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Ultimate Running Back By Committee Report
John Tuvey
August 1, 2013
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The lack of a running back being selected in the first round of the 2013 draft underscores what has become of the position. Workhorse backs are largely a thing of the past; teams split the load to ease the burden and preserve the career of their stud, or to suit the nuances of their offensive scheme, or because there simply is no known "best" runner for the team. In many cases, the lack of that dominant runner is due to injury or the team has a new set of runners. No coach yanks a hot player from a game just to satisfy a game plan; they will use what works and what wins. For some teams, that means more than one runner. Unfortunately for us in the fantasy world, this is a fundamental change within the NFL with so many teams opting to use multiple running backs in each game.

The statistics you will see show who the primary ball carrier was for each team for each game during the last two years. The stats are computed by each game played and which running back had the most plays in that game. Sum it up and you get how many games each player was the primary ball carrier for his team and the averages of all runs and catches of all team rushers in those games. Reviewing this from a per game perspective is much more accurate than merely doing math on total season numbers. For our purposes, I am defining a team to be RBBC if the lead carrier does not receive at least 75% of the rushing plays considering all runners used in a game, including fullbacks.

Let's take a look at what we are likely to see with how running backs are used this season:

Team By Team Review of 2011 and 2012 Primary Carrier Stats and How they Apply to 2013

Arizona Cardinals   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Beanie Wells 14 78% 85% 17% 18 18 75 0.7 1 4 0.0
  Alphonso Smith 1 67% 68% 60% 20 17 54 0.0 3 21 0.0
  L. Stephens-Howling 1 78% 84% 0% 21 21 93 0.0 0 0 0.0
2012 Beanie Wells 5 57% 64% 5% 14 14 40 1 0 5 0
  LaRod Stephens-Howling 5 78% 84% 65% 18 15 61 0.6 2 18 0
  Ryan Williams 4 61% 68% 54% 13 12 38 0 1 9 0
  William Powell 2 74% 74% 75% 15 14 61 0 1 2 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: Yes

Beanie Wells couldn't stay healthy--again--and it cost him his job in Arizona. Gone too are LaRod Stephens-Howling, a special teamer who was ill-suited for feature duty yet managed the Cardinals' only two 100-yard games last year, and desperation plug-in William Powell. New coach Bruce Arians brought in the familiar Ryan Mendenhall to be his bell cow, but he has also expressed a fondness for holdover Ryan Williams. Mendenhall had a couple 1,000-yard campaigns under Arians in Pittsburgh, but he's been north of 250 carries just once in his career and last season looked exactly like a guy recovering from knee surgery is expected to look (in other words, the opposite of Adrian Peterson). Expect Mendy to get first crack at significant carries, but behind one of the league's worst offensive lines expectations should be kept low. If Williams can stay healthy--a big "if" for a guy who's missed 27 of 32 games in two NFL seasons--he'll get change-of-pace work and maybe even force his way to the front of the committee with an assist from injury or lack of productivity from Mendenhall. If 2013 proceeds anything like 2012 did for the Cardinals, fifth-round rookie Stepfan Taylor could also see time as the lead back.

Atlanta Falcons   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Michael Turner 16 68% 77% 22% 20 19 84 0.7 1 11 0.0
2012 Michael Turner 16 55% 67% 20% 15 14 50 0.6 1 8 0.1

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: Yes

Michael Turner is out in Atlanta, the "Burner" long removed from his name and his game. Enter Steven Jackson, who handled a similar workload in St. Louis but looks to have more tread on his tires than Turner at this juncture. Aside from the pitiful touchdown totals Jackson has been as or more productive than Turner; he also bring receiving skills to the table, which will pad his numbers and take some work off of Jacquizz Rodgers' plate. The Falcons were giving less of the work to Turner last year, but Jackson's versatility should allow him to push those numbers back up to true featureback digits. Rodgers still lurks, but he did little in relief of Turner last season to suggest he deserves a larger role this year.

Baltimore Ravens   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Ray Rice 16 72% 71% 74% 23 18 85 0.8 5 44 0.2
2012 Ray Rice 15 72% 73% 68% 21 17 76 0.6 4 32 0.1
  Bernard Pierce 1 61% 63% 33% 23 22 89 0 1 4 0

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: No* New Primary Running Back: No

Ray Rice was money for three years running, topping 1,200 rushing yards and 550 receiving yards each season since becoming a starter in 2009--until last year, when he also received his fewest touches since 2009. Of course, that "bottom-feeding" total was still a hefty 318 touches, but there is still a bit of hand-wringing about what Bernard Pierce might take off his plate. True, Pierce saw his workload jump to around 10 touches per game over the second half of the season and remain at that level through the Ravens' playoff run with Jim Caldwell (who took over as offensive coordinator in the final month of the regular season; hence the asterisk above) calling the plays. And Rice has some contract incentives that, if you're into conspiracy theories, provide the club with motivation to keep a lid on Ray's workload--like $5 million in base salary escalators and incentives if Rice were to hit certain productivity marks, levels he fell 57 rushing yards and 72 receiving yards shy of last year. Maybe Rice was in line for a bit of a dip this year, but the loss of Dennis Pitta will require Baltimore's top offensive weapon to pick up a little more slack--and for Rice, status quo ain't a bad thing. As for Pierce, he's a nice handcuff with upside, and 50 yards per game isn't awful... but this is still Rice's gig.

