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The 2007 Ultimate RBBC Review
David Dorey
July 25, 2007

Each summer fantasy fanatics pore over depth charts and cheat sheets to determine which running backs they most want and in the back of their mind always looms the fear of that four letter word (acronym actually but stick with me here) - RBBC. The old running-back-by-committee which takes your perfectly good starting runner and has him trot off the field so another back can get the fantasy points (preferably not your opponent's).

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 not yet known 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.

Every team will - given an option - use the running backs to win the game. There is simply far lesser risk handing the ball off than executing a pass play which can result in a sack, interception or incompletion. If a team is ahead on the scoreboard, they want to run the clock out. Passing often kills the clock, running usually doesn't. This is why running backs are the most consistent and productive fantasy scorer. Beyond Coach-speak, reporters stretching a story or the endless speculation or mind games, remember this single truth:

The best players play. Guaranteed. Period. It's about winning.

This time of the season is rife with speculation and innuendo. Let's look at facts, changes and best probability. The greatest factor on a RBBC situation is if that offense is designed to use "specialists". Just because the #1 RB for a team is not yet know does not necessarily mean the team will take 16 games to make a choice if they prefer a primary back instead of RBBC.

The statistics you will see show who the primary ball carrier was for each team in each game last year. The stats are computed by each game played and which runner had the most carries 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 that game. Reviewing this from a per game perspective is much more accurate than merely doing math to 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 2006 Primary Carrier Stats and How they Apply to 2007

Arizona Cardinals   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
James, Edgerrin 16 82% 90% 93% 25 21 72 0.4 2 14 0.0

After one year in Arizona and James has just brought his heavy-workload with him from Indianapolis. Other than a token carry or two per game, James is the entirety of the rushing attack. He had very little use as a receiver but this year the offense changes with HC Ken Whisenhunt and OC Todd Haley from Dallas (ex-passing game coordinator there). This new offense will obviously carry similarities to the one in Pittsburgh where Whisenhunt was the OC last year. No concerns here that James is going to share with anyone and since Russ Grimm came along to work on the offensive line, James should be running more effectively - and just about all the time.

Atlanta Falcons   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Dunn, Warrick 15 68% 74% 66% 20 18 73 0.3 1 10 0.1
Griffith, Justin 1 38% 40% 43% 13 12 57 1.0 1 8 0.0

The Falcons have been a RBBC in the past with the old west coast variant there but now that HC Bobby Petrino comes over from Louisville to bring his power rushing game, it could change. At least it should - if Jerious Norwood can be good enough to prevent Warrick Dunn from stepping in for a true committee or even just taking the primary role. Norwood should get the call at least for the first of the season to see if he can take the load but opening games in Minnesota and Jacksonville won't be a cakewalk. For what it's worth, at Louisville last year Kolby Smith was the primary runner with only 154 carries while George Stripling had 81 runs and Anthony Allen had 96 runs as well. But that was with Michael Bush injured in the first game. However - even in 2005 when Bush was healthy he had 205 carries to 107 for Kolby Smith.

So RBBC is in the background of Petrino. And OC Hue Jackson's background probably won't have a huge bearing here since Petrino was brought in specifically because of his explosive offenses in college. Jackson has been the wide receivers coach in Cincinnati for the last three years and before that he had his one previous gig as an offensive coordinator in 2003 for the Redskins under Steve Spurrier. The Skins had major RBBC that year but it was when they only used Ladell Betts, Trung Canidate and Rock Cartwright in a year where they had no running backs and did not care in a Spurrier pass-happy offense. The safest assumption here would be some level of committee in the backfield that will be defined by the success of either Dunn or Norwood. It may be misleading to think of Michael Bush with all those touchdowns - he still never had more than about 65% of the runs. His big 2005 season only had three games with more than 20 carries.

Baltimore Ravens   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Lewis, Jamal 16 69% 79% 76% 21 20 71 0.6 1 7 0.0

The Ravens used Lewis as a primary back and there wasn't significant sharing. The same held true in 2005 when Lewis had 78% of the runs despite the presence of Chester Taylor. Now that Lewis is gone and Willis McGahee carries to torch, there's no reason to expect any change in the role of the running back here. McGahee will get the lion's share of carries and yet he won't be used much as a receiver unless the Ravens change their pattern from the last several years. The offense could take a different take on their scheme now that Rick Neuheisel has been promoted to OC from being the QB coach, but this is not an RBBC team.

