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The 2009 Ultimate RBBC Review
David Dorey
August 14, 2009
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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 the last two years. 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 2007 and 2008 Primary Carrier Stats and How they Apply to 2009

Arizona Cardinals   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Edgerrin James 16 76% 88% 38% 23 20 76 0.4 2 13 0.0
2008 Edgerrin James 6 65% 70% 35% 20 18 72 0.5 2 13 0.0
  Tim Hightower 10 62% 67% 47% 13 10 29 0.5 2 15 0.0

The Cardinals had Edgerrin James phased out last year with Tim Hightower replacing him in many games and the sharing ratio went up between the two players. But a better key for what to expect from the rookie Chris Wells would be 2007 when a younger James had 88% of the runs and nearly 40% of the catches. This is not an offense that used the running backs that much for receptions and has shown remarkable consistency from year to year of with completing just a couple of passes per game to the primary back. James averaged around 20 carries per game in 2007 for a total of over 300 carries on the year. The Cardinals were far less effective rushing last year and the rushing attempts were way down. Expect more of a return to 2007 levels as long as Wells remains healthy. That could mean 1200+ rushing yards and eight to ten touchdowns. Hightower was never effective as a runner other than goal line duty which Wells could be even better at anyway.

Atlanta Falcons   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Warrick Dunn 14 63% 65% 57% 19 15 49 0.3 3 16 0.0
  Jerious Norwood 2 45% 44% 47% 10 8 47 0.0 1 29 0.0
2008 Michael Turner 16 70% 78% 9% 24 24 106 1.1 0.4 3 0.0

There's no fear of this turning into a committee since Turner proved to be the consummate heavy-use back last year. Jerious Norwood was consistently running the ball around three or four times each week while Turner averaged 24 carries per game. The coaching staff was concerned that Turner's 376 rushes were excessive - and history shows that is a reality - so at least the stated desire is to lower his number of carries but Turner only had six catches for a total of 382 touches. That's two less than Adrian Peterson and just 12 more than Clinton Portis. The Falcons will try to give Turner less carries but a tougher schedule for 2009 likely means that Turner would have fewer carries anyway. Turner's not going to become part of any rotation - he remains the fulltime back and Norwood's role is more about just relieving Turner and mostly third down receptions.

Baltimore Ravens   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Willis McGahee 14 85% 83% 58% 24 21 86 0.5 3 17 0.1
  Mike Anderson 1 89% 38% 33% 9 8 44 0.0 1 10 0.0
  Musa Smith 1 52% 48% 63% 25 22 83 1.0 3 8 0.0
2008 Le'Ron McClain 8 57% 62% 15% 21 21 83 1.0 1 4 0.0
  Ray Rice 4 51% 48% 57% 19 14 65 0.0 4 31 0.0
  Willis McGahee 4 58% 62% 30% 24 22 85 1.0 2 14 0.0

This was a mess last year and nothing has changed for 2009 other than Ray Rice getting the nod over Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain intended to return to his fullback role. Rice has been rising in drafts and while he may well have the primary role - what does that really mean in Baltimore? No runner had more than 58% of the workload in any game. 2007 was different with McGahee playing the fulltime role but the coaching staff has already stated that there would be a rotation this year. Obviously should any runner get the hot hand - particularly Rice - then they would likely get more work for that game but this is the same offense from last year with Joe Flacco one year experienced and Derrick Mason apparently playing as a short-timer. The schedule is tougher this season as well which will make it tougher for Rice or McGahee to have a "hot hand" in any game. This has to be considered a committee backfield once again. The good news is that the Ravens had an NFL best 592 rushing attempts last year and so there is plenty to share.

Buffalo Bills   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Marshawn Lynch 13 78% 82% 59% 24 22 86 0.5 1 14 0.0
  Anthony Thomas 2 68% 74% 56% 20 13 39 0.0 6 30 0.5
  Fred Jackson 1 73% 89% 100% 22 16 82 0.0 4 69 0.0
2008 Fred Jackson 2 69% 65% 100% 21 19 90 0.5 2 35 0.0
  Marshawn Lynch 14 70% 73% 57% 20 17 72 0.5 3 21 0.1

Marshawn Lynch hasn't taken the next step for whatever reason and while he rushed for over 1000 yards (barely), he was below expectations considering he was facing one of the easier schedules in the league. He already dropped from being involved in 78% down to 70% of the plays by a running back last year. What may be worse is that Fred Jackson looked a little better in his games replacing an injured Lynch. Now Lynch misses the first three games of the year and gives Jackson more chances to buy more playing time. You have to consider this as a committee now but mostly because Lynch has not been able to be more than just an average back. His role as a receiver was stepped up more last year but not enough to be significant.