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Buffalo Bills   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Fred Jackson 10 82% 85% 73% 21 17 93 0.6 4 44 0.0
  C.J. Spiller 6 78% 79% 76% 18 14 74 0.5 4 31 0.3
2012 C.J. Spiller 9 71% 71% 80% 19 16 100 0.4 3 34 0.1
  Fred Jackson 6 60% 59% 68% 18 15 52 0.5 3 24 0
  Tashard Choice 1 71% 77% 40% 22 20 91 0 2 8 0

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: No

Few backs have done as much with as little as Spiller did last season--which is why the fantasy community is positively giddy about his prospects in 2013. Buffalo's previous regime may have felt beholden to Fred Jackson due to his locker room presence and hefty contract, but Doug Marrone brings a clean slate to the team. The expectation is that Marrone will also bring an uptempo offense and an uptick in offensive plays; more plays plus a larger share, at the same healthy yards per touch rate Spiller produced last year, adds up to a top-10 fantasy back with elite level upside. Jackson, meanwhile, has missed six games each of the past two seasons and is coming off a knee injury. He'll have a role in Buffalo, but it will be a supporting one. The good news is that Buffalo and Marrone both love to run the football, so the pie is large enough for Jackson to carve out a piece without jeopardizing Spiller's upside.

Carolina Panthers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Jonathan Stewart 9 57% 53% 66% 13 10 49 0.3 3 34 0.0
  DeAngelo Williams 7 52% 58% 17% 12 11 60 0.9 1 4 0.0
2012 DeAngelo Williams 11 59% 67% 32% 14 13 58 0.4 1 15 0.2
  Jonathan Stewart 5 59% 58% 61% 14 12 40 0.2 2 22 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: No

The Panthers inexplicably keep trying to give the job to Jonathan Stewart, and he keeps getting hurt. Meanwhile, DeAngelo Williams is the more effective feature back when given the opportunity. And of course the entire RBBC plays wingman to Cam Newton, who led the Panthers in rushing nine times last year. Shockingly, Stewart is injured once again and has yet to take the field in training camp; that leaves Williams to head up a committee that will also include Mike Tolbert and quite possibly speedy rookie Kenjon Barner as well. It's a mess that tends to clear up at least a little bit when Stewart suffers his inevitable injury, and Stew has done us a favor by being hurt early this time around.

Chicago Bears   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Matt Forte 11 77% 76% 84% 23 18 90 0.3 5 45 0.1
  Kahlil Bell 3 73% 69% 93% 23 18 80 0.0 5 36 0.3
  Marion Barber 2 64% 68% 14% 22 21 76 0.5 1 16 0.0
2012 Matt Forte 12 74% 73% 77% 21 18 78 0.3 3 23 0.1
  Michael Bush 3 57% 61% 31% 19 18 56 1 1 6 0
  Kahlil Bell 1 41% 43% 0% 13 13 32 0 0 0 0

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: No

There is plenty to like about the situation Marc Trestman's new offense puts Matt Forte in; after all, Forte's strength is as a receiver and Trestman once oversaw a back get 90 catches (Charlie Garner in Oakland). So despite the regime change it will largely be business as usual for Forte, with the tangy zip of upside in the passing game. Trestman's track record also suggests Forte won't be the goal line back, an area he has largely struggled with throughout his NFL career. Michael Bush filled that role last year and should do so again, making him a viable option in TD-heavy scoring systems.

Cincinnati Bengals   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Cedric Benson 15 68% 72% 37% 19 18 71 0.4 1 5 0.0
  Bernard Scott 1 83% 92% 50% 25 22 76 0.0 3 0 0.0
2012 BenJarvus Green-Ellis 15 78% 81% 65% 20 19 73 0.4 1 7 0
  Brian Leonard 1 67% 63% 100% 12 10 34 0 2 1 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No (for now)

The Bengals have traditionally had one bellcow back, and last year was no exception with BenJarvus Green-Ellis handling that role. Another Cincinnati tradition has been that their feature back has been... well... boring. And BJGE fit that description as well, following in the footsteps of Cedric Benson. You could bank on a stat line in the 20-75 range with a 50/50 shot at a touchdown. The Law Firm is back for another season of plodding towards 1,000 yards, but this time around the Bengals are hoping to spice things up with second-round pick Giovani Bernard. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has hinted that Bernard may wind up with as much as half of the workload, and while that's likely true somewhere down the road it may not all happen this year. Marvin Lewis sees it more as a job share with Green-Ellis still the workhorse and Bernard offering a speedy spark. The hope is that Bernard provides Cincy with the pass-catching, change of pace back they thought they had in Bernard Scott before he blew out his knee. In a dynasty league Bernard is the back to own, but the transition--like Cincy's feature back itself--may be slow.