Buffalo Bills   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
McGahee, Willis 12 86% 90% 91% 22 20 71 0.4 2 13 0.0
Thomas, Anthony 4 79% 83% 78% 23 21 76 0.3 3 16 0.0

The Bills use of McGahee the last couple of years has been to keep him around 90% of all carries. Now that Marshawn Lynch takes over, it may seem like the rookie will be giving up time to another back like Anthony Thomas but that should only happen on passing downs if the Bills are not comfortable with Lynch's blocking skills. He'll still get that 90% level for runs and though the Bills have not historically been throwing to the backs much, they drafted a player that may be the best pass catching rookie back to come out of the 2007 draft. Lynch won't likely block on passing downs because he didn't do that much at CAL - he was busy going out for a pass. Safe to assume no RBBC here.

Carolina Panthers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Foster, De'shaun 12 70% 77% 85% 21 17 67 0.3 3 12 0.0
Williams, DeAngelo 4 56% 63% 69% 22 17 81 0.3 4 43 0.3

The Panthers have been tending towards a committee backfield for several years now if only because DeShaun Foster has never done enough to warrant keeping him in there at all times. The drafting of DeAngelo Williams last year gave optimism that the committee could be dying there but Williams was used mostly sparingly and battled through a high ankle sprain as well. As a result, Foster held onto his job and managed to just top the 75% level. In 2005, Foster ran just 68% of the time. The wildcard this year is that the Panthers have a new offensive scheme that has them excited and a new offensive coordinator in Jeff Davidson. The new offense mirrors that which Williams had in college. In college, Williams was a heavy use back, carrying 310 times in just 12 games and all but one game had him running at least 20 times. That hardly guarantees that Williams will be used like that, but at least he has a history of being the only back that mattered for his teams before getting to Carolina.

The Panthers have a softer rushing schedule this year so if Williams can get more use, he'll likely look good enough to keep it that way. But until that happens, it is risky to expect anything more than continued sharing between Foster and Williams. Either Williams steps up and meets the expectations of a first round draft pick or the sharing continues.

Chicago Bears   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Jones, Thomas 13 66% 70% 71% 24 20 80 0.4 2 9 0.0
Benson, Cedric 3 48% 54% 55% 16 15 74 0.0 1 10 0.0

After two years of sharing between Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, the Bears let Jones head to New York and finally Benson gets his shot. Last year was more of a committee between the two but in 2005 before Benson was given more playing time, Jones was getting almost 80% of the carries and that was with token play given to the raw rookie. Back in 2004 before Benson showed up, Jones was running 85% of the time in the games where he was a primary back. Anthony Thomas had three starts that year and he had 99% of all runs in those weeks. This has been a committee lately but only because they wanted to get Benson involved but still wanted to use Jones the most. This committee is dead now.

Cincinnati Bengals   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Johnson, Rudi 16 78% 87% 84% 23 21 82 0.8 1 8 0.0

Johnson didn't have to share much last year with 87% of the runs and even in 2005 when Chris Perry was the third down back, Johnson still had 83% of the carries that year. Now that the Bengals have drafted Kenny Irons, that should give the Bengals a much better back-up (or at least a more reliable one) but there's no expectation that anything about Johnson will be changing. He's done almost the exact same thing for three straight years. No RBBC here. The drafting of Kenny Irons will likely replace the role that Chris Perry had, but that won't change the role of Johnson.

Cleveland Browns   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Droughns, Reuben 12 79% 84% 86% 20 18 60 0.3 2 14 0.0
Wright, Jason 4 60% 65% 69% 13 12 39 0.0 1 3 0.0

The Browns didn't really use a committee last year but it doesn't really matter. Reuben Droughns was shipped off to New York in exchange for Tim Carter. Now Jamal Lewis gets a chance to renew a career that hit a peak and has been shooting down the mountain ever since. Lewis has always been a full-time, heavy use back and no doubt the Browns want him to be that. Lewis hasn't ran that well in the last couple of years with the Ravens and he likely won't be any better in Cleveland (if even as good) but he will be the primary back without needing to share the backfield. The only even remotely worthy back to share with here would be Jason Wright but he'll remain just a back-up. There may not be a lot here but it will all belong to Lewis.

Dallas Cowboys   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Jones, Julius 13 64% 67% 66% 19 18 76 0.3 1 11 0.0
Barber, Marion 3 52% 45% 56% 15 11 56 1.0 4 18 0.7

This is easily one of the most interesting situations in the league right now. Julius Jones finally topped 1000 yards and he remained healthy all season for the first time in his three year career. Jones ran 267 times for 1084 yards and four touchdowns and could have considered his season as a major success all except for one thing - Marion Barber. Though Barber remained the minor player in a committee backfield, he also scored 16 touchdowns for third best in the NFL among all running backs. He also gained 654 yards on only 136 carries for an impressive 4.8 yards per carry (compared to 4.1 for Jones). If that wasn't reason enough for conjecture on the roles in 2007, the Cowboys changed coaching staffs and now Jason Garrett will run the offense for the first time in his career. While this may not probe to be a committee backfield, it must be considered one in fantasy football until there is actual game stats to show what Garrett intends on doing.

