – separate or in tandem – allows coaches to keep opposing defenses guessing and leaves more options for the offense.
The next occurrence of a committee is having more viable fantasy options at the position. Over the last few years, the RBBC has allowed leagues to expand the size of their starting rosters – adding more running backs or even flex positions. This is all good because, as fantasy players, we want to score more points. More points equals more fun, after all.
Something else we’ve seen from the emergence of the RBBC is fewer workhorse running backs, or “bell-cows” – backs that get 80-90 percent of the work. Because opportunity is paramount when building a fantasy roster, you want guys that are getting as much of it as possible. This has put a higher draft premium on highly utilized running backs – if you’re getting carries, you getting us points. In 2017, Le’Veon Bell touched the ball 427 times for 1,946 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2018, Saquon Barkley had 352 touches for 2,028 yards and 15 scores. These two and a number of others were key players in getting teams deep into their fantasy playoffs, and it’s not hard to see why. If you’re not getting a workhorse back, you may be starting the season at a disadvantage.
Overall, it seems that workhorse backs are more beneficial for fantasy purposes. But is that really true? Let’s look at some recent RBBC success stories.
In 2017, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara were the best set of backs in any RBBC in the NFL. Ingram tallied 1,540 yards and 12 scores while Kamara had 1,554 yards and 13 scores. New Orleans has been one of the most successful rushing teams in the league over that last few years. Ingram had a late fifth-round average draft position and Kamara had a 12th-round average draft position.
Also in 2017, Jerick McKinnon was an RB2 after helping fill the Dalvin Cook void in Minnesota. He took the ball 201 times gathering 991 yards and scoring five times. For a player who was going undrafted in many leagues, McKinnon paid dividends to owners of this RBBC savior.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were a very successful RBBC in recent years. In 2017, they both earned RB2 honors in Atlanta. Freeman for his 1.182 yards and eight touchdowns and Coleman for his 927 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2016, these two were also an RB1 and RB2, respectively.
New England has been the standard for the RBBC for many years with successful fantasy seasons from the likes of Sony Michel (4.6 yards per carry in 2018), Dion Lewis (5.0 yards per carry in 2017) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (4.4 yards per carry in 2010). In 2018, James White came out of the gate running and earned an RB1 ranking with 1,176 yards and 12 scores on only 181 touches. White hit career highs with 4.52 yards per carry and 5.4 receptions per game. That is excellent value for the 43rd running back off the draft board.
RBBCs workhorse backs are both successful in the NFL and in fantasy. We know that “bell-cow” running backs are sparse so when it comes to your draft day, don’t worry about missing on a back that will get 300-plus carries — because you can find value later in the draft with complementary backs.