Cleveland Browns   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Peyton Hillis 8 81% 85% 64% 21 18 69 0.4 3 16 0.0
  Chris Ogbonnaya 4 83% 83% 79% 19 16 68 0.3 3 19 0.0
  Montario Hardesty 4 72% 72% 82% 20 17 55 0.0 2 18 0.0
2012 Trent Richardson 14 81% 86% 72% 22 18 65 0.8 4 25 0.1
  Montario Hardesty 2 50% 54% 10% 15 15 47 0.5 1 5 0

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: No

There's little question this is Trent Richardson's gig for as long as he's healthy. And with Norv Turner calling the plays, the Browns won't be shy about giving their feature back carries, either. So the question becomes, who's the handcuff? Montario Hardesty can't stay healthy, and even when he's played he's been largely ineffective. Chris Ogbonnaya is working at fullback, leaving former Eagle Dion Lewis as a potential change-of-pace guy and the likely handcuff to Richardson. Given Richardson's penchant for getting nicked, Lewis may wind up being a decent late-round grab.

Dallas Cowboys   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 DeMarco Murray 8 73% 76% 52% 21 18 104 0.3 3 20 0.0
  Felix Jones 7 64% 65% 64% 19 15 69 0.1 4 27 0.0
  Sammy Morris 1 68% 68% 67% 17 13 29 0.0 4 10 0.0
2012 DeMarco Murray 9 85% 89% 76% 20 16 63 0.4 4 27 0
  Felix Jones 7 62% 66% 47% 16 13 46 0.4 3 28 0.3

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No

With Bill Callahan taking over play-calling duties from Jason Garrett, the hope is that maybe the Cowboys will run a little more frequently. If DeMarco Murray could find a way to stay healthy that wouldn't be a problem; when he's able to stay on the field Murray can be a dynamic multi-threat back. The Cowboys are better as well, sporting an 8-0 record when Murray carries 20 or more times in a game. However, Murray has missed nine games over the past two seasons and has an injury history that dates back to his college days at Oklahoma, so both fantasy owners and the Cowboys need a handle on who Plan B is. The expectations is that fifth-round pick Joseph Randle will be that guy, but he started slowly in camp so it's still a tussle between Randle, Lance Dunbar, and Phillip Tanner. By the time fantasy drafts roll around, however, smart money is on Randle as the handcuff.

Denver Broncos   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Willis McGahee 12 68% 75% 10% 20 20 92 0.3 1 2 0.1
  Knowshon Moreno 2 58% 68% 36% 13 11 46 0.0 2 20 0.0
  Lance Ball 2 66% 64% 50% 22 21 80 0.5 1 21 0.0
2012 Willis McGahee 9 72% 73% 61% 21 18 75 0.4 3 23 0
  Knowshon Moreno 5 77% 74% 100% 27 23 94 0.4 4 29 0
  Ronnie Hillman 1 45% 48% 33% 14 12 43 0 2 16 0
  Lance Ball 1 36% 38% 0% 15 15 66 1 0 0 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: Yes

This was ageless Willis McGahee's job last year until a knee injury pushed him to the sidelines--and ultimately off the Broncos' roster. Knowshon Moreno was surprisingly solid in relief, but he projects to be at best the team's third-down back this season. Ronnie Hillman underwhelmed as a rookie but entered training camp atop the Broncos' depth chart and at minimum will be a change-of-pace guy. And oh yeah, the Broncos drafted Montee Ball in the second round. Fantasy owners clearly believe he'll wind up as the lead dog in this committee, as he's among the top rookies off the board in redraft leagues, and many media members feel the same way. Ball does appear to offer everything the Broncos could desire in a back--proficiency betwen the tackles, pass protection knowledge, receiving skills--but for the time being he's ceding first-team snaps to Hillman. Ah, the good ol' days when the Broncos backfield was a hot fantasy mess; looks like they're back.

Detroit Lions   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Jahvid Best 6 71% 68% 84% 19 14 65 0.3 5 48 0.2
  Maurice Morris 5 55% 55% 56% 14 10 44 0.2 4 31 0.2
  Kevin Smith 4 78% 76% 87% 17 14 67 0.8 3 26 0.8
  Keiland Williams 1 67% 71% 50% 14 12 43 0.0 2 17 0.0
2012 Mikel Leshoure 14 65% 74% 42% 18 15 57 0.6 2 15 0
  Kevin Smith 2 77% 80% 65% 18 15 58 0.5 3 23 0.5


RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: Yes

Detroit's running game ping-ponged between mediocre and nonexistant last year, which is why Matthew Stafford set an NFL record for pass attempts. Rather than fight it, the Lions embraced their team personality in the offseason by adding Reggie Bush--a back best known for his pass-catching ability. The Lions hope Bush can provide at least some of the explosiveness their offense had briefly with a healthy Jahvid Best, but what Detroit really wants is for Bush to provide another option for Stafford in the passing game; rushing yards would be a bonus. Mikel Leshoure lurks as a between-the-tackles guy, but unless Calvin Johnson gets pulled down inside the five-yard line eight more times this year it's unlikely he'll put up the same fantasy totals he had last year. Joique Bell could wind up swiping some of Leshoure's work; he also offers insurance for the frequently-dinged Bush. Tough to see any one back getting a reliable 20 touches a game here, but Bush does offer quite a bit of upside in PPR leagues.