Carolina Panthers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 De'shaun Foster 14 61% 66% 46% 19 17 59 0.2 2 12 0.1
  DeAngelo Williams 2 58% 65% 17% 16 15 91 1.0 1 3 0.0
2007 DeAngelo Williams 13 61% 62% 63% 20 18 98 1.2 1 10 0.2
  Jonathan Stewart 3 51% 54% 33% 15 15 86 1.3 0 1 0.0

This has long been a committee backfield even though fantasy fans want to pretend it wasn't. DeAngelo Williams had the standard 61% of running back plays when he was the primary last year but still had an outstanding season thanks to facing one of the lightest schedules in the year. The Panthers had a total of 504 rushing attempts in 2008 and with 4.8 yards per carry they made the most of them - only the Giants (5.0) were better. The schedule goes from one of the best to one of the worst this year so the fear would be that the committee remains but there are fewer carries to share. Definite RBBC by design and a pure one at that since the Panthers do not use specialists really, just similar players taking turns.

Chicago Bears   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Cedric Benson 10 70% 80% 32% 22 19 63 0.4 2 12 0.0
  Adrian Peterson 6 74% 78% 58% 24 19 61 0.3 4 35 0.0
2008 Matt Forte 16 80% 81% 76% 24 20 77 0.5 4 30 0.3

Matt Forte stepped into a fortunate situation last year when the Bears dumped Cedric Benson and then replaced him with Kevin Jones who was fresh off ACL surgery and showed up for training camp having never seen the playbook. That lest Forte as one of the most heavily used backs in the entire league for 2008. Historically, this has been a committee backfield team when two decent options were present and that should happen again this year since Jones is healthy, knows the offense and has been impressive in camp. Forte had 375 touches last year with his 63 catches factored in but the coaching staff wants to lower his workload and not overuse him. Jones gives them an option now and in particular, the Bears are looking to involve Jones more as a receiver and leave the bulk of the rushing to Forte. This likely returns to a committee backfield of sorts, but rest assured that Forte will be getting the bulk of the rushing work and associated scores.

Cincinnati Bengals   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Kenny Watson 8 79% 75% 88% 23 18 77 0.6 4 22 0.0
  Rudi Johnson 8 69% 77% 32% 21 19 56 0.4 1 13 0.1
2008 Cedric Benson 10 85% 89% 57% 22 20 71 0.2 2 19 0.0
  Chris Perry 6 80% 80% 71% 18 16 42 0.3 2 8 0.0

The Bengals have never been a committee backfield, it has just been a question which runner gets to take the load. Rudi Johnson had a nice run in Cincinnati but since the Bengals have not yet had the same consistency in the running back stats. That could be Cedric Benson this year since he came on board during the 2008 season and suffered through one of the worst schedules in the league. The Bengals no longer have Johnson, Chris Perry or Kenny Watson. That leaves fullback Brian Leonard and rookie Bernard Scott who has turned some heads this summer. Whichever running back is the starter will be a fulltime back with minimal sharing since the offense has always been set up that way. Benson is the starter and while it is not impossible for Scott to overtake him, it's probably unlikely unless Benson is injured and the Bengals like what Scott does in his place.

Cleveland Browns   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Jamal Lewis 14 77% 86% 42% 24 21 92 0.6 2 18 0.1
  Jason Wright 2 77% 79% 63% 23 18 59 0.5 4 41 0.0
2008 Jamal Lewis 16 73% 81% 35% 19 17 63 0.3 1 11 0.0

This team is a good example of what the difference a good or bad schedule can make. In 2007 with a really light schedule, Jamal Lewis was a heavy-use back who had a big season. Then in 2008, his numbers all fell about 30% and he was a very marginal fantasy starter. The good news is that Lewis gets whatever there is to get because this offense has not used committee backfields in the past when there is a runner getting the job done. The bad game situations of 2008 led to more receiving by other backs and lowered Lewis to 73% of running back plays but he still had over 80% of the runs in those games. That should happen again this year though a transition would be no surprise since Lewis is 30 years old now and has all the markings of a player hitting a wall. That could make the rookie James Davis an interesting player to hold. But regardless of what back is playing, this won't likely be a committee - it hasn't been. New HC Eric Mangini and OC Brian Daboll will stick with the primary runner as they did with Thomas Jones in New York the last couple of years.

Dallas Cowboys   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Marion Barber 13 59% 57% 62% 18 15 71 0.5 2 11 0.1
  Julius Jones 10 52% 52% 44% 14 12 38 0.2 1 12 0.0
2007 Marion Barber 11 84% 83% 86% 24 20 76 0.5 4 32 0.2
  Tashard Choice 5 73% 74% 66% 18 15 76 0.4 4 34 0.0

Barber commanded a full-time use last year with Julius Jones gone and the rookie Felix Jones quickly out for the season. But previous to last year it was a committee backfield with Jones and Barber and likely would have been had Felix Jones not been injured. The Cowboys also discovered that Tashard Choice was a third good option for the backfield when Barber was injured. In the offseason, Terrell Owens was released and the team has a new direction offensively - run the ball more. With three good runners, the Cowboys want to revisit the days of Emmitt Smith (AKA when they won playoff games) but won't be relying on just one player. Expect a committee backfield here with at least Barber and Jones but there could be enough carries to make more than one fantasy star from this backfield.