While Barber was more successful last year, even as a runner, Jones is still considered the primary back at least for now. Since Garrett has not been forthcoming on his intentions, the assumption naturally tends towards a repeat of 2006. On one hand Jones has bulked up in the offseason and is entering a contract year so he has ever reason to want to be impressive this year. On the other, Jones did not work out with the team in the offseason despite there being a new offense and new coaches that need some familiarity. And besides - Barber ran better and scored more than all but a couple of running backs in the league last year - and consider that LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson had well over 400 touches each while Barber only had 159. Combined, Jones and Barber amassed 1738 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. Be nice to see that end up almost all with one player but it's not the safest bet for now, let alone deciding which would be the guy if it happened.

With a new coaching staff, there's no vested interest in using either and there's also a growing sentiment in Dallas that the Cowboys want to take Arkansas running back Darren McFadden next April anyway. Grabbing both Jones and Barber could be a coup in a fantasy draft, or it could end up like last year wondering which one to start.

Denver Broncos   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Bell, Tatum 10 68% 71% 72% 22 20 90 0.2 2 9 0.0
Bell, Mike 6 61% 62% 70% 18 15 70 0.8 3 19 0.0

The Broncos have been a committee backfield for the last couple of seasons and it's been a nightmare to forecast from week to week but that should all be coming to a close now. With Tatum Bell now in Detroit, the Broncos are turning to Travis Henry and that should return the backfield to the days of Portis when a tailback got 350 carries per season. Tatum was the primary and now is gone and Mike Bell never did enough to warrant serious consideration as the starter this year. Henry takes over a rushing attack that has never been less than good and often approached greatness. This is one team that will be leaving the committee idea behind.

Detroit Lions   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Jones, Kevin 11 90% 95% 97% 23 16 62 0.5 6 47 0.2
Harris, Arlen 5 64% 65% 62% 14 9 29 0.2 3 25 0.0

Kevin Jones not only was effective last year as a receiver, he was the primary runner in a big way - as long as he was healthy. That of course has been his career long caveat. In the new Mike Martz system, the Lions did not run heavily by design but included Jones as a receiver with nice results and if only because of a lack of other options, he never shared. But he comes back from a Lis Franc injury this year with as of yet undetermined health. And the Lions acquired both Tatum Bell and T.J. Duckett so there actually will be more than roster fodder to turn to when needed. The Martz system typically doesn't use a committee backfield because there isn't all that much rushing to share but then again, he had Marshall Faulk to use for most of his years. In Martz final year in St. Louis, he did mix the aging Faulk with the newly acquired Stephen Jackson with the primary getting around 70% of the runs in games.

The health situation with Jones casts several variables here. If Jones is healthy, the Lions may opt to use Bell much as they did with Faulk/Jackson to keep Jones fresh and healthy. Or they could again allow Jones to be as productive as he was last year in the first half of the season. If Jones is not healthy, then it would appear likely that Bell would take the primary role without sharing much since Duckett is more of a short yardage and goal line back and a Martz offense just doesn't produce that many goal line carries. So the only reasonable assumption here - and it is still an assumption - is that Jones will share with Bell in most any case and if Jones is still injured, then Bell probably will not share. This is a situation caused by the personnel, not the offensive system.

Green Bay Packers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Green, Ahman 14 70% 79% 81% 24 19 76 0.4 3 27 0.1
Herron, Noah 1 76% 77% 88% 25 20 106 1.0 5 20 0.0
Morency, Vernand 1 92% 96% 100% 33 26 99 0.0 6 19 0.0

The Packers offense is not typically a committee backfield but once again, personnel may force it to become one. Ahman Green is gone to Houston and for the first time since 1999, the Packers will have to find a new running back. Vernand Morency takes the starting job and has been talked up by HC Mike McCarthy. But by the same token, the Packers used their second round pick on Brandon Jackson from Nebraska.

This offense does not share carries as a system feature but if Morency falters or Jackson looks really good in his times on the field, then this could become a sharing scenario or even turn to being Jackson's team. The assumption here should be that it will not be a committee backfield and that Morency will be the primary runner. It just all depends on how successful he is as a fulltime starter for the first time in his career and how well Jackson comes along this summer. Not normally a committee backfield unless the players force them into it.