Green Bay Packers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 James Starks 9 61% 62% 53% 15 12 60 0.1 3 22 0.0
  Ryan Grant 7 53% 56% 39% 13 11 55 0.3 2 28 0.1
2012 Alex Green 7 65% 66% 73% 18 16 50 0 2 13 0
  Cedric Benson 4 89% 93% 71% 19 16 57 0.3 3 19 0
  James Starks 3 66% 68% 44% 20 19 67 0.3 1 7 0
  Ryan Grant 1 70% 71% 50% 21 20 80 2 1 34 0
  DuJuan Harris 1 89% 88% 100% 16 14 70 0 2 17 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: Yes

With a passing game like Green Bay's the running game is an afterthought--or at least it was up until Draft Day 2013, when the Packers grabbed Eddie Lacy and later on Jonathan Franklin in hopes of balancing their offense. It's unlikely that either back takes the bulk of the carries; Lacy could get the between-the-tackles work, but with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback every down is a passing down so Franklin might actually see more playing time. And at the stripe Rodgers will be as much of a running threat as any back on the Green Bay roster. Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, and James Starks are all still on the roster--for now--but what work the Packers do give their running backs will likely be split between Lacy and Franklin. It's a small pie, and dividing it does no one any fantasy good.

Houston Texans   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Arian Foster 12 72% 71% 88% 27 22 99 0.8 4 51 0.2
  Ben Tate 4 61% 67% 30% 23 21 100 0.5 2 16 0.0
2012 Arian Foster 15 75% 76% 77% 25 22 92 0.9 2 13 0.1
  Justin Forsett 1 39% 45% 0% 14 14 63 0 0 0 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No

Haven't we been here before? Haven't we talked about how Arian Foster needs to share more of the workload? Hasn't Foster been slightly nicked heading into the season? Sure, his average fantasy points per game has tailed off a bit over the past couple of seasons, but he was still a strong second to Adrian Peterson last season despite all of the aforementioned hand-wringing. Yes, Ben Tate helps you sleep better at night. Yes, Tate has had success when given the ball in Houston. Last year Tate saw double-digit touches twice and did nothing of fantasy relevance after Week 2. But Foster's 351 carries last year strongly suggest this isn't a committee. That said, you'll want to get the Tate insurance.

Indianapolis Colts   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Donald Brown 8 58% 58% 64% 14 13 61 0.5 2 7 0.0
  Joseph Addai 5 65% 63% 87% 16 14 58 0.2 2 13 0.0
  Delone Carter 3 53% 56% 22% 13 12 52 0.7 1 4 0.0
2012 Vick Ballard 10 72% 73% 54% 18 17 67 0.2 1 12 0
  Donald Brown 6 61% 64% 19% 15 15 60 0.2 1 8 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: Yes

Gone is Bruce Arians, who liked to throw... a lot. Pep Hamilton now calls the offensive shots, and his track record at Stanford indicates he's fond of the ground game. But the Colts lack a true feature back, so they'll have to fill Hamilton's volume of carries by committee. Ahmad Bradshaw was signed to lead the RBBC, but he's already in a walking boot and has played all 16 games just once in his career. His career also suggests he's best served in a job share, with more games of 15 or fewer carries (23) than 16 or more (19) over the past three seasons--and a stronger trend towards the lower end of the workload the past two years. Vick Ballard was serviceable in the lead role last year, but if Hamilton wants to run more he'll need both--and maybe even disappointing former first-rounder Donald Brown, who is battling Delone Carter for a roster spot.

Jacksonville Jaguars   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Maurice Jones-Drew 16 79% 81% 67% 24 21 100 0.5 3 23 0.2
2012 Rashad Jennings 6 76% 79% 49% 17 14 40 0.3 3 21 0
  Maurice Jones-Drew 5 81% 86% 65% 20 17 82 0.2 3 17 0.2
  Montell Owens 2 59% 61% 63% 14 13 69 0.5 1 9 0
  Richard Murphy 1 38% 48% 0% 10 10 29 0 0 0 0
  Keith Toston 1 87% 85% 100% 20 17 74 0 3 41 0
  Jalen Parmele 1 90% 89% 100% 27 24 80 0 3 3 0

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: No

The wheels fell off last season when Maurice Jones-Drew went down with what turned out to be a season-ending foot injury; with no real alternative on the roster he should walk right back into his old job--assuming the foot is healthy and Jones-Drew can live with not getting a contract extension. While Justin Forsett looks to be the top backup plan at this time, the more intriguing play is Denard Robinson; after all, if the Jaguars are going to give the football to someone other than MJD they might as well make it exciting. Indications are that Jones-Drew will be ready to resume his workload by the time the games start to count, and he seems resigned to playing out the string in hopes of a new contract; that leaves rebuilding as the only obstacle to MoJo getting his touches, and aside from Robinson--who isn't ready for feature-back carries anyway--there's no one on the roster the Jags are dying to see.

