Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): There exists, within the English language, four words that can make any fantasy owner cringe. On their own, these words are mostly harmless. But when listed consecutively, you better run for the hills. These words, of course, are running back by committee. It’s like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard. For the love of God, pick a running back!
The epidemic has spread to Cleveland, Washington, Detroit, Dallas, Denver, New England, Tennessee—even New York. It’s certainly not ideal for fantasy purposes, but when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. So let’s make lemonade, fellas. Of the many committee backs currently in circulation, who do you trust the most?
I think it might be Duke Johnson’s time to shine. It looked like he was on to something last week against San Diego (116 yards and one touchdown on 17 touches) and I really like what he brings as a receiver. I think it’s only a matter of time before he leaves Isaiah Crowell in the dust.
Rich Hribar (@LordReebs): It’s the lowest hanging fruit of these situations, but I still believe the combination of Week 3, the bye week and the fear of prior Belichickian hijinks have owners unsure about what to make of Dion Lewis. I am 100 percent in on Lewis being an RB1 weekly for the remainder of the season. When I look at the Patriots, we inherently know they are a weekly game plan specific team based on opponent, but with Lewis in the lineup, they don’t have to be. He makes their offense borderline indefensible while LeGarrette Blount makes it defensible. They have an inexperienced group on the offensive line that has had positive results so far, but they are also insulated by an offense that never really puts them in spots to make huge mistakes. The other element in play with Lewis is that although physically he fits the archetype of a change of pace back, he’s actually a strong interior angle runner. Unlike a Shane Vereen or Danny Woodhead that have been in this role previously, Lewis has chain moving rushing ability with explosive run capability. With him, New England can completely dictate what they want to do to a defense in unison with Gronk’s dual threat receiving and blocking ability and Julian Edelman‘s intermediate dominance. I definitely believe Blount will find his way to touches and touchdowns, but I’m all in on Lewis being a season long factor.
Jeff Brubach (@Jeff_Brubach): As Rich mentioned, Lewis is definitely the most attractive RBBC member at the moment but I am interested in what Ameer Abdullah can do over the next stretch of games. Abdullah finally got double-digit carries last week but it was an awful matchup and he failed to generate anything of significance against the Seattle defensive front. Hopefully Joique Bell‘s ankle and remarkable 1.1 ypc average continue to give Abdullah more chances to lead this backfield, because the opposition gets easier for the Lions’ running game over the next month or so. None of Detroit’s next five opponents are holding opposing offenses under 4.0 ypc and although Detroit’s offensive line is shaky at best, I think Abdullah can get rolling with more chances against softer fronts.
Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin): None seems like the proper answer, but I am also all in on Duke Johnson. Johnson played almost 61 percent of the snaps last week and has actually seen 19 more snaps on the season than Isaiah Crowell. More importantly for me, Crowell seems at every moment to be just a mistake or two from the doghouse. It is important to remember Crowell spent large swaths of last season playing behind Terrance West, who the Browns traded for a bag of peanuts before the season. I would not be surprised if Johnson is the clear “lead back” in the near future, and his receiving skills make him immune to the game-script concerns which always come with a back in Cleveland. I see him as a starter most weeks moving forward.
Hribar: The other interesting thing with Duke is that after the incompletion to Gary Barnidge that was properly overturned to a catch on Cleveland’s final drive, it was Johnson who then had the subsequent carry from the 1-yard line when Cleveland had the time during the review to sub in Crowell. He didn’t convert the touch for a score, but a promising touch nonetheless.
Pantuosco: To me, Denver’s situation is easily the most frustrating. The Broncos’ backfield has been a revolving door for the better part of a decade (probably since Clinton Portis left), yet we wanted to believe so badly that C.J. Anderson was different. Turns out, he’s just a flash in the pan like the rest of them. It’s pretty demoralizing when your first-round fantasy pick goes out there and averages 2.7 yards per carry while sharing touches with Ronnie Hillman. Take away Hillman’s 72-yard touchdown from last week and his yards per carry (3.1) is almost as bad as Anderson’s. At least he’s scored a couple times. I wouldn’t touch either one with a 10-foot pole in fantasy right now.
Evan Silva (@evansilva): I’m actually pretty in on Ronnie Hillman. Biggest concern is the Broncos’ offensive line. Hillman’s perceived durability or lack thereof on big workloads is the only thing holding him back at this point. Hillman is a quality all-purpose back who pretty much does everything well, has big-play ability, and can catch and pass block. I think he’s a buy right now and could be a league winner if he hits. Gary Kubiak prefers a big bellcow but has had at least short-term success with smaller backs before like Steve Slaton, Tatum Bell, and Clinton Portis, who weighed about 204 coming out of The U.
If you want to take a shot on a guy who should be currently priced affordably and has big, big upside, I’d say go get Ronnie Hillman. Only costs $6,600 this week on FanDuel, too.
Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat): I’m the most in on Abdullah, simply because he basically already has the role fantasy owners are hoping for. He doesn’t need anything else to happen, he just needs to perform. Duke, and maybe even Dion, still have bigger obstacles. Agree with Evan on Hillman, at least for Week 5. Hillman has out-gained Anderson in 3-of-4 games, and Kubiak basically admitted he’ll be the lead back against Oakland. We could have a full-blown changing of the guard if Hillman makes it 4-of-5 when it comes to out-producing Anderson.
Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield): I totally agree with Pat on Abdullah. He’s been a running back I’ve been targeting in all of the re-draft spots I don’t own him in because the Lions’ last two opponents (DEN & SEA) are very difficult matchups for offensive production.
The one concern with Ameer, though, is Detroit’s offensive line. Football Outsiders currently has the Lions as the 30th rated run blocking unit with 30% of runs being ‘stuffed’ at or behind the line-of-scrimmage. The Lions’ offensive inefficiencies and plagued offensive line hurts Abdullah’s ceiling — but like Pat said, he now has the role we’ve all wanted him to have.
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