Denver Broncos   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Travis Henry 9 67% 76% 25% 18 17 73 0.3 1 7 0.0
  Selvin Young 6 70% 70% 64% 20 17 86 0.2 3 16 0.0
  Andre Hall 1 76% 76% 67% 28 26 98 1.0 2 69 0.0
2008 Selvin Young 5 44% 46% 34% 10 9 49 0.0 1 3 0.0
  Peyton Hillis 3 76% 74% 83% 18 16 82 1.3 2 16 0.0
  Michael Pittman 3 78% 85% 60% 17 16 67 0.0 2 12 0.0
  Tatum Bell 2 80% 79% 83% 13 10 69 1.0 3 24 0.0
  Ryan Torain 1 57% 57% 0% 12 12 68 1.0 0 0 0.0
  P.J. Pope 1 40% 35% 60% 10 7 51 0.0 3 24 1.0
  Andre Hall 1 36% 37% 0% 10 10 61 0.0 0 0 0.0

The Broncos turned committee backfields into an art form last year thanks to the injury-inspired turnstile for running backs. But HC Mike Shanahan is gone and now Josh Daniels shows up bringing his New England offense mind set. It has actually been rare to see a Patriot back who has more than around 55% of the running back work. And the first thing that Daniels did was to load up on mediocre veterans like Correll Buckhalter and Lamont Jordan to add to Ryan Torain and the first round rookie Knowshon Moreno. This is a new offensive scheme and coaching staff, but nothing indicates that this won't continue to be a committee backfield. The only hope by the fantasy world is that Moreno proves so significantly better than the rest that he gets a heavier workload. But there's no reason not to expect a committee backfield here and actually more likely than it was under Shanahan who would rely on one back if the job was getting done.

Detroit Lions   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Kevin Jones 10 71% 72% 69% 17 13 52 0.6 3 17 0.0
  Tatum Bell 4 61% 62% 60% 15 10 42 0.3 4 16 0.0
  T.J. Duckett 2 66% 68% 58% 17 14 66 0.5 2 27 0.0
2008 Kevin Smith 14 77% 79% 60% 19 16 64 0.6 3 20 0.0
  Rudi Johnson 2 77% 78% 67% 18 16 61 0.0 2 26 0.5

The Lions were not RBBC in 2008 and since have changed to new HC Jim Schwartz and OC Scott Linehan who directed offenses in Minnesota and Miami which were committee situations and also St. Louis where Steven Jackson had solid seasons when healthy. But in Minnesota, he had no decent #1 back (think Moe Williams, Onterrio Smith and Michael Bennett) and in Miami he had two #1 backs - Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. In Detroit - there's just Kevin Smith really. Maurice Morris was signed and could provide a third down role but this appears most likely to remain a single back offense that will let Smith get the bulk of whatever there is to gain.

Green Bay Packers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Ryan Grant 9 79% 88% 53% 23 20 97 0.8 3 13 0.0
  Brandon Jackson 4 65% 69% 57% 19 15 53 0.3 3 26 0.0
  DeShawn Wynn 3 53% 74% 16% 14 12 45 0.7 1 8 0.0
2008 Ryan Grant 16 75% 84% 27% 21 20 75 0.3 1 7 0.1

So long as Ryan Grant is the runner, this is not a committee backfield and that has been made even more likely to continue by the lack of passing to running backs once Aaron Rodgers took over. Grant has been good for at least 80% or more of all rushes in the games when he played and actually has flown under the fantasy radar a bit this year for a player who gets used as heavily as he does. Grant dropped in effectiveness last year but that was to be expected after a torrid end to 2007. This is not a committee backfield.

Houston Texans   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Ron Dayne 9 69% 75% 35% 20 18 73 0.6 1 9 0.0
  Ahman Green 3 72% 78% 62% 20 14 52 0.0 4 20 0.0
  Darius Walker 3 68% 72% 58% 21 16 59 0.0 4 27 0.0
  Samkon Gado 1 38% 40% 38% 9 6 12 1.0 3 9 0.0
2008 Steve Slaton 15 72% 73% 62% 21 18 85 0.6 3 24 0.1
  Ryan Moats 1 35% 47% 0% 7 7 34 0.0 0 0 0.0

The numbers from last year suggest there is a committee here and certainly it was in 2007. But once the Texans stopped using Ahman Green in week 12 last year, Steve Slaton was very much a full-time, heavy-use primary back who rushed 109 times and all others only had 19 carries which included 12 runs by Ryan Moats in the meaningless last game of the season. The Texans certainly did use Slaton almost exclusively and even stepped up his role as a receiver as well. The Texans let Green go but really did nothing to replace him. Behind Slaton is Chris Brown and Ryan Moats - not exactly how you want to create a committee. While the offense has been RBBC in the past apparently including last year, it does not appear to be one this year and actually wasn't in 2008 once Green was removed from the picture. He was never replaced.