Kansas City Chiefs   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Thomas Jones 7 41% 46% 9% 14 14 39 0.0 0 5 0.0
  Jackie Battle 6 51% 54% 29% 16 15 66 0.2 1 9 0.0
  Dexter McCluster 2 43% 37% 63% 12 9 45 0.0 4 26 0.0
  Jamaal Charles 1 52% 56% 45% 15 10 56 0.0 5 9 1.0
2012 Jamaal Charles 15 56% 65% 26% 21 19 100 0.3 2 14 0.1
  Peyton Hillis 1 41% 50% 20% 13 11 66 0 2 25 0

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: No

Last year's "Thunder and Lightning" pairing never materialized; Jamaal Charles provided the flash, but Peyton Hillis was a total washout. Andy Reid brings a new mentality to Kansas City, where Charles can fill the same role LeSean McCoy and Brian Westbrook have handled. Charles is more like Westbrook in that he's not physically suited to be a true workhorse, but he'll see enough of the carries and augment that number with receptions to the point that the backfield can be safely called his. Another reason to believe it will be all Charles, all the time: the depth chart behind him is completely unproven, led by rookie Knile Davis

Miami Dolphins   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Reggie Bush 11 66% 67% 57% 20 16 86 0.5 3 25 0.1
  Daniel Thomas 5 61% 63% 43% 19 17 66 0.0 2 12 0.2
2012 Reggie Bush 12 63% 70% 41% 18 16 69 0.5 3 22 0.2
  Daniel Thomas 4 48% 47% 35% 15 13 41 0.5 2 12 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: Yes

Miami needs to replace Reggie Bush, who was the lead dog in last year's committee--though with 14 or fewer carries in 10 games and only two of 20-plus carries, he was far more lead dog than workhorse. Daniel Thomas was less than stellar in his four games with double-digit carries, averaging less than three yards per carry in three of the four. And that's a big part of the reason Lamar Miller is such a trendy pick this season; in his two auditions with 10 or more carries, Miller averaged almost seven yards a carry. Miller admitted to being "lost" early on last season, but the coaching staff indicated he understood assignments better as the year progressed, and he enters 2013 as the prohibitive favorite to take over Bush's touches. Again, that may not be workhorse territory, and Miller's collegiate injury history suggests easing him into the role. But the upside of Miller's explosiveness in Bush's touches... you can see why optimism abounds. Oh yeah, Thomas is still around and purportedly battling for carries, but he's demonstrated that both he and the Dolphins are best served in a reduced role.

Minnesota Vikings   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Adrian Peterson 11 81% 85% 62% 20 18 86 1.0 2 13 0.1
  Toby Gerhart 5 82% 84% 73% 19 16 62 0.2 3 18 0.2
2012 Adrian Peterson 16 84% 87% 58% 24 22 131 0.8 3 14 0.1

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No

Short and sweet: neither snow nor rain nor torn ACL can keep Adrian Peterson from his appointed rounds. Toby Gerhart would be serviceable if called upon, but as we've learned Cyborg's cannot be destroyed. If anything is going to cut into All Day's touches it would be the Vikings' passing game with new targets like Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson--but even then, it will be at most a smallish slice.

New England Patriots   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 BenJarvus Green-Ellis 10 53% 55% 34% 16 15 56 0.7 1 11 0.0
  Stevan Ridley 3 54% 57% 0% 12 12 59 0.0 0 0 0.0
  Danny Woodhead 2 59% 58% 75% 12 11 55 0.0 1 5 0.0
  Kevin Faulk 1 69% 55% 100% 11 6 32 0.0 5 20 0.0
2012 Stevan Ridley 14 57% 62% 14% 20 19 86 0.9 0 4 0
  Danny Woodhead 2 57% 54% 92% 17 14 48 1.5 3 16 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No

Every year the Patriots rank among the league leaders in rushing, and every year they use a committee approach that never ceases to frustrate fantasy owners. Stevan Ridley took the wheel last year and cranked out a 1,000-yard season; if he repeats that performance in 2013 he would be the first Bill Belichick back to do so. Not saying he can't, but Shane Vereen is gaining steam as a complementary piece who could see an increase in workload as he takes over Danny Woodhead's duties. With New Engald's receiving corps decimated this offseason, the backs will be asked to pick up more of the workload. Vereen seems the more likely candidate to take on the additional opportunity, but just when you slate this as a 50/50 or 60/40 split Belichick will drop a game or two of Leon Washington or LeGarrette Blount or Brandon Bolden on us... just because he can.

New Orleans Saints   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Mark Ingram 7 43% 56% 11% 14 13 49 0.6 1 3 0.0
  Chris Ivory 4 41% 56% 0% 16 16 80 0.3 0 0 0.0
  Darren Sproles 3 38% 34% 47% 15 10 52 0.3 6 40 0.3
  Pierre Thomas 2 40% 39% 45% 11 8 41 0.5 3 7 0.0
2012 Mark Ingram 9 40% 57% 2% 13 13 53 0.4 0 1 0
  Pierre Thomas 5 43% 52% 17% 12 11 41 0.2 1 10 0
  Darren Sproles 1 30% 39% 0% 7 7 62 0 0 0 0
  Chris Ivory 1 37% 42% 17% 11 10 48 1 1 2 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No

Sean Payton's back, Chris Ivory's gone... and this is still a pass-first team with a committee approach to the ground game. Mark Ingram looks to be the lead dog again, but all that means is half of the handfull of rushing attempts the Saints produce each week; last year he managed all of eight games with double-digit carries, just three with 15 or more. Darren Sproles had 10 games with five or more receptions, making him an obvious PPR helper, but his contributions on the ground are negligible. Pierre Thomas lurks as an alternative to either Ingram (five games as the lead back) or Sproles (two games with five-plus receptions). And while Ivory is now a Jet, don't forget how good Travaris Cadet has looked in his limited touches. It's a fantasy mess, as usual.