Houston Texans   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Dayne, Ron 8 69% 76% 79% 20 18 75 0.6 1 7 0.0
Lundy, Wali 5 70% 75% 77% 20 15 59 0.2 4 26 0.0
Gado, Samkon 2 48% 53% 59% 17 14 68 0.5 3 18 0.0
Taylor, Chris 1 84% 95% 97% 21 20 99 1.0 1 12 0.0

The first year of Gary Kubiak was a disaster for the running backs as evidenced above. But this is a "Denver style" attack and since no one would step up until Dayne later in the year, it was a constant shift of which back would be primary each week. Now that Ahman Green has arrived and the Texans enter the second season of the new scheme, expect that there is no sharing in this offense until the 30-year old and less than durable Ahman Green is injured. Even then it will likely be Dayne as the full-time back but until that happens, Green should easily be the non-sharing starter, particularly adding in his expected receiving role. This is not a committee backfield by design and even last year it usually wasn't. It just changed who the primary back was constantly as the season progressed..

Indianapolis Colts   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Addai, Joseph 9 66% 67% 70% 21 17 85 0.8 3 22 0.1
Rhodes, Dominic 7 60% 60% 48% 19 15 41 0.4 3 17 0.0

The Colts went to a committee backfield last year because the rookie Addai wasn't comfortable enough in the offense. But the Colts let Dominic Rhodes leave and did not replace him. In fact the rest of the running back depth is so spotty it is hard to determine exactly who will be stepping in if Addai needed it. In the healthy years, Edgerrin James would have a ridiculously high amount of the carries - like 99%. In 2005, James still had almost 90% and that was with Rhodes there as a reliable back-up. No concerns about sharing here, but potentially a problem if they need to replace Addai during the season.

Jacksonville Jaguars   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Taylor, Fred 10 65% 72% 70% 22 19 83 0.3 2 21 0.0
Jones-Drew, Maurice 6 65% 60% 55% 21 16 87 1.0 3 32 0.2

Here is another situation like that in Dallas. Fred Taylor stays mostly healthy for the first time in three years, he breaks the 1000 yard barrier (1146) and scored five times. Solid year but not compared to the rookie Maurice Jones-Drew who like Barber scored 16 touchdowns as a part time player. He gained 941 yards on just 166 carries for a ridiculous 5.7 yard per carry average. But in the offseason, the Jaguars extended Taylor's contract and once again he will be the starting tailback. But unlike in Dallas where no such commitment was made to Julius Jones, this committee backfield is very likely to continue unabated since it is the same offense and same scheme.

Jones-Drew did have a great year and a case could be made for him to be a primary back after 16 scores but the Jaguars would not have re-signed Taylor to a pricey three contract if that was the plan. This will be a committee backfield not because the personnel needs it or the scheme normally calls for it, but because it worked so well last year. Expect sharing here unless either Taylor or Jones-Drew is injured and misses games. There is even a chance that Greg Jones gets some playing time if he has healed from his ACL tear last summer. Sadly enough, Jones-Drew was electric last year but he won't be the only guy in the backfield this year. He won't even be the first guy there every game.

Kansas City Chiefs   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Johnson, Larry 16 87% 89% 89% 30 26 112 1.1 3 26 0.1

After 416 carries last year, it is safe to say that Herman Edwards did not usher in a new era in Kansas City last season. Johnson was worked harder than any tailback in NFL history and while the plan is to involve Michael Bennett more just to rest Johnson, the same could be said for last year. The rookie Kolby Smith could potentially step in if both Bennett and Johnson need relief but that would likely be only in a catastrophic situation for it to have much fantasy value. As of this writing Johnson hasn't signed a new contract and that could be the only issue here regarding his use.

Miami Dolphins   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Brown, Ronnie 13 81% 86% 87% 22 19 77 0.4 3 21 0.0
Morris, Sammy 3 81% 80% 81% 24 19 80 0.3 3 24 0.0

Brown hits a new era in Miami with Cam Cameron taking both the head coach and offensive coordinator job. Brown gets to learn the same offense that produced LaDainian Tomlinson (then again, Chevrolet made both the Corvette and the Vega). This should not be a sharing situation even though Tomlinson typically would have only 75% to 80% of the rushing attempts in San Diego. Much of that happened thanks to him sitting out the end of decided games and allowing others (Michael Turner) to take action that would not have occurred had the game not been in hand and Tomlinson already racking up big stats. The Dolphins picked up Lorenzo Booker in the third round but that was mainly just to replenish the depth chart. No committee here.

