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The 2008 Ultimate RBBC Review
John Tuvey / David Dorey
July 15, 2008
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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 the option, use their running backs to win the game. There is simply far lesser risk handing the ball off than executing a pass play; the old Woody Hayes adage that "only three things can happen when you put the ball in the air, and two of them are bad" still holds true and doesn't even take into account the potential for a quarterback sack. 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 scorers. 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 and 2007 Primary Carrier Stats and How they Apply to 2008

Arizona Cardinals   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 James, Edgerrin 16 82% 90% 93% 25 21 72 0.4 2 14 0.0
2007 James, Edgerrin 16 76% 88% 38% 23 20 76 0.4 2 13 0.0

Since the Cardinals opted not to address their need for a backup/heir to Edge until taking Tim Hightower in the fifth round, all signs point to another heavy workload for James. With continued improvement along the offensive line, Edge’s productivity—which has certainly declined from his Indy days but is still relatively consistent—should hold steady. Hightower, assuming he can leapfrog the under whelming combo of Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington during training camp, could see maybe a half dozen carries if Ken Whisenhunt wants to keep him fresh. However, for the most part Hightower is insurance and the vast majority of the touches will belong to James.

Atlanta Falcons   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Dunn, Warrick 14 63% 65% 57% 19 15 49 0.3 3 16 0.0
  Norwood, Jerious 2 45% 44% 47% 10 8 47 0.0 1 29 0.0

It’s a new back (Michael Turner) and a new coaching staff, so take the numbers above with a grain of salt. But here’s a stat to chew on: during Mike Mularkey’s tenure as an OC for the Steelers and Dolphins and as Buffalo’s head coach, when his lead backs played 16 games they handled 80 percent of the team’s carries. In other words, so long as Turner stays healthy, Norwood will be a bit part in this offense once again.

Baltimore Ravens   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 Lewis, Jamal 16 69% 79% 76% 21 20 71 0.6 1 7 0.0
2007 McGahee, Willis 14 85% 83% 58% 24 21 86 0.5 3 17 0.1
  Anderson, Mike 1 89% 38% 33% 9 8 44 0.0 1 10 0.0
  Smith, Musa 1 52% 48% 63% 25 22 83 1.0 3 8 0.0

There may be a game this season where Cam Cameron uses rookie Ray Rice like he did Michael Turner in San Diego, and it will send McGahee owners into a tizzy while burning up your league’s waiver wires. But there’s nothing to suggest Cameron will use Rice as extensively as, say, the Jaguars use Maurice Jones-Drew. In fact, when Cam was the Chargers’ OC, LaDainian Tomlinson accounted for almost 82 percent of the team’s running back rushing attempts.

Buffalo Bills   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Lynch, Marshawn 13 78% 82% 59% 24 22 86 0.5 1 14 0.0
  Thomas, Anthony 2 68% 74% 56% 20 13 39 0.0 6 30 0.5
  Jackson, Fred 1 73% 89% 100% 22 16 82 0.0 4 69 0.0

The totals on the board are correct, and barring injury or another hit-and-run it’s indicative of what Bills’ opponents will see this season: a heavy dose of Lynch. Fred Jackson is becoming a trendy pick, but that’s only because Marshawn’s off-the-field exploits have made the insurance a must-buy.

Carolina Panthers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Foster, De'shaun 14 61% 66% 46% 19 17 59 0.2 2 12 0.1
  Williams, DeAngelo 2 58% 65% 17% 16 15 91 1.0 1 3 0.0

Ancient history tells us that way back in 2003, when John Fox had as much of Stephen Davis as he was ever going to have (14 games), he still ceded almost a third of the touches to De'shaun Foster. Ultimately that’s how Carolina’s new backfield will shake out as well, with Jonathan Stewart playing the role of a much younger Davis and Williams supplanting Foster as the change of pace. Those roles may be reversed at the start of the season, depending on how quickly Stewart takes to the offense and whether there are any lingering effects from his foot surgery, but sooner rather than later this job-share will be two-thirds Stew and a third of Will.