New York Giants   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Ahmad Bradshaw 11 63% 64% 55% 18 15 59 0.8 3 24 0.2
  Brandon Jacobs 5 59% 67% 36% 18 16 59 0.8 2 11 0.0
2012 Ahmad Bradshaw 11 72% 74% 61% 20 18 83 0.5 2 17 0
  Andre Brown 3 57% 59% 39% 17 15 83 1.3 2 12 0
  David Wilson 2 54% 55% 50% 13 13 78 1 1 6 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: Yes

The Giants remain a committee team, but Ahmad Bradshaw has taken his game (and injuries) to Indianapolis. In the two games he missed last year both Andre Brown (20-113-2) and David Wilson (12-55) took a turn as the lead. The expectation is that Wilson, who saw double-digit carries in three of the final four games last year but has yet top top 15 totes as a pro, will step into Bradshaw's shoes (but hopefully not his walking boot) as the chair of the committee. Meanwhile, the bigger Brown should get short yardage and goal line work and the short end of a 60/40 jobshare. Wilson's explosive, Brown's a banger, and the Giants are a job share yet again.

New York Jets   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Shonn Greene 14 63% 69% 35% 19 17 71 0.4 2 15 0.0
  Joe McKnight 1 63% 59% 75% 22 16 59 0.0 6 62 0.0
  LaDainian Tomlinson 1 52% 44% 100% 15 11 56 0.0 4 23 0.0
2012 Shonn Greene 16 63% 65% 37% 18 17 66 0.5 1 9 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: No

New OC Marty Mornhinweg will deviate slightly from the Jets' tradition of "ground and pound", but given the state of the Jets' passing attack the offensive onus will still be on the running game. And the Jets won't have Shonn Greene to kick around anymore; instead, the Jets are hoping ex-Saint Chris Ivory can find a way to stay healthy and head up their backfield committee. Ivory opened training camp with hamstring issues, which means Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight, and Mike Goodson--if/when he shows up and if he's not suspended for his offseason brush with the law--will all have roles. With a total of five games with 15+ carries and four rushing touchdowns between them--numbers that almost pale next to Ivory's seven games with 15 or more carries and eight rushing TDs--the Jets' ground game is a big leap of faith this season

Oakland Raiders   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Michael Bush 10 80% 88% 54% 24 21 84 0.4 3 32 0.1
  Darren McFadden 6 67% 70% 57% 22 19 102 0.7 3 25 0.2
2012 Darren McFadden 12 73% 84% 54% 22 18 59 0.2 4 22 0.1
  Marcel Reece 3 68% 68% 69% 21 16 75 0 5 58 0
  Jeremy Stewart 1 45% 56% 17% 10 9 46 0 1 2 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: No

There is no question this is Darren McFadden's job when healthy. Of course, therein lies the rub: McFadden has missed 23 games in five pro seasons, 13 of them in the past two years alone. 2012 was a lost year for other reasons as well, notably the failed transition to a zone blocking scheme under the now-departed Gregg Knapp. With Greg Olson now directing the offense Oakland returns to the power-blocking scheme that has made McFadden one of the league's most productive runners... when healthy. The Raiders are essentially banking on a full slate from McFadden given that the backup plan consists of Rashad Jennings--a hugh disappointment as Maurice Jones-Drew's understudy in Jacksonville last year. Throw Jeremy Stewart, rookie Latavius Murray, and fullback Marcel Reece into the mix and you get a whole lot of "hope McFadden stays healthy".

Philadelphia Eagles   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 LeSean McCoy 15 85% 84% 93% 21 18 87 1.1 3 21 0.2
  Dion Lewis 1 67% 67% 0% 12 12 58 1.0 0 0 0.0
2012 LeSean McCoy 12 81% 79% 86% 21 17 70 0.2 5 31 0.3
  Bryce Brown 4 86% 89% 70% 21 18 97 1 3 11 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: No

Excitement abounds in Philly--as well as the fantasy world--as Chip Kelly brings his high-octane offense to the NFL. Kelly's success at Oregon was based on speed and creating mismatches with the defense, and while we don't know for sure what that means to division of workload--or even if Kelly's game plan will work in the NFL at all--he does have some talent in place in the backfield. LeSean McCoy should continue to receive the majority of the touches, but after seeing what Bryce Brown can do you have to believe he'll be heavily involved as well. Plus, Kelly is expected to run more plays---and run more, period, opening the door for Brown to get touches. The injury to Jeremy Maclin creates a need for playmakers, and if the Eagles' playmakers happen to be mostly running backs then Kelly will find a way to get McCoy and Brown on the field--perhaps even at the same time. Felix Jones and Chris Polk offer depth, but only one is likely to make the roster and even then as a reserve/special teamer.