Minnesota Vikings   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Taylor, Chester 15 73% 86% 80% 24 20 81 0.4 3 19 0.0
Pinner, Artose 1 71% 76% 76% 32 29 125 3.0 2 15 0.0

Here is another interesting situation. All things being equal, the Vikings under Brad Childress, Chester Taylor enjoyed heavy use last year with 304 carries for 1214 yards and no other back had more than 42 carries. But Childress came from running the Eagles offense where he regularly used a committee with Brian Westbrook and whatever other back for the season there was. He changed his first year in Minnesota if only because there was no quality back to use. And Taylor had more size than Westbrook so no need to replace him at the goal line or in short yardage. This year the VIkings grabbed Adrian Peterson as the first tailback taken in the draft and there is zero expectation that Peterson will only be a relief player for Taylor.

The question here is if Peterson can play as expected, will Taylor remain a significant part of the offense. Childress background says probably so. He's rarely gone with a true full-time, "don't come out ever" kind of running back. What happens here depends mostly on Peterson. After the league watched two teams reach the Super Bowl with committee backfields (even if they did not keep them for 2007) and the Saints had such success with Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister, teams are not afraid to use two backs if both are talented. Because of Childress' history and presence of both Taylor and Peterson, this has to be considered a committee backfield until proven otherwise. And that will require Peterson to show up big enough to convince Childress to stick with him.

New England Patriots   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Dillon, Corey 9 46% 53% 51% 16 14 59 1.1 1 4 0.0
Maroney, Laurence 7 51% 55% 48% 18 14 52 0.3 2 24 0.1

The good news here is that Corey Dillon is gone and only Laurence Maroney remains. Death of the committee backfield? Maybe not. Belichick has always had some element of sharing in his offense and even in the best years of DIllon there was never more than around 77% of the rushes going to him. Last year was almost a 50/50 situation but that won't last this year since there is not two highly valued backs to use. There still is Kevin Faulk who is 31 years old but still ready to supply a third down role that wasn't as needed last year with Maroney and Dillon around. And the Patriots picked up Sammy Morris from the Dolphins to figure in at least a little.

What it should happen is Maroney the primary back around that 75% threshold mark and maybe a bit higher in some games. But Maroney was repeatedly banged up in 2006 and probably would not be best served by over-use, particularly early in the season. This should be the Maroney show with no other back having a significant share but all told Maroney could be spelled by a number of different backs. This is not a committee backfield this year but everything in the Patriots past says it will be close to it. A healthy Maroney in week 17 is more important than running 25 times every week, especially with all those new wide receivers for Tom Brady to play with this year.

New Orleans Saints   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
McAllister, Deuce 9 51% 62% 69% 22 20 82 0.6 2 13 0.0
Bush, Reggie 6 50% 44% 36% 18 9 28 0.2 7 47 0.0
Branch, Jamaal 1 59% 63% 48% 16 10 29 0.0 5 14 1.0

Here's the offense that is causing so much trouble in the fantasy world. The Saints had a tremendous backfield in 2006 that gained a total of 1615 rushing yards and 946 receiving yards with 18 total touchdowns using the one-two punch of Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush. This is almost exactly a 50/50 scheme now and it worked exceedingly well. McAllister shrugged off a torn ACL from 2005 and took care of most of the rushing needs and most of the goal line work. Reggie Bush was up and down as a ball carrier but as a receiver out of the backfield he was electric. His 748 receiving yards were second only to Stephen Jackson last year and Bush was getting better as the season progressed. This is a true committee system every week of the season and yet since the two roles complement each other so well, there's no reason to expect any change. Both have nice fantasy value even if it ends up much less than either could do with true full-time work.

New York Giants   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Barber, Tiki 16 77% 78% 79% 25 20 104 0.3 4 29 0.0

To everyone's surprise three years ago, the then new head coach Tom Coughlin opted to use the under-sized Tiki Barber as a full-time back with minimal relief and Barber responded with three career years. But Barber has long feuded with the coach and he retired this year, leaving Brandon Jacobs as the heir apparent. The Giants will have Kevin Gilbride as the offensive coordinator this year after having served as the quarterbacks coach since 2004. GIlbride was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland for two seasons prior to coming to the Giants and there his offensive style never used a committee backfield. For those two years, Travis Henry was the primary back and had over 325 carries in both. Coughlin's background also does not have committee use other than in Jacksonville once Fred Taylor became an annual injury risk - Taylor's early seasons had nearly 300 carries in each.

The Giants did acquire Reuben Droughns in a trade with the Browns but there's been nothing in Gilbride's background to suggest a committee approach is likely here. Droughns is not a complementary back to Jacobs either, so expect there to be no new committee here unless Jacobs either is injured or outright stumbles badly from the start.