Chicago Bears   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 Jones, Thomas 13 70% 70% 71% 24 20 80 0.4 2 9 0.0
  Benson, Cedric 3 54% 54% 55% 16 15 74 0.0 1 10 0.0
2007 Benson, Cedric 10 70% 80% 32% 22 19 63 0.4 2 12 0.0
  Peterson, Adrian 6 74% 78% 58% 24 19 61 0.3 4 35 0.0

Shockingly, Benson didn’t hold up to a full season of feature-back duty; enter second-round selection Matt Forte, fresh off 32 touches per game during his senior season at Tulane. Forte’s performance during mini camp suggests he’s ready for prime time, but the Bears are flirting with Kevin Jones—and if he signs he’d be more than just insurance for the rookie. Peterson should return to the third-down work he’s more effective with, though Jones’ arrival could cut into that bit as well.

Cincinnati Bengals   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 Johnson, Rudi 16 86% 87% 84% 23 21 82 0.8 1 8 0.0
2007 Watson, Kenny 8 79% 75% 88% 23 18 77 0.6 4 22 0.0
  Johnson, Rudi 8 69% 77% 32% 21 19 56 0.4 1 13 0.1

Mr. Consistency gave out after three seasons of handling 80-plus percent of the workload, which may provide the Bengals with an opportunity give Watson and/or Chris Perry (if/when healthy) a few more touches. The result might be closer to a two-thirds split than the lion’s share Rudi has been used to, but if it keeps him on the field you have to think two thirds of something is better than all of nothing. Or something like that.

Cleveland Browns   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Lewis, Jamal 14 77% 86% 42% 24 21 92 0.6 2 18 0.1
  Wright, Jason 2 77% 79% 63% 23 18 59 0.5 4 41 0.0

There’s no heir apparent the Browns will be grooming behind him, so once again the carries will all belong to Lewis. Maybe it was the workload that knocked him out of one game and had him sidelined for another, but unless you’re a big Jason Wright fan there’s no one else around to take more than third-down work so long as Jamal is healthy.

Dallas Cowboys   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Barber, Marion 13 59% 57% 62% 18 15 71 0.5 2 11 0.1
  Jones, Julius 10 52% 52% 44% 14 12 38 0.2 1 12 0.0

It’ll be tempting to project MB3 for 20-plus carries per game, but that’s not how the Cowboys have done things. At least last year Barber was the primary ball-carrier in most of the games last season, but even then you’ll note that he averaged 17 touches per game in those tilts. It will be more palatable for Cowboy and fantasy folks alike to see Felix (as opposed to Julius) Jones get the other 35-40 percent of the workload this season—though maybe not if you’re spending a first-round pick on Barber.

Denver Broncos   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Henry, Travis 9 67% 76% 25% 18 17 73 0.3 1 7 0.0
  Young, Selvin 6 70% 70% 64% 20 17 86 0.2 3 16 0.0
  Hall, Andre 1 76% 76% 67% 28 26 98 1.0 2 69 0.0

Over the past 18 regular season games, five different Bronco backs have been the team’s featured ball-carrier. So… feeling lucky? In fact, since 2004 no back has been Denver’s primary back in more than 10 games during any one season. So if you’re drafting Young you’re probably going to need rookie Ryan Torain as well. And maybe Hall. And Michael Pittman. And then a Magic 8 Ball to determine which back Mike Shanahan will give the carries to this week. And then the number of a very good psychiatrist, or at least a very large bottle of tequila.

Detroit Lions   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Jones, Kevin 10 71% 72% 69% 17 13 52 0.6 3 17 0.0
  Bell, Tatum 4 61% 62% 60% 15 10 42 0.3 4 16 0.0
  Duckett, T.J. 2 66% 68% 58% 17 14 66 0.5 2 27 0.0

The Lions couldn’t get more than 10 or 11 games out of Kevin Jones on a regular basis, so they’re heading in another direction. While Bell appears to be the early favorite for starting duty, history has shown us he’s far more effective for about a dozen or so touches per game; after that, you’re flirting with disaster. That leaves rookie Kevin Smith, who is no stranger to heavy workloads after setting an NCAA record with 450 carries last season at Central Florida. New OC Jim Colletto wants to run the ball a lot, so even with Bell getting a dozen touches Smith could be in line for 15-20 of his own. It’s a committee, at least until the Lions know what they have in Smith—or until Bell breaks down again.