Pittsburgh Steelers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Rashard Mendenhall 14 65% 69% 31% 17 16 64 0.6 1 11 0
  Isaac Redman 2 58% 55% 75% 20 17 71 0.5 3 15 0
2012 Jonathan Dwyer 10 56% 59% 30% 15 13 55 0.2 1 8 0
  Isaac Redman 5 51% 55% 26% 16 14 52 0.4 2 10 0
  Baron Batch 1 39% 48% 14% 11 10 22 1 1 3 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: Yes

Rashard Mendenhall struggled all season to come back from the knee injury that prematurely ended his 2011 campaign, and while he was nothing special the committee that replaced him last season redefined "mediocre". So the Steelers spent a second-round pick on Le'Veon Bell and hope he can emerge from the pack that still includes a slimmer Jonathan Dwyer as well as Isaac Redman, Baron Batch, and free-agent acquisition LaRod Stephens-Howling. However, Bell is being treated as a feature back by tantasy drafters. While it's true he has the best chance to separate himself and become a feature back, and has been getting work with the first team early in training camp, Mike Tomlin isn't fully committing to the first-year player just yet. Give him time.

San Diego Chargers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Ryan Mathews 12 61% 65% 52% 21 17 84 0.5 4 30 0.0
  Michael Tolbert 3 66% 65% 65% 19 13 51 0.7 6 51 0.7
  Curtis Brinkley 1 61% 59% 75% 19 16 52 0.0 3 12 0.0
2012 Ryan Mathews 10 66% 74% 41% 20 17 62 0.1 3 22 0
  Jackie Battle 3 63% 65% 51% 21 18 42 0.3 3 26 0.3
  Curtis Brinkley 3 45% 51% 38% 15 11 32 0 3 22 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: Yes New Primary Running Back: No

How does the saying go? "Fool me once, and I won't get fooled again?" Wasn't that a Who song? After breaking fantasy hearts last season Ryan Mathews is back as the Chargers' feature back once again, at least until his next injury. Mathews was solid in 2011 but failed to capitalize on Michael Tolbert's departure: starting late, finishing early, and generally struggling in between with just one touchdown to his credit. So, anybody buying this year? Danny Woodhead was added as a third-down back, and new coach Mike McCoy is on record as saying it's a two-back league so expect both to get plenty of work. Ronnie Brown also lurks should injury befall Mathews; in other words, he's looking at some playing time this year.

Seattle Seahawks   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Marshawn Lynch 15 70% 75% 41% 21 19 80 0.8 2 14 0.1
  Leon Washington 1 58% 47% 100% 11 7 39 0.0 4 10 0.0
2012 Marshawn Lynch 14 78% 83% 48% 23 21 96 0.5 2 13 0.1
  Robert Turbin 2 54% 56% 17% 16 15 70 0 1 -2 0

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No

Beast Mode took over the Seahawks' backfield, and despite the addition of second-round pick Christine Michael it will still be all Marshawn Lynch, all the time in Seattle. Unlike last season Lynch won't enter the year with a possible suspension hanging over his head; his DUI hearing has already been pushed back to late December, clearing the slate for nothing but football this fall. Percy Harvin loomed as a potential goal line vulture, but his hip injury could scuttle his entire season and at minimum likely takes him out of the mix for much red zone running that might otherwise go to Lynch. Robert Turbin remains the handcuff, but unless Lynch can't keep his nose clean he's basically insurance.

San Francisco 49ers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Frank Gore 15 67% 69% 44% 19 18 80 0.5 1 8 0.0
  Kendall Hunter 1 51% 52% 50% 18 16 76 0.0 2 11 0.0
2012 Frank Gore 16 65% 67% 50% 18 16 76 0.5 2 15 0.1

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No

News of Frank Gore's demise as the feature back in San Francisco continues to be greatly exaggerated. Last year Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James were expected to take a bigger bite; instead, Gore remained the Niners' go-to back all season long with no discernable drop in production. Again this year Hunter and James lurk, but the former is working his way back from injury and the latter has yet to record double-digit touches in an NFL game. Gore should continue to lead the backfield, but his share is hovering around two-thirds and isn't likely to climb so consider it a committee--with Gore as the Chairman of the Board.

St. Louis Rams   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Steven Jackson 12 85% 85% 90% 24 20 87 0.3 3 27 0.1
  Cadillac Williams 3 82% 80% 100% 20 17 67 0.0 3 19 0.0
  Jerious Norwood 1 46% 50% 0% 11 11 19 0.0 0 0 0.0
2012 Steven Jackson 14 72% 74% 64% 20 17 69 0.3 3 21 0
  Daryl Richardson 2 57% 52% 83% 14 11 68 0 3 8 0