Indianapolis Colts   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Joseph Addai 13 77% 77% 73% 22 19 77 0.8 3 27 0.2
  Kenton Keith 3 58% 59% 50% 22 18 85 0.7 2 15 0.0
2008 Joseph Addai 9 73% 77% 54% 18 16 57 0.6 2 15 0.1
  Dominic Rhodes 6 80% 79% 70% 22 18 60 1.0 4 31 0.2
  Lance Ball 1 48% 59% 14% 14 13 83 0.0 1 5 0.0

This offense tends to be a committee backfield so long as there are players good enough to deserve playing time. In 2007, Joseph Addai had a heavier load with 77% of the rushing duties in games and it fell a bit to 73% last year. When Addai was injured, Dominic Rhodes took 80% of the plays because there was no one else worth of sharing much. This is important because the Colts have Addai returning this year and drafted Donald Brown with virtually the same first round pick that they used a few years back on Addai. This appears slated to be an almost certain committee backfield since the coaching staff has said as much and there are now two viable options at running back. The Colts have also somewhat soured on Addai (hence the pick of Brown) because of his injury history and falling short of expectations in general. But for this season, it will likely be a committee with Addai taking the larger chunk at least to start the year. That may change at some point during the season if Brown excels or Addai once again is injured. Expect a committee here that hurts the potential value of either back.

Jacksonville Jaguars   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Fred Taylor 10 52% 58% 17% 19 18 89 0.3 1 6 0.0
  Maurice Jones-Drew 5 70% 52% 80% 17 12 71 1.0 4 46 0.0
  Greg Jones 1 74% 67% 75% 19 14 71 0.0 3 27 0.0
2008 Maurice Jones-Drew 10 71% 68% 71% 18 14 58 0.6 4 38 0.2
  Fred Taylor 6 53% 62% 25% 16 15 52 0.0 2 11 0.0

This is an area of much interest for fantasy football. The Jaguars have always been a committee backfield and Jones-Drew perked up his value thanks to also being a receiver unlike Fred Taylor. Now Taylor is gone and yet the team did little to replace him. Holdover Greg Jones enters camp as the prohibitive #2 back and he had that role back in 2005 (151-575, 4 TDs) before Jones-Drew showed up. The Jaguars will use Jones-Drew enough that he'll post the numbers of a true primary back even if he has to share the workload which will happen. The question is who will bet the bleed over and how much will it be? Jones has been lackluster in every season other than 2006 and the rookie Rashad Jennings has been very impressive for a seventh round afterthought last April. This will be enough sharing to be a committee backfield but that still will see Jones-Drew post some very big stats this year while rewarding Jones or Jennings with a role that has some fantasy significance.

Kansas City Chiefs   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Larry Johnson 8 77% 84% 67% 25 20 70 0.4 4 23 0.1
  Kolby Smith 5 87% 90% 75% 24 20 77 0.4 3 16 0.0
  Priest Holmes 2 73% 81% 38% 22 20 60 0.0 2 8 0.0
  Jackie Battle 1 76% 87% 33% 17 13 44 0.0 1 4 0.0
2008 Larry Johnson 11 73% 83% 31% 18 17 79 0.5 1 7 0.0
  Kolby Smith 2 63% 73% 46% 13 11 18 0.0 2 10 0.0
  Jamaal Charles 2 54% 47% 80% 13 11 62 0.0 2 11 0.0
  Dantrell Savage 1 78% 75% 100% 14 12 44 0.0 2 0 0.0

The Chiefs have moved on to new HC Todd Haley but retained OC Chan Gailey to run the offense. One big difference is that Haley will call the plays while Gailey tries to make the offense fit the personnel he has. He used a committee last year thanks to injuries but there are question marks on what to expect this season even though Gailey, Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles are all returning. The offense could end up favoring Charles and yet Johnson has looked good in practice and may take the heavy load. Above all, it will be the aggressive Haley calling plays. Until training camp gives this more clarity, it has to be considered a committee backfield

Miami Dolphins   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Jesse Chatman 7 74% 71% 59% 19 15 57 0.0 2 13 0.0
  Ronnie Brown 7 80% 83% 77% 24 17 86 0.6 6 56 0.1
  Samkon Gado 2 56% 72% 25% 18 15 48 1.5 2 24 0.0
2008 Ronnie Brown 13 53% 56% 35% 16 15 63 0.7 2 14 0.0
  Ricky Williams 3 49% 52% 40% 15 11 54 0.7 4 29 0.0

Despite Ronnie Brown being a slightly hyped player this year, there is no reason to expect anything but a committee from this backfield. Ricky Williams has one more year left in him at least and even when Brown got the hot hand in 2009, he still had to share with Williams. Brown had more than 17 carries in a game only twice while Williams typically had 10 to 12 carries per game. The Parcels inspired offense always relies on more than one back so temper the expectations of Brown since there will still be a committee this year.