Green Bay Packers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Grant, Ryan 9 79% 88% 53% 23 20 97 0.8 3 13 0.0
  Jackson, Brandon 4 65% 69% 57% 19 15 53 0.3 3 26 0.0
  Wynn, DeShawn 3 53% 74% 16% 14 12 45 0.7 1 8 0.0

When Grant took over last season, he really took over. And assuming the two parties can reach an agreement with regards to his compensation going forward, that should be the case again in 2008—especially if it’s Aaron Rodgers under center instead of that other guy, what’s-his-name. If Grant’s negotiations become contentious, get ready for a GBRBBC featuring everyone from Jackson to Wynn to Morency to Herron; heck, they may even try to lure Erik Torkelson, Brent Fullwood and Terdell Middleton out of retirement.

Houston Texans   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Dayne, Ron 9 69% 75% 35% 20 18 73 0.6 1 9 0.0
  Green, Ahman 3 72% 78% 62% 20 14 52 0.0 4 20 0.0
  Walker, Darius 3 68% 72% 58% 21 16 59 0.0 4 27 0.0
  Gado, Samkon 1 38% 40% 38% 9 6 12 1.0 3 9 0.0

In a perfect world Green would stay healthy and handle 75-80 percent of the touches. Of course, in a perfect world we’d all be filthy rich and be married to Angelina Jolie (or Brad Pitt for you ladies), and sadly that’s a far more likely scenario. Since backup Chris Brown isn’t exactly an iron man, either, you can expect another season with multiple load-carriers in Houston. Is it any surprise that Gary Kubiak’s squad has become Shanahanigans South?

Indianapolis Colts   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Addai, Joseph 13 77% 77% 73% 22 19 77 0.8 3 27 0.2
  Keith, Kenton 3 58% 59% 50% 22 18 85 0.7 2 15 0.0

You know what you’re going to get: Addai shoulders three-quarters of the load for most of the season, ceding a handful of carries and maybe a game or two at some point during the season to Dominic Rhodes or maybe Mike Hart. In this crazy mixed-up world at least there’s something you can rely upon.

Jacksonville Jaguars   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Taylor, Fred 10 52% 58% 17% 19 18 89 0.3 1 6 0.0
  Jones-Drew, Maurice 5 70% 52% 80% 17 12 71 1.0 4 46 0.0
  Jones, Greg 1 74% 67% 75% 19 14 71 0.0 3 27 0.0

Unless Jack Del Rio radically changes his philosophy over the off season, Taylor is still in line to receive the majority of Jacksonville’s touches. The number is closing—in his rookie season MoJo got roughly three touches per game fewer than Freddy, last year it was closer to two—but unless Taylor gets hurt he’s still the starter. That’s why a 20-spot discrepancy in their rankings—in almost every case in favor of the backup—suggests either Jones-Drew is overpriced or Taylor is a bargain. So long as Taylor looks as spry as he has the past two years this is a frustrating (especially to MoJo owners) 60-40 split in his favor.

Kansas City Chiefs   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 Johnson, Larry 16 87% 89% 89% 30 26 112 1.1 3 26 0.1
2007 Johnson, Larry 8 77% 84% 67% 25 20 70 0.4 4 23 0.1
  Smith, Kolby 5 87% 90% 75% 24 20 77 0.4 3 16 0.0
  Holmes, Priest 2 73% 81% 38% 22 20 60 0.0 2 8 0.0
  Battle, Jackie 1 76% 87% 33% 17 13 44 0.0 1 4 0.0

Herm Edwards has never been shy about overworking his running backs, though when LJ was healthy last year he was scaled back from 89 percent of the carries to a mere 84 percent. In other words, Jamaal Charles shouldn’t expect to be particularly busy most Sunday afternoons.

Miami Dolphins   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Chatman, Jesse 7 74% 71% 59% 19 15 57 0.0 2 13 0.0
  Brown, Ronnie 7 80% 83% 77% 24 17 86 0.6 6 56 0.1
  Gado, Samkon 2 56% 72% 25% 18 15 48 1.5 2 24 0.0

Will Brown bounce back from last year’s knee injury? Does Ricky Williams have anything left in the tank? Mix in a new coach and questions at quarterback and the Dolphins backfield is one big gray area. How gray? Charcoal. Even Bill Parcell’s track record is mixed; in 18 non-strike years at the helm he’s had eight season in which his No. 2 back recorded at least 100 carries—perhaps most importantly his last three in Dallas. Brown has been a workhorse, but the rule of thumb is two years following a knee injury so maybe Big Tuna will ease him into the Joe Morris/Curtis Martin role with a year of Julius Jones duties as Ricky plays the Marion Barber role.

