Ultimate Running Back By Committee Report

The reality with runners sharing carries is twofold really. Running backs split the load because that is the offensive scheme employed 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, there is a fundamental change going on in 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 2010 and 2011 Primary Carrier Stats and How they Apply to 2012

Arizona Cardinals   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2010 Tim Hightower 9 66% 71% 37% 14 13 66 0.6 2 11 0.0
  Beanie Wells 7 58% 64% 15% 13 13 41 0.3 0 9 0.0
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

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

Beanie Wells had a heavy load last year but that was because Tim Hightower was gone and Ryan Williams' knee never made to the regular season intact. As always Wells was injured and played less than 100% for much of the year though he was more productive than in past years. Williams is expected to play but he is being limited in camp to keep him healthy. Wells is still recuperating from his own knee surgery and may not show up much in training camp. But this will be a committee until one is injured. And that is about an even money bet.

Atlanta Falcons   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2010 Michael Turner 15 71% 80% 19% 22 22 86 0.8 1 6 0.0
  Jason Snelling 1 64% 63% 71% 29 24 129 2.0 5 57 1.0
2011 Michael Turner 16 68% 77% 22% 20 19 84 0.7 1 11 0.0

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

Michael Turner has always been a primary runner in Atlanta though he has minimal use as a receiver so he never had an all-encompassing role for the Falcons. At the age of 30, the concern is that the burly Turner needs more help and Jacquizz Rodgers has been tasked with more playing time. Turner will retain a goal line role and work on first and second downs which means he has decent fantasy value in this quickly improving offense but he's going to be capped in how much work he will get.

Baltimore Ravens   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2010 Ray Rice 15 71% 73% 64% 24 20 80 0.3 4 36 0.1
  Willis McGahee 1 55% 58% 40% 16 14 39 1.0 2 2 0.0
2011 Ray Rice 16 72% 71% 74% 23 18 85 0.8 5 44 0.2

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

Rice signed his new contract and returns as one of the most productive backs in the league. But that doesn't mean he gets all the work in Baltimore. Even last year Ricky Williams ran 108 times to Rice's 298. Fullback Vonte Leach threw in 27 more touches and Rice never quite reaches that 75% threshold. But his role as a receiver - 76 catches just last year - and a healthy yards per carry/catch average means Rice is a premier back in the NFL. With such a big role as a receiver, Rice really doesn't need any more work.

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