Minnesota Vikings   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Adrian Peterson 13 60% 67% 27% 19 17 86 0.7 1 20 0.1
  Chester Taylor 3 72% 74% 53% 27 25 108 1.3 2 17 0.0
2008 Adrian Peterson 16 71% 79% 23% 24 23 110 0.6 1 8 0.0

While this seems like a committee situation, the reality is that the Vikings had 519 rushing attempts last year while Peterson only had 71% of the running back plays, he rushed 363 times and really doesn't need more work. The Vikings are planning on using him more as a receiver but his role simply could not get much bigger with the team for the fear he'd be burned out after only a few years. Chester Taylor still had 101 carries and 45 catches last year. It's a committee and a beautiful one that spawns much fantasy value at the expense of the passing game.

New England Patriots   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Laurence Maroney 11 57% 69% 7% 16 16 71 0.5 0 11 0.0
  Kevin Faulk 2 43% 37% 75% 12 9 37 0.0 2 16 0.0
  Sammy Morris 2 68% 71% 53% 24 21 110 0.5 2 12 0.0
  Heath Evans 1 38% 38% 33% 11 10 40 1.0 1 6 0.0
2008 Sammy Morris 8 47% 50% 23% 15 14 68 0.6 1 10 0.0
  Kevin Faulk 4 54% 44% 88% 14 9 56 0.3 5 49 0.3
  LaMont Jordan 2 38% 45% 0% 16 16 70 1.0 0 0 0.0
  BenJarvus Green-Ellis 2 64% 68% 8% 21 21 81 1.0 1 4 0.0

There is never any doubt here - the Patriots are the consummate committee backfield that rarely has any running back top a 50% workload because more than two runners are usually relied on. It is always a mess to figure and in the end, there is really not much to figure out. It is a scheme that uses numerous runners. HC Bill Belichick lost his offensive coordinator and has taken over the play calling. No doubt it will not get any simpler to forecast who does what in this backfield.

New Orleans Saints   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Reggie Bush 10 65% 64% 67% 22 14 49 0.4 6 34 0.2
  Aaron Stecker 5 63% 68% 49% 19 16 65 0.8 3 19 0.0
  Pierre Thomas 1 95% 100% 92% 35 20 105 0.0 12 121 1.0
2008 Pierre Thomas 7 58% 59% 56% 18 14 72 0.9 3 34 0.4
  Reggie Bush 5 62% 60% 68% 21 14 42 0.4 7 71 0.6
  Deuce McAllister 4 58% 63% 41% 17 14 54 0.5 3 22 0.0

This is another committee backfield that works greatly and is served by the differing strengths of Reggie Bush and now Pierre Thomas. This season has Thomas taking over the primary role while Bush returns from yet another injury but in the seven games that Thomas was the primary last season, he only had less than 60% of the workload. This is a true committee thanks mostly to Reggie Bush being incapable of being a full-time back and yet too effective to not use about half the time. Then again, that was also because Deuce McAllister was still in the mix and now he is gone. This is a committee but in the event that Bush is out injured (more a likelihood than a possibility), then Thomas would take a very heavy load as he did twice last year when Bush was out and McAllister was not used.

New York Giants   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Brandon Jacobs 9 67% 70% 57% 24 20 100 0.4 2 19 0.2
  Derrick Ward 5 79% 80% 88% 24 19 101 0.2 4 29 0.2
  Reuben Droughns 2 73% 79% 57% 17 15 68 1.0 1 3 0.0
2008 Brandon Jacobs 12 51% 56% 13% 18 17 85 1.1 1 3 0.0
  Derrick Ward 4 64% 64% 64% 18 15 63 0.3 3 25 0.0

This is another committee backfield that depends on the health of Brandon Jacobs. Only when the Giants start to run out of viable options do they end up using a back as a true primary. Jacobs is a devastating runner but he cannot last if he is over-used so the Giants will always prefer the committee. This year "the other guy" is less clear since Derrick Ward left but Ahmad Bradshaw will keep his third down role and Danny Ware or even the rookie Andre Brown will benefit by keeping Jacobs fresh. So far this backfield only produces one good fantasy back at a time - Jacobs or his replacement when injured. With TIki Barber, the Giants needed a big guy to do the heavy lifting. Now with Jacobs, the team just needs a lot of help keeping him fresh.

New York Jets   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Thomas Jones 16 74% 81% 51% 22 19 70 0.1 2 14 0.1
2008 Thomas Jones 15 72% 79% 46% 21 19 86 0.9 2 14 0.1
  Leon Washington 1 59% 50% 86% 16 10 60 1.0 6 29 0.0

Thomas Jones brought back the heavy use back the last couple of seasons and Leon Washington took care of receiving duties which did lower the amount of running back plays for Jones to a committee level. This backfield may be exactly the same and it may be completely different. The problem is that you have a disgruntled Jones making $900,000 this season when he wants multiples of that while the Jets think "we have the 31-year old guy under contract with no future anyway". Despite rumors and speculation, Jones remains with the team and even Leon Washington has worked his way through wanting more money. The Jets also drafted Shonn Greene who is at least the future if not the present potentially. On top of all that, there is the new HC Rex Ryan and OC Brian Schottenheimer remains a holdover from the Mangini regime. That means there should not be a committee backfield this year but who fills what is not exactly concrete yet. Most likely it will remain the same as 2008 but with Thomas unhappy and Green hungry work work, the players could change in this drama at any time. What also could happen with disastrous fantasy results is to turn this offense into a three-headed monster in the backfield and water down what any of them would have done alone. Based on that fear and without a concrete resolution, this has to be considered a committee backfield.