New York Jets   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Barlow, Kevan 6 52% 59% 55% 16 15 44 0.7 1 2 0.0
Washington, Leon 5 61% 62% 66% 19 17 71 0.6 1 8 0.0
Houston, Cedric 4 61% 69% 62% 20 18 55 1.0 2 10 0.0
Blaylock, Derrick 1 65% 63% 51% 22 19 36 0.0 2 10 0.0

The Jets had a major committee approach in 2006 during Eric Mangini's first season but with the lack of a credible running threat, changing roles was expected and call for. This could change in 2007 with the addition of Thomas Jones and the absence of Kevan Barlow. Complicating the expectation that Jones could step in and become a 350 carry back are two things. One, Leon Washington had several games at the end of 2006 where he ran well and/or received well. Those final performances will stick with Mangini and could result in him becoming a third down back. Secondly, Brian Schottenheimer has never been an offensive coordinator prior to last year and he was the quarterbacks coach in San Diego before that. Nothing in the past suggests that Schottenheimer is ready to settle into a power rushing game. Mangini's background is defense, but he came from the Patriots where committee approaches were common, at least in the use of a third down back.

So it remains to be seen just how heavily Jones is used by the Jets. To his advantage, the weather is typically poor in New York late in the year and rushing has to be given a priority. This is not going to be a committee approach for rushing most likely because there are no other runners on the squad worthy of including (see last year for proof). But Washington could figure in as a third down back. This is a guarded optimism that Jones gets to top the 300 carry mark and a decent chance that Washington may figure in as a third down player. The Jets threw 55 passes to backs last year, enough that Washington could have some minimal fantasy value if he is used in that role.

Oakland Raiders   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Fargas, Justin 9 64% 73% 72% 18 17 56 0.1 1 7 0.0
Jordan, Lamont 7 75% 78% 74% 17 15 56 0.3 1 10 0.0

Forget everything from 2006 about the Raiders (they too are trying to), this offense is so new and undefined for 2007 that expecting there to be no committee could be hard. Lamont Jordan returns from an MCL injury last year but has never been that great of a runner during his two years in Oakland. He did snag 70 catches in 2005 but his rushing has never topped four yards a carry in either year. The Raiders acquired Dominic Rhodes who will miss the first four games due to a suspension but comes from a Super Bowl appearance as a part of the committee in Indianapolis last year. And the Raiders drafted Michael Bush in the fourth round and he's still recovering from a broken leg suffered in the first game of the season last year.

Adding to the uncertainty is that the Raiders are installing a new offense from new head coach Lane Kiffen from USC and Greg Knapp from the Falcons where he was the offensive coordinator since 2003. Knapp is a big proponent of the west coast offense (he also spent time with the 49ers) and always used a committee with Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett. No runner there ever had more than 286 carries in a season and usually the primary would have about 250 with the secondary turning in 100 to 150 carries. How this plays out in Oakland remains to be seen since Rhodes will be suspended for a month and Bush may not be healthy enough to play. This seems likely to be a committee backfield at least once Rhodes returns in week five unless Bush exceeds all expectations and shows up healthy and running well.

Philadelphia Eagles   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Westbrook, Brian 14 75% 75% 79% 25 17 87 0.5 5 48 0.3
Buckhalter, Correll 1 54% 58% 65% 15 11 49 0.0 2 39 0.0
Moats, Ryan 1 41% 69% 55% 11 11 22 0.0 0 0 0.0

The Eagles have always been one of the icons for committee backfields and even with Westbrook turning in a career best season in 2006, they still barely nudged into 75% of the rushes with him. They also drafted Tony Hunt this year who should prove to be a better complement for Westbrook so expect the committee to continue here. The Eagles have struggled with that #2 player in recent years with Dorsey Levens, Ryan Moats, Correll Buckhalter and Duce Staley taking turns. But the drafting of Hunt should signal that the Eagles want to have a more talented fall-back than the aging riffraff of recent years. Expect a committee here - it is what the offense was designed to do with Westbrook as the primary.

Pittsburgh Steelers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Parker, Willie 16 74% 84% 85% 24 21 93 0.8 2 14 0.2

Yet another team in transition. The Steelers did not use any form of a committee last year because Willie Parker was so successful but 2007 starts a new era with head coach Mike Tomlin from the Vikings and more importantly, with Bruce Arians as the offensive coordinator. Arians was the wide receivers coach for the Steelers for the last three seasons and he'll be producing an offense that should be very similar to what was there the last several years. Arians was an offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns prior to coming to the Steelers. While in Cleveland, Arians was very much into using a committee backfield with a constant mixture of William Green, James Jackson, Lee Suggs and Jamel White. No runner back then ever had more than 200 carries in a season but that was also a function of the poor quality of backs that he had to work with. It does cast a shadow of sorts this year though since the Steelers acquired Kevan Barlow who is far bigger than Parker and would make a reasonable choice as a goal line and short yardage back. But that is only conjecture and Parker has been very productive - more so than any back that Arians has ever had before.