Minnesota Vikings   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Peterson, Adrian 13 60% 67% 27% 19 17 86 0.7 1 20 0.1
  Taylor, Chester 3 72% 74% 53% 27 25 108 1.3 2 17 0.0

So much for easing All Day into the NFL. With Peterson’s improved pass protection there’s no reason for him to come off as frequently on third downs, so if he’s healthy both of his percentages should creep northward. Taylor will still spell him, but the blows will be less frequent—to the tune of a 70-30 split in All Day’s favor.

New England Patriots   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Maroney, Laurence 11 57% 69% 7% 16 16 71 0.5 0 11 0.0
  Faulk, Kevin 2 43% 37% 75% 12 9 37 0.0 2 16 0.0
  Morris, Sammy 2 68% 71% 53% 24 21 110 0.5 2 12 0.0
  Evans, Heath 1 38% 38% 33% 11 10 40 1.0 1 6 0.0

The most surprising number above might be the fact that LoMo was actually the primary ball carrier in 11 games; by the time he started living up to expectations late in the season he was dead to most fantasy owners. Of course, just because he’s getting two-thirds of the carries doesn’t mean he’s getting two-thirds of the goal line work, and it’s clear Kevin Faulk is ensconced as the third down back. Morris is a necessary insurance policy until you can get a read on how Belichick intends to play his hand this time around—and obviously, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually get that read anyway.

New Orleans Saints   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Bush, Reggie 10 65% 64% 67% 22 14 49 0.4 6 34 0.2
  Stecker, Aaron 5 63% 68% 49% 19 16 65 0.8 3 19 0.0
  Thomas, Pierre 1 95% 100% 92% 35 20 105 0.0 12 121 1.0

It was painfully obvious after Deuce went down last season that Bush isn’t a 20-carry-per-game kind of guy—which is why Thomas is a popular endgame pick in many fantasy drafts. The logical split would be a health McAllister for 15-20 touches and Bush for maybe a dozen—half of them receptions. Thomas factors in if Deuce isn’t all the way back from his injury.

New York Giants   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 Barber, Tiki 16 77% 78% 79% 25 20 104 0.3 4 29 0.0
2007 Jacobs, Brandon 9 67% 70% 57% 24 20 100 0.4 2 19 0.2
  Ward, Derrick 5 79% 80% 88% 24 19 101 0.2 4 29 0.2
  Droughns, Reuben 2 73% 79% 57% 17 15 68 1.0 1 3 0.0

Funny how Tiki—who was always considered too small to be an every-down back—was the Giants’ feature ball carrier for all 16 games of his swan song season while überhulk Jacobs can’t hold up to the workload. Expect Big Blue to mix in enough Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw (assuming he’s out of the can and Roger Goodell’s doghouse) to keep Jake from breaking down. It shouldn’t be enough to squelch Jacobs’ fantasy value, but a dozen or so touches of relief work might help him keep that oh-so-fresh feeling—and stay in the lineup for 16 games.

New York Jets   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Jones, Thomas 16 74% 81% 51% 22 19 70 0.1 2 14 0.1

Jones may have been a disappointment last season, but it wasn’t due to lack of effort. An upgraded line should help with the production, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Washington add a half-dozen carries or so to his existing third-down workload. But there’s little question Jones is still the lead dog on this sled.

Oakland Raiders   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Fargas, Justin 8 73% 79% 48% 26 23 107 0.5 2 14 0.0
  Jordan, LaMont 6 68% 69% 58% 22 18 73 0.3 4 35 0.0
  Rhodes, Dominic 2 91% 100% 61% 34 28 119 0.5 4 26 0.0

The Raiders didn’t draft Darren McFadden to be a decoy, so expect something not too dissimilar from the Vikings split with ADP and Chester Taylor last season: 20 or so touches for Run DMC and last year’s leader reduced to a dozen touches per tilt. Of course, if McFadden lives up to the Peterson comparisons he’ll elbow Fargas aside in much the same way All Day did to Chester. This will be a committee backfield but the ratio of sharing depends solely on how productive that McFadden can be.