Oakland Raiders   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Justin Fargas 8 73% 79% 48% 26 23 107 0.5 2 14 0.0
  LaMont Jordan 6 68% 69% 58% 22 18 73 0.3 4 35 0.0
  Dominic Rhodes 2 91% 100% 61% 34 28 119 0.5 4 26 0.0
2008 Justin Fargas 10 62% 69% 21% 19 18 71 0.1 1 5 0.0
  Michael Bush 3 64% 60% 68% 18 15 74 0.7 4 34 0.0
  Darren McFadden 3 48% 46% 56% 18 16 84 0.7 2 28 0.0

The Raiders head into 2009 with Tom Cable remaining at HC after filling in at the end of last season. He is not using an offensive coordinator and will call the plays himself. The same three players remain from last year but the roles could all be changed. Justin Fargas has been the primary back for two years largely by default. Darren McFadden had one big game against the Chiefs last year and then spent the rest of the year hampered by a bad turf toe. Michael Bush had minimal play all season long until the final game in Tampa Bay when he ran for 177 yards and two scores. The Raiders have a committee backfield here and that likely will not change even if McFadden realizes his potential and meets expectations because he's not viewed as an every-down, between-the-tackles sort of runner. That means either Fargas or Bush will also be involved if not both since there were four games in 2008 that had all three runners playing.

Philadelphia Eagles   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Brian Westbrook 14 86% 86% 87% 28 19 92 0.5 6 51 0.4
  Correll Buckhalter 2 74% 73% 54% 19 13 61 0.0 3 23 0.0
2008 Brian Westbrook 13 77% 79% 73% 22 18 71 0.7 4 31 0.4
  Correll Buckhalter 3 74% 76% 63% 20 15 67 0.7 5 51 0.3

While Brian Westbrook is under-sized from the norm and a durability problem, he doesn't share much in this offense when he does play. For the last few years, the Eagles have just given up trying to get him decent relief and let him play because he has been so much more effective than any other runner has been. That may change this year - which we say every season. LeSean McCoy is cut from the same mold and may be at least a Westbrook-Lite. The same was said about Ryan Moats and Lorenzo Booker, but we really mean it this time. More than anything, Westbrook's health is going to be no less a factor now that he is 30 years old and he could not even start training camp because of injury. But this offense seems like a committee backfield but hasn't proven to be even when Correll Buckhalter was the primary back. You cannot call this a committee backfield which is why LeSean McCoy commands as much interest in drafts this year.

Pittsburgh Steelers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Willie Parker 14 76% 81% 48% 25 23 94 0.1 2 12 0.0
  Najeh Davenport 2 64% 72% 25% 20 18 75 1.0 1 22 0.5
2008 Willie Parker 10 70% 76% 13% 20 20 75 0.5 0 1 0.0
  Mewelde Moore 6 73% 71% 84% 21 17 72 0.8 4 28 0.2

By design the Steelers do not have a committee backfield and the numbers from past seasons bare this out. But Willie Parker has lagged in effectiveness and moved the Steelers to acquiring Rashard Mendenhall last season only to lose him to injury for most of the season. This offense doesn't want a committee, it just cannot find the one guy that can handle the load optimally. The Steelers want to see what they can get out of Mendenhall because they already know what Parker can do and that's been "not enough". The Steelers do not want a true committee but until one running back can clearly outplay the rest, you have to consider this as a RBBC to start the year. All eyes are on Mendenhall to be sure, it's only a question if he can deliver the goods.

San Diego Chargers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 LaDainian Tomlinson 15 77% 79% 76% 26 20 91 0.9 4 31 0.2
  Darren Sproles 1 48% 51% 25% 26 25 122 2.0 1 13 0.0
2008 LaDainian Tomlinson 15 74% 81% 52% 22 19 68 0.5 3 28 0.1
  Darren Sproles 1 40% 39% 50% 16 14 115 1.0 2 17 1.0

While there is conjecture that a committee is being formed in San Diego this year withy LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, the offense is still built around Tomlinson. Sproles had a couple of good games to end 2008 which stuck in people's minds more than all the previous games where Tomlinson not only took a heavy load, he actually took more than he had in 2007. Plus he was playing with toe and groin injuries that have since healed. No reason here to expect a committee.

