It seems like with every year that passes, more NFL teams are getting comfortable with the running back by committee theory, which absolutely makes me cringe every time I hear it. I miss the days of Walter Payton running through, over, around and stiff-arming players as if there wasn’t even a chance of him getting hurt. You knew he was getting the football no matter the time left on the clock, what down it was, or how far the Chicago Bears had to go. Number 34 was getting the football and he was getting it consistently. That’s a fact, jack!
In today’s game, the harsh reality is that life in the NFL will most likely be a short-lived one at the running back position. Times have changed, backfields have adapted, and the running back by committee is here to stay. So we, too, will adapt as fantasy owners and embrace the running back by committee while using it to our advantage.
Adrian Peterson only comes around every so often. So when he does, carpe diem, my friend. Listen, there are few running back in this league that you can count on to get a heavy workload on a consistent basis. So let me take you on a journey down the tree of the running back by committee life, decreasing your chances of slipping, falling and hitting every branch on the way down to an ugly fantasy finish.
One of the things that most fantasy owners neglect to really take a look at is the organization or coach’s commitment to the run. If you are going to select a running back that may be a question mark in terms of talent, you should know whether or not that team plans on running the football in the bigger scheme of things. A great example of a running back by committee and an organization that has always been committed to the run but not necessarily committed to a particular running back, since Jerome Bettis left, would be the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This is where a fantasy star could be born at any moment or an NFL career could very quickly take the short-lived route. In 2012, the Steelers had one of their worst rushing years in team history. With that said, I believe their organization will look to turn things around in that area in 2013. But the real question is who will be the beneficiary? My guess would be that eventually it will be Le’Veon Bell’s job to lose, but I’m sure
Jonathan Dwyer will have something to say about that. At least, he should give him a run for his money and play a role near the goal line. He may even have the inside track to the starting position because of his familiarity in the offense at this point. In 13 games, six as a starter, he rushed for a team-high 623 yards on 156 carries with two touchdowns. Not very eye popping numbers at four yards per carry, but he will definitely be in the mix. In this running back by committee, if you grab one, you have to grab the other. The Steelers will re-commit to the run in 2013.
So we know that there are organizations out there that have a commitment to the run, but ultimately those decisions are in the hands of the coaches. If you are not careful, your running back by committee may suffer the “Mike Shanahan Effect.” And is that a good thing or bad thing? We all know that Shanahan and Bill Belichick have proven over the years that they have absolutely no problem with a running back by committee and going with whoever is hot or whoever their flavor of the month is. I think both of them may have some commitment issues that could be resolved through years of counseling. But that’s another story entirely.
Those are the reasons I passed on claiming
Alfred Morris off the waiver wire last year, and missed out on a fantasy gem due to my lack of confidence in Shanahan’s ability to commit to a back. So even though it may seem that
Alfred Morris is locked in as the starter at this point, buyer beware!
Roy Helu will be back, and I have a feeling Shanahan will have a soft spot for the new kid in town,
Chris Thompson, who is viewed as a third-down type of back. I can smell the Shanahan committee from here.
Same goes for
Stevan Ridley as well. The departure of
Danny Woodhead does leave room to believe that Ridley should be in line for a heavier workload. But if I know Belichick, so will
Shane Vereen, and I wouldn’t put it past him to let
Tim Tebow get in that mix as well.