Philadelphia Eagles   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Westbrook, Brian 14 86% 86% 87% 28 19 92 0.5 6 51 0.4
  Buckhalter, Correll 2 74% 73% 54% 19 13 61 0.0 3 23 0.0

Westy’s load actually crept up last season, though he did miss time for the sixth consecutive season. It’s possible Lorenzo Booker will knock that per-game touches number down closer to 20 than the 25 it was last season, but it shouldn’t be enough to put a crimp in Westy’s fantasy value.

Pittsburgh Steelers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 Parker, Willie 16 74% 84% 85% 24 21 93 0.8 2 14 0.2
2007 Parker, Willie 14 76% 81% 48% 25 23 94 0.1 2 12 0.0
  Davenport, Najeh 2 64% 72% 25% 20 18 75 1.0 1 22 0.5

Over the past two seasons Parker held up remarkably well for a scatback… right up until that broken leg. And now that Rashard Mendenhall is in the fold, those carries will undoubtedly dip below 20 per game. While in the long run it may be good for the Steelers (keeping Fast Willie fresh for the stretch run) and for Parker (reduced carries prolonging his career), it’s putting a serious crimp in Willie’s fantasy value heading into the season.

San Diego Chargers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 Tomlinson, Ladainian 16 76% 77% 74% 27 22 113 1.8 4 32 0.2
2007 Tomlinson, LaDainian 15 77% 79% 76% 26 20 91 0.9 4 31 0.2
  Sproles, Darren 1 48% 51% 25% 26 25 122 2.0 1 13 0.0

There’s no Michael Turner to even threaten to steal carries, and no clear-cut successor should the unthinkable happen to LT. Between Darren Sproles, Jacob Hester, and Marcus Thomas the Bolts should siphon off between a half dozen and 10 touches—maybe more if LT shows any lingering effects of his injury from late last season—but the San Diego offense still revolves around 20-plus touches from Tomlinson.

Seattle Seahawks   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Alexander, Shaun 10 67% 76% 24% 20 18 57 0.3 1 6 0.0
  Morris, Maurice 6 61% 71% 48% 20 17 70 0.5 2 14 0.0

Alexander is gone, and the Seahawks’ existing mix of Morris, Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett offers little in the way of clarity. We’ve seen Morris and have to believe the ‘Hawks feel they can get more productivity from Jones with those 20 touches. Duckett is the wild card; if he can offer something between the tackles and at the stripe he could see double-digit touches and make this a 50/50 split. If we see the 5.2 yards per carry T.J. from last season such a job-share is a distinct possibility; if it’s the 3.2 YPC from the previous two seasons, expect more Jones and MoMo jumping into the fray as well.

San Francisco 49ers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 Gore, Frank 16 81% 84% 89% 25 20 106 0.5 4 30 0.1
2007 Gore, Frank 15 80% 89% 64% 22 17 73 0.3 4 29 0.1
  Robinson, Michael 1 68% 71% 50% 19 17 67 0.0 2 2 0.0

Mike Martz’s plan is to build around Gore, though reports of late suggest he may tinker with both Gore and Robinson in the backfield at the same time. So long as Frank’s knees hold up, however, he’ll handle at least 80 percent of this workload no matter who’s in the backfield with him.

St. Louis Rams   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 Jackson, Steven 16 82% 87% 89% 29 22 96 0.8 6 50 0.2
2007 Jackson, Steven 11 79% 85% 63% 25 21 87 0.4 3 24 0.1
  Leonard, Brian 5 64% 70% 47% 18 15 51 0.0 2 18 0.0

It’s Jackson’s world and Leonard is just renting space in it. Jackson’s touches declined from 28 to 24 with Leonard in the fold last season, but it’s unlikely that number falls much (if any) further this season. There aren’t many backs with either Jackson’s talent or opportunity, which is why he’s amongst the elite fantasy backs heading into 2008. Figure on the addition of Al Saunders as offensive coordinator to make Jackson become more heavily used both as a runner and in particular as a receiver.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Graham, Earnest 12 72% 76% 56% 23 17 68 0.7 4 26 0.0
  Williams, Carnell 3 53% 63% 17% 17 16 56 1.0 1 6 0.0
  Bennett, Michael 1 61% 71% 40% 17 15 39 0.0 2 28 1.0

The contract extension Tampa Bay gave Graham in June—four years, $11 million—isn’t that big by NFL running back standards; in other words, the Bucs haven’t exactly put all their eggs in his basket. Cadillac won’t even be a year removed from his knee injury until September, so it’s tough to bank on him for a substantial share of the load, and Bennett has never been able to stay healthy. Assuming Williams gets some PUP time to start the season Graham should be looking at a steady dose of 20 touches per game; if Caddy is back in the mix earlier than that, all bets are off as this situation deteriorates into a fantasy quagmire.