Seattle Seahawks   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Shaun Alexander 10 67% 76% 24% 20 18 57 0.3 1 6 0.0
  Maurice Morris 6 61% 71% 48% 20 17 70 0.5 2 14 0.0
2008 Julius Jones 9 58% 62% 46% 16 15 67 0.2 1 5 0.0
  Maurice Morris 7 59% 61% 37% 16 15 66 0.0 1 10 0.1

The soil has been tilled in Seattle with new HC Jim Mora and OC Greg Knapp - both long-time veterans of the NFL coaching ranks. But that they did not change is bringing in a new back. In fact, Maurice Morris was released and retreads Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett are about all there is to use. Justin Forsett is there and may see playing time but he's too small to be considered a challenger for a big role. Knapp coached Duckett once upon a time but that too may not mean too much. Jones fell from favor with Mike Holmgren last year and barely played the final six weeks. Knapp is familiar with committees though as when he had Dunn and Duckett attempt to be "Thunder and Lightning" in Atlanta. You have to consider this as a committee with Jones getting yardage, Duckett taking scores and possibly Forsett mixed in a little just to make it even worse. The offensive line should be better this year and the schedule is certainly favorable, but even that is no guarantee any of these backs can step up to much fantasy significance. This will be a run-heavy attack when game situation allows it so at least there should be some good games. There is always the chance that one of the three surprises and commands a big chunk of the workload, but then again there is the chance that Houshmandzadeh changes his name to "OchoQuattro". Do not expect either to happen.

San Francisco 49ers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Frank Gore 15 80% 89% 64% 22 17 73 0.3 4 29 0.1
  Michael Robinson 1 68% 71% 50% 19 17 67 0.0 2 2 0.0
2008 Frank Gore 14 80% 84% 68% 20 17 74 0.4 3 27 0.1
  DeShaun Foster 2 83% 85% 78% 19 15 56 0.0 4 21 0.0

Frank Gore remains one of the most heavily used running backs in the league and that even lasted with Mike Martz around. The 49ers literally have a new offensive coordinator every year now Jimmy Raye shows up with around 30 years of NFL experience. There is no doubt that this will be a run-heavy offense that will rely on Gore just as much as previous seasons. The 49ers picked up Glenn Coffee in the NFL draft as some prudent insurance, but this remains Gore's show. Think back to 2006 with Norv Turner as OC as a decent example.

St. Louis Rams   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Steven Jackson 11 79% 85% 63% 25 21 87 0.4 3 24 0.1
  Brian Leonard 5 64% 70% 47% 18 15 51 0.0 2 18 0.0
2008 Steven Jackson 11 85% 87% 72% 26 22 93 0.6 4 34 0.1
  Antonio Pittman 5 65% 66% 69% 16 13 45 0.0 3 19 0.0

Once again, in with the new. HC Steve Spagnulo comes in with a defensive background so the offense will be controlled by new OC Pat Shurmur who has never ran an offense before. Shurmur will install a west coast offense thanks to his Philly roots which means Steven Jackson plays the Brian Westbrook role only much bigger. Jackson is already an accomplished receiver and has always taken a huge share of the rushing duties anyway so this should all play into making Jackson into a rare, heavy-use back who also should be a receiver. Of course, this is all predicated on him actually staying healthy for the first time in a few years.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Earnest Graham 12 72% 76% 56% 23 17 68 0.7 4 26 0.0
  Carnell Williams 3 53% 63% 17% 17 16 56 1.0 1 6 0.0
  Michael Bennett 1 61% 71% 40% 17 15 39 0.0 2 28 1.0
2008 Earnest Graham 8 59% 65% 37% 18 16 69 0.4 3 16 0.0
  Warrick Dunn 7 62% 59% 72% 19 16 63 0.1 4 29 0.0
  Carnell Williams 1 55% 52% 63% 17 12 78 2.0 5 37 0.0

New HC Raheem Morris takes over this year after being the defensive coordinator there and the offense will be headed up by Jeff Jagodzinski who proved why you never let your employer (Boston College) know that you are interviewing for another job. There will be a power rushing scheme installed this year that has elements of the west coast offense. Later seasons may be more pass heavy once Josh Freeman gets enough playing time but for now this will be a run-heavy attack that brought in Derrick Ward to add to Ernest Graham and Carnell Williams. Jagodzinski intends on playing both Ward and Graham and even Clifton Smith or Carnell Williams could see playing time. This team has long been RBBC and a change in coaching staff and scheme is not enough to change that. Ward in particular was brought over as someone familiar with a committee system. Chances are that Graham and Ward could swap being primary from game to game.

Tennessee Titans   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 LenDale White 14 68% 72% 39% 22 20 73 0.5 1 8 0.0
  Chris Brown 2 47% 48% 45% 15 14 102 0.0 1 5 0.0
2008 Chris Johnson 13 61% 61% 76% 19 17 74 0.5 3 17 0.1
  LenDale White 3 47% 55% 6% 18 18 77 1.0 0 1 0.0

Here's an excellent example of "Thunder and Lightning" with Chris Johnson and LenDale White having clearly defined roles. Although there is a desire to involve Johnson even more into the game plan this year, that still won't push out White from significant duty since he has all the short-yardage and goal line responsibilities. This is one of the most effective tandem backfields and a true specialist scheme.