The expectation here is that the Steelers will not revert to a committee backfield because the offense is slated to remain largely the same and Parker was the best weapon last year. But Barlow could show up as a goal line player - that wouldn't diminish how often Parker was used but could depress his scoring.

San Diego Chargers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Tomlinson, Ladainian 16 76% 77% 74% 27 22 113 1.8 4 32 0.2

The Chargers didn't use a committee last year obviously since Tomlinson set the all-time scoring record but earlier in the year they were using Michael Turner more. Turner will remain with the team this year before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2008 so he has plenty of motivation when he plays but that only comes when Tomlinson wants a breather. No committee here thanks to Tomlinson's meteoric production and the change in coaching staff to Norv Turner will only cement Tomlinson's workload. Turner doesn't use committee backfields even when he should, he certainly won't with a future Hall of Famer.

Seattle Seahawks   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Alexander, Shaun 10 74% 82% 77% 27 25 90 0.7 1 5 0.0
Morris, Maurice 6 76% 84% 85% 21 19 74 0.0 1 3 0.0

Despite the foot injury last year, Alexander still had roughly the same workload as he did in 2005 when he played. Morris will be used for a few carries per game but Alexander either plays as the full-time back or his sits. This offense has never used him in any other way and Alexander claims to be healthy once again. No concerns here.

San Francisco 49ers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Gore, Frank 16 81% 84% 89% 25 20 106 0.5 4 30 0.1

Fran Gore received the benefit of being in a Norv Turner offense last year when he took the starting job and turned in 1695 rushing yards on 313 carries. The 49ers have lost Norv Turner but Jim Hostler was promoted up to retain the same scheme. This was a very nice change since the 49ers had been all about committee backfields for several years, back to the Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow years. Safe to expect that Gore will not be sharing this year even with the coaching change. They do not intend on changing the only aspect of the offense that shined in 2006.

St. Louis Rams   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Jackson, Steven 16 82% 87% 89% 29 22 96 0.8 6 50 0.2

When Scott Linehan took over in St. Louis last year, the old Mike Martz scheme of pass-pass-pass was finally gone and the greater balance not only resulted in Jackson becoming a fantasy star, but he also had a very solid 87% of all rush attempts and even became a valuable receiver as well. Same offense hits the second year now and there's no need to change from what worked in 2006. The Rams did acquire Brian Leonard in the draft and he could figure in, but Jackson has become one of the studs in the league and there is no concern that he will lose many carries to Leonard. The Rams wisely needed a solid back-up for Jackson and did just that in the draft, but Leonard is only relief and back-up. Linehan hasn't used any goal line specialists in the past when he had a great running back to use and Jackson has plenty of size for the tough yards anyway.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Williams, Carnell 14 61% 79% 78% 19 16 57 0.1 2 14 0.0
Pittman, Michael 1 73% 67% 95% 19 12 73 0.0 3 36 0.0
Alstott, Mike 1 46% 51% 36% 23 22 56 0.0 0 0 0.0

Williams struggled through an unimpressive second season with the Buccaneers but for all his rushing woes, he was still used in the same ratio as he was in his rookie year. Michael Pittman's role as a pass catcher has not really changed since Williams' arrival but his playing time as a rusher has been severely curtailed. Pittman only gets around 60 carries a year now after notching around 200 in each of the first three years with the Buccaneers. This is not a committee backfield, it's just an unproductive one. Whatever is going to happen here will go through Carnell Williams who has relegated Pittman to only a spot player and occasional third down back. No committee here.

Tennessee Titans   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Henry, Travis 13 75% 83% 82% 22 20 91 0.4 1 6 0.0
Brown, Chris 2 64% 61% 60% 17 14 49 0.0 1 2 0.0
White, LenDale 1 53% 57% 71% 9 8 22 0.0 1 3 0.0

The Titans are a good example of a team that only uses a committee when it has no other option. When Travis Henry was running well in 2006, they let him take the lion's share of carries without much interruption but that may not be the case for 2007. Thanks to Henry leaving, the Titans are left with a trio of options. LenDale White returns but he never had more than nine carries in a game last year and there's serious doubt that he will be a fulltime back. The Titans also picked up Chris Henry in the draft but he only had a handful of games in college where he was the full-time starter with a productive game.