Tennessee Titans   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 White, LenDale 14 68% 72% 39% 22 20 73 0.5 1 8 0.0
  Brown, Chris 2 47% 48% 45% 15 14 102 0.0 1 5 0.0

The good news is, there are always enough carries to go around in a Jeff Fisher offense. If LenDale can hold up for 15 or so between the tackles the Titans would love to augment with a dozen touches on the outside from speedy rookie Chris Johnson. Last year’s second-round selection, Chris Henry, appears to be the odd man out; then again, given the relative fragility of the backs in front of him, “out” may not be that far away.

Washington Redskins   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2006 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
2007 Portis, Clinton 16 71% 75% 50% 24 20 79 0.7 3 24 0.0

Portis’ share of the load has held steady at right around 25 touches per game the past three seasons, and it’s unlikely Jim Zorn’s new offense throws a monkey wrench into those plans. Betts is the backup plan, and while he’s demonstrated ability when called upon at present he projects to be primarily Portis insurance.

The RBBC Score Card

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

The final score: RBBC 13, Non-RBBC 19
Teams with new offensive schemes: 11
Teams with new primary RB:8 (plus 3 possible others)
Teams returning same primary RB, same offensive coordinator and scheme, and unlikely to use RBBC: 12 (37.5%)

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
Gore, Frank 15 80% 89% 64% 22 17 73 0.3 4 29 0.1
Grant, Ryan 9 79% 88% 60% 23 20 97 0.8 3 13 0.0
James, Edgerrin 16 76% 88% 37% 23 20 76 0.4 2 13 0.0
Westbrook, Brian 14 86% 86% 87% 28 19 92 0.5 6 51 0.4
Lewis, Jamal 14 77% 86% 48% 24 21 92 0.6 2 18 0.1
Jackson, Steven 11 79% 85% 63% 25 21 87 0.4 3 24 0.1
Johnson, Larry 8 77% 84% 67% 25 20 70 0.4 4 23 0.1
McGahee, Willis 14 85% 83% 58% 24 21 86 0.5 3 17 0.1
Brown, Ronnie 7 73% 83% 77% 24 17 86 0.6 6 56 0.1
Lynch, Marshawn 13 78% 82% 59% 24 22 86 0.5 1 14 0.0
Jones, Thomas 16 74% 81% 51% 22 19 70 0.1 2 14 0.1
Parker, Willie 14 76% 81% 55% 25 23 94 0.1 2 12 0.0
Fargas, Justin 8 73% 81% 41% 26 23 107 0.5 2 14 0.0
Watson, Kenny 8 77% 80% 88% 23 18 77 0.6 4 22 0.0
Benson, Cedric 10 70% 80% 32% 22 19 63 0.4 2 12 0.0
Tomlinson, LaDainian 15 77% 79% 76% 26 20 91 0.9 4 31 0.2
Addai, Joseph 13 77% 77% 75% 22 19 77 0.8 3 27 0.2
Alexander, Shaun 10 67% 76% 24% 20 18 57 0.3 1 6 0.0
Johnson, Rudi 8 69% 76% 31% 21 19 56 0.4 1 13 0.1
Graham, Earnest 12 72% 76% 56% 23 17 68 0.7 4 26 0.0
Portis, Clinton 16 71% 75% 50% 24 20 79 0.7 3 24 0.0
Peterson, Adrian 6 60% 67% 58% 24 19 61 0.3 4 35 0.0

Of course, none of the above 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 off season was relatively quite with regards to coaching and scheme changes, and few marquee backs traded jerseys. However, an influx of talented rookies will contend for playing time, and in this copycat league there is still carryover from all four 2006 conference finalists sporting two-headed backfields. Each year has developing situations that spawn nice fantasy value, and this year should no be no different.

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. While the old axiom of taking running backs with your first two or three picks may no longer be the hard and fast rule, the risks and unknowns that still exist for more than half of the league's backfields—coupled with the two or three teams which fall apart each season due to injuries—make the elite ball carriers every bit as valuable as they ever were.

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