RBBC: Yes New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: Yes

The Steven Jackson era is over in St. Louis, and there's no clear-cut line of succession. The Rams hoped that 2012 second-rounder Isaiah Pead might step up and ease the transition, but he was beat out by classmate Daryl Richardson in training camp; now it's Richardson who enters this season as the lead dog while Pead will sit out Week 1 for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Richardson fared well in two games with double-digit carries last year, but he's far from a proven commodity. Fifth-round pick Zac Stacy is also in the mix as the Rams look for answers post-Jackson, but barring an unexpected training camp development it will be Richardson's committee to lead into the season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 LeGarrette Blount 12 65% 81% 22% 16 15 63 0.4 1 12 0.0
  Earnest Graham 2 76% 72% 69% 17 12 61 0.0 5 40 0.0
  Kregg Lumpkin 2 67% 67% 68% 13 8 20 0.0 5 38 0.0
2012 Doug Martin 16 82% 85% 66% 23 20 91 0.7 3 30 0.1

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No

First-round pick Doug Martin rolled into town and played so well that LeGarrette Blount left. It'll be all Martin, all the time in Tampa Bay once again, with the added bonus of having his pair of All Pro guards (Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph) healthy. The Bucs have Brian Leonard, Peyton Hillis, and sixth-round pick Mike James as backup plans; clearly they're banking on another full workload for Martin.

Tennessee Titans   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Chris Johnson 15 75% 80% 57% 20 17 68 0.3 4 27 0.0
  Javon Ringer 1 49% 48% 50% 19 14 60 0.0 5 42 0.0
2012 Chris Johnson 16 85% 87% 75% 20 17 78 0.4 2 15 0

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No

After a disappointing 2011 campaign Chris Johnson saw his numbers trend back up last year. That didn't prevent Tennessee from adding some insurance in the offseason, but in Jets' throwaway Shonn Greene and Jaguars castoff Jalen Parmele the Titans were definitely buying term not whole (ask your State Farm agent). Improvements to the offensive line should help CJ climb back towards his 2K levels, though his recent proclamation that he's better than Adrian Peterson... well, that's just plain wrong.

Washington Redskins   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2011 Roy Helu 6 76% 79% 65% 24 19 77 0.3 5 38 0.0
  Ryan Torain 4 61% 75% 10% 12 12 48 0.3 1 3 0.0
  Tim Hightower 4 76% 80% 48% 21 19 74 0.3 2 19 0.3
  Evan Royster 2 72% 81% 42% 23 20 123 0.0 4 34 0.0
WAS Alfred Morris 16 84% 90% 31% 22 21 101 0.8 1 5 0

RBBC: No New OC or Scheme: No New Primary Running Back: No

Wait... what? Mike Shanahan with a feature back instead of a committee? Yep, sixth-round pick Alfred Morris took the job and never gave it back; in fact, if you'll note the chart at the end of this piece, he was the most-used feature back in the NFL last year. Can it happen again? Roy Helu is healthy, Evan Royster is still around, and fantasy owners know better than to blindly trust Shanahan. But while Washington may look for a pass-catching back to augment the ground game, Morris is Shanny's new Terrell Davis. At least until the next time he yanks the rug out from unsuspecting fantasy owners.

The RBBC Score Card

Team RBBC Likely? New OC
or Scheme ?
New Primary RB?
Arizona Yes Yes Yes
Atlanta No No Yes
Baltimore No No No
Buffalo No Yes No
Carolina Yes Yes No
Chicago No Yes No
Cincinnati Yes No No
Cleveland No Yes No
Dallas No No No
Denver Yes Yes Yes
Detroit Yes No Yes
Green Bay Yes No Yes
Houston No No No
Indianapolis Yes Yes Yes
Jacksonville No Yes No
Kansas City No Yes No
Miami Yes No Yes
Minnesota No No No
New York Giants Yes No Yes
New York Jets Yes Yes Yes
New England Yes No No
New Orleans Yes No No
Oakland No Yes No
Philadelphia Yes Yes No
Pittsburgh Yes No Yes
San Diego Yes Yes No
San Francisco Yes No No
Seattle No No No
St. Louis Yes No Yes
Tampa Bay No No No
Tennessee No No No
Washington No No No

The final score: RBBC 17, Non-RBBC 15
Teams with new offensive schemes: 13
Teams with new primary RB: 11
Teams returning same primary RB, same offensive coordinator and scheme, and unlikely to use RBBC: 8

Most used RB's # of % of RB's in Gm Avg. Rushing Avg. Per Game Receiving Avg. Per Game
Games Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Caught Yards TD
Alfred Morris 16 84% 90% 31% 22 21 101 0.8 1 5 0
DeMarco Murray 9 85% 89% 76% 20 16 63 0.4 4 27 0
Adrian Peterson 16 84% 87% 58% 24 22 131 0.8 3 14 0.1
Chris Johnson 16 85% 87% 75% 20 17 78 0.4 2 15 0
Trent Richardson 14 81% 86% 72% 22 18 65 0.8 4 25 0.1
Doug Martin 16 82% 85% 66% 23 20 91 0.7 3 30 0.1
Darren McFadden 12 73% 84% 54% 22 18 59 0.2 4 22 0.1
Marshawn Lynch 14 78% 83% 48% 23 21 96 0.5 2 13 0.1
BenJarvus Green-Ellis 15 78% 81% 65% 20 19 73 0.4 1 7 0
LeSean McCoy 12 81% 79% 86% 21 17 70 0.2 5 31 0.3
Arian Foster 15 75% 76% 77% 25 22 92 0.9 2 13 0.1


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