Washington Redskins   % of All RBs in Gm Avg. Rushing Receiving
Gms Plays Runs Rcvs Plays Att Yards TD Catches Yards TDs
2007 Clinton Portis 16 71% 75% 50% 24 20 79 0.7 3 24 0.0
2008 Clinton Portis 16 76% 81% 43% 23 21 93 0.6 2 14 0.0

Each season, there is a stated intention to reduce the workload for Clinton Portis and each year he just gets used even more. In 2006 when Portis was injured, LaDell Betts subbed in and had a tremendous season. And then in 2007, back to Portis being the full-time back with little help. And the same in 2008. Once again, there is some word that Betts will be used more this season to rest up Portis and keep him healthy and fresh for late season. Portis can give away some and still be above the 75% threshold and until Portis is on the sideline more, it's all just summer-speak. Portis has been far too good to not use as much as possible.

The RBBC Score Card

Team RBBC Likely? New OC
or Scheme ?
New Primary RB?
Arizona No Yes Yes
Atlanta No No No
Baltimore Yes No Yes
Buffalo Yes No No
Carolina Yes No No
Chicago Yes No No
Cincinnati No No No
Cleveland No No No
Dallas Yes No No
Denver Yes Yes Yes
Detroit No Yes No
Green Bay No No No
Houston No No No
Indianapolis Yes Not really No
Jacksonville Yes No Yes
Kansas City Yes Yes Maybe
Miami Yes No No
Minnesota Yes No No
New York Giants Yes No No
New York Jets Yes No No
New England Yes Yes but 'meh' Whatever
New Orleans Yes No Yes
Oakland Yes Yes Yes
Philadelphia No No No
Pittsburgh Yes No Maybe
San Diego No No No
San Francisco No Yes No
Seattle Yes Yes No
St. Louis No Yes No
Tampa Bay Yes Yes Yes
Tennessee Yes No No
Washington No No No

The final score: RBBC 21, Non-RBBC 11
Teams with new offensive schemes: 9
Teams with new primary RB:7 (plus 2 possible others)
Teams returning same primary RB, same offensive coordinator and scheme, and unlikely to use RBBC: 7 (22%)

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
Cedric Benson 10 85% 89% 57% 22 20 71 0.2 2 19 0.0
Steven Jackson 11 85% 87% 72% 26 22 93 0.6 4 34 0.1
Frank Gore 14 80% 84% 68% 20 17 74 0.4 3 27 0.1
Ryan Grant 16 75% 84% 27% 21 20 75 0.3 1 7 0.1
Larry Johnson 11 73% 83% 31% 18 17 79 0.5 1 7 0.0
Marion Barber 11 84% 83% 86% 24 20 76 0.5 4 32 0.2
Matt Forte 16 80% 81% 76% 24 20 77 0.5 4 30 0.3
Jamal Lewis 16 73% 81% 35% 19 17 63 0.3 1 11 0.0
LaDainian Tomlinson 15 74% 81% 52% 22 19 68 0.5 3 28 0.1
Clinton Portis 16 76% 81% 43% 23 21 93 0.6 2 14 0.0
Chris Perry 6 80% 80% 71% 18 16 42 0.3 2 8 0.0
Dominic Rhodes 6 80% 79% 70% 22 18 60 1.0 4 31 0.2
Adrian Peterson 16 71% 79% 23% 24 23 110 0.6 1 8 0.0
Thomas Jones 15 72% 79% 46% 21 19 86 0.9 2 14 0.1
Brian Westbrook 13 77% 79% 73% 22 18 71 0.7 4 31 0.4
Kevin Smith 14 77% 79% 60% 19 16 64 0.6 3 20 0.0
Michael Turner 16 70% 78% 9% 24 24 106 1.1 0 3 0.0
Joseph Addai 9 73% 77% 54% 18 16 57 0.6 2 15 0.1
Willie Parker 10 70% 76% 13% 20 20 75 0.5 0 1 0.0
Steve Slaton 15 72% 73% 62% 21 18 85 0.6 3 24 0.1
Kolby Smith 2 63% 73% 46% 13 11 18 0.0 2 10 0.0
Marshawn Lynch 14 70% 73% 57% 20 17 72 0.5 3 21 0.1
Mewelde Moore 6 73% 71% 84% 21 17 72 0.8 4 28 0.2
Edgerrin James 6 65% 70% 35% 20 18 72 0.5 2 13 0.0
Justin Fargas 10 62% 69% 21% 19 18 71 0.1 1 5 0.0
Maurice Jones-Drew 10 71% 68% 71% 18 14 58 0.6 4 38 0.2
BenJarvus Green-Ellis 2 64% 68% 8% 21 21 81 1.0 1 4 0.0
Tim Hightower 10 62% 67% 47% 13 10 29 0.5 2 15 0.0

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