To make matters messier, the Titans opted to bring back Chris Brown for a one year contract. So - the Titans as an offense do not use a scheme that calls for a committee backfield but in 2007 thanks to a very unsettled situation they likely will use several backs per game, at least until one clearly shows he is worthy of being a heavy-use back. That will mean either Chris Henry gets it together and realizes the potential he only flashed in college or the Titans will mix and match along the way. In fantasy terms, this is a bit of a disaster because there is no clear primary back here and may never settle on just one guy during the season. Committee but not by choice.

Washington Redskins   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
Betts, Ladell 10 73% 74% 76% 26 21 104 0.4 4 31 0.1
Portis, Clinton 6 66% 72% 74% 21 18 69 0.8 2 14 0.0

The Redskins used a committee last year with Ladell Betts and Clinton Portis though the starter in games would approach the 75% mark. Some of Portis' lower numbers last year stemmed from his injury situation but even in 2005 when he was healthy all year he still only turned in 75% of the rushes per game. With Portis an injury risk and Betts running so strongly last year, the Redskins are already vocal about having more of a committee approach this year and even referred to the other teams that had success last year (like the Saints). Betts was signed to a new contract and will definitely figure in though Portis remains the primary back here. Back in 2005, Portis was running about 90% of all carries for the team and had nice success but his injury and the production of Betts last season means that a committee is likely born here. Portis should have nice numbers and Betts is not going to be mixed in anywhere near 50/50, but he will be used enough to depress what Portis can do even if he remains healthy. Expect a committee approach here - Gibbs has said as much and the resigning of Betts says the rest.

The RBBC Score Card

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

The final score: RBBC 11, Non-RBBC 21
Teams with new offensive schemes: 12
Teams with new primary RB:12 (plus 5 possible others)
Teams returning same primary RB, same offensive coordinator and scheme, and unlikely to use RBBC: 6 (19%)

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
Kevin Jones 11 90% 95% 97% 23 16 62 0.5 6 47 0.2
Edgerrin James 16 82% 90% 93% 25 21 72 0.4 2 14 0
Willis McGahee 12 86% 90% 91% 22 20 71 0.4 2 13 0
Larry Johnson 16 87% 89% 89% 30 26 112 1.1 3 26 0.1
Steven Jackson 16 82% 87% 89% 29 22 96 0.8 6 50 0.2
Rudi Johnson 16 78% 87% 84% 23 21 82 0.8 1 8 0
Chester Taylor 15 73% 86% 80% 24 20 81 0.4 3 19 0
Ronnie Brown 13 81% 86% 87% 22 19 77 0.4 3 21 0
Willie Parker 16 74% 84% 85% 24 21 93 0.8 2 14 0.2
Frank Gore 16 81% 84% 89% 25 20 106 0.5 4 30 0.1
Reuben Droughns 12 79% 84% 86% 20 18 60 0.3 2 14 0
Travis Henry 13 75% 83% 82% 22 20 91 0.4 1 6 0
Shaun Alexander 10 74% 82% 77% 27 25 90 0.7 1 5 0
Jamal Lewis 16 69% 79% 76% 21 20 71 0.6 1 7 0
Ahman Green 14 70% 79% 81% 24 19 76 0.4 3 27 0.1
Carnell Williams 14 61% 79% 78% 19 16 57 0.1 2 14 0
Tiki Barber 16 77% 78% 79% 25 20 104 0.3 4 29 0
Ladainian Tomlinson 16 76% 77% 74% 27 22 113 1.8 4 32 0.2
De'shaun Foster 12 70% 77% 85% 21 17 67 0.3 3 12 0
Brian Westbrook 14 75% 75% 79% 25 17 87 0.5 5 48 0.3

The NFL is all about dynamic situations and 2007 should be no different - if not unusually even more changing. There are only 6 teams that return the same primary back without questions, same offensive coordinator and/or scheme and that do not use RBBC. And of those (CIN, DET, KC, SEA, STL and SD), The Lions have to hope against reason that Kevin Jones is healthy again and Tatum Bell is not needed. The Chiefs are in a big contract situation with Larry Johnson and did investigate trading him. So really, you only have Rudy Johnson, Shaun Alexander, Steve Jackson and LaDainian Tomlinson who can be considered to be "all same" from last year. No wonder all are top ten picks.

And none of this considers what will happen when players are injured since roughly half the teams will not get 16 games from their primary runner this year. This is a big transition year with many players taking new roles or landing on new teams and mixing in there is almost half of the NFL using a different offensive coordinator from last year. Each year has developing situations that spawn nice fantasy value and this year should no less than any.

You may disagree with some of the categorizations and that fine - several will change before the season starts and others will evolve as the season progresses. The changing of so many of the offenses alone indicates the risk and unknowns that exist for one out of every five teams this year. Throw in the two or three teams which fall apart each season and it does not get any easier - nor do those top 12 players become any less valuable.

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