The death of the feature back is making those top RBs an expensive commodity on draft day, so today Matt Lane, Asher Curzon and Kenny Wang attempt to give you a breakdown of the value of some RBs who are in a committee system. While it may feel like a coin-flip when it comes to selecting the right guy, the purpose of this article is to help tip the odds in your favor.
For those who don’t know, a Running Back-by-Committee (RBBC) is where there is no clear RB who will get around 70%+ of the team’s carries, or where there is no clear starter and change of pace roles are given. This means you have to make a choice between two backs (or even draft both) and their relative value at ADP can be very different indeed.
The ADP’s used in this article are from www.fantasyfootballcalculator.com and relate to 12 team non-PPR leagues.
Denver Broncos: Montee Ball (4.05) and Ronnie Hillman (11.02)
This backfield has one of the largest gaps between two RBs you’ll find in this article. The rookie Ball is being selected in the same region as Ivory, Bell and Bradshaw, yet he goes into training camp as the second RB behind Hillman. This is one situation where I would not recommend drafting Ball so high. I think late 5th round is a good ADP for him, and Hillman’s ADP is very low. The starting role is certainly Hillman’ job to lose, but he does have talent that he showed in flashes last year which is probably why he’s been named the starter going into camp. If you do draft Ball then Hillman is a great value pick in the mid to late 10th, but I like Hillman’s value as a standalone RB anyway. I expect the ADP gap to shrink in the next few weeks.
Editor’s Note: Hillman’s ADP has risen lately to the 9th, which I still feel represents value. Any earlier and its too big a price to pay.
Indianapolis Colts: Ahmad Bradshaw (5.05) and Vick Ballard (9.07)
Bradshaw was signed to lead the Colts backfield after a reasonable but uninspiring rookie year from Vick Ballard. I think Bradshaw in the 5th is about right, perhaps a little on the early side if anything, but the premium placed on the RB position will always drive up a starting RBs price and you have to be prepared to take them early as the drop off is significant. Ballard showed flashes of talent last year but is not a very exciting RB by any stretch of the imagination. This is a situation where I think it could pay to draft both. I would say Bradshaw is a good flex RB, so to get a flex RB in round 5 is reasonable value, and to complement him with Ballard – the undoubted #1 Colts back should Bradshaw get hurt – in round 9 makes a lot of sense. As a standalone pick I prefer Bradshaw of the two at current ADP.
St Louis Rams: Daryl Richardson (7.02), Isaiah Pead (10.07), Zac Stacy (11.10)
The St. Louis Rams backfield is one of the biggest question marks going into the 2013 season. Isaiah Pead was the one many thought was going to get the first shot but was recently suspended for a game due to marijuana possession. That opened the door for the guy that I see taking over the backfield: Vanderbilt’s Zac Stacy. Where Stacy lacks in straight line speed he makes up for with decisive and powerful running. The toughest part for a rookie is pass-protection but if he can prove that he can do it during the pre-season and training camp, he will find himself getting 15-20 touches a game with Daryl Richardson sprinkled in as a third down back. Richardson will be a factor in the offense, but the Stacy is the guy who will wind up with the majority of the carries, including the goal line carries. In a revamped St. Louis offense, Stacy can easily become the top scoring rookie running back and take your fantasy team far, all for a late round pick.
New Orleans Saints: Mark Ingram (8.12), Pierre Thomas (11.03)
Has there been a bigger disappointment than Mark Ingram in the last few years? He was a first round pick and has yet to produce in the NFL. However 2013 may be his year to shine. With recent news that Pierre Thomas is dinged up, I think that Ingram’s ADP will rise, especially if Thomas ends up missing any time. Personally I think if you are a believer in Ingram, then the 8th round is good value for what he may produce. However there are other RB’s, and WR’s that I would consider before Ingram come round 8. Thomas is the Swiss army knife for the Saints in that he can run both inside and out, as well as catch passes. If he is healthy for the start of the season I think both Ingram and Thomas vulture value away from each other. If I am forced to pick between the two, I like Thomas as I believe his ADP presents better value.
Green Bay Packers: Eddie Lacy (5.07), Jonathan Franklin (10.05)
I write this just after the less than flattering photograph of Eddie Lacy made him look like he’d swallowed his fellow rookie RB Jonathan Franklin whole in a crazy bet. However we all know this was just the hype that we get during camp. Lacy was drafted late in the 2nd round and it was a surprise to some that the Packers went for another RB just two rounds later. The two backs complement each other very well and I believe both will have successful NFL careers. In this pairing I think Lacy is the man to own for now, but keep an eye on training camp updates and pre-season games in case Franklin edges ahead of him. Franklin is a decent grab in the 10th as a standalone player, but like in Indy grabbing both guys here is probably the most sensible option to shore up your 3rd RB position.
Cincinnati Bengals: Giovani Bernard (6.04), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (7.03)
News out of Cincinnati is that the Law Firm is losing business to the rookie: Gio Bernard. Both backs are looking at a 50:50 time share at the moment, but I expect this to change as the season progresses. Though Bernard is a small back, he runs low to the ground and his explosiveness made him a 2nd round pick. Though he doesn’t have breakaway speed nor does he punish defenders at contact, he is a tremendous pass catcher and can give the Bengals a weapon that they sorely lacked last year. Though BenJarvus will initially receive the duties near the goal line, he may not keep them for long. According to Mike Clay’s oTD statistic, Green-Ellis should have scored 4 more TDs than the 5 he scored last year. If this continues, the Bengals would be better off giving some of these chances to the rookie. Although a 7th round pick is not terribly expensive for a running back of Green-Ellis’s caliber, with those later picks I’d rather look for higher upside guys. Gio is the back to own in this backfield.
San Diego Chargers: Ryan Mathews (5.05), Danny Woodhead (9.12) Michael Hill (U)
No running back is more maligned then Ryan Matthews. We all know the stories of his brittle frame, mediocre work ethic, and inability to wrench a starting role away from the likes of Jackie Battle and Ronnie Brown. 2012 may have presented his last chance to ever have a 3-down role on the Chargers. This season brings a new coaching staff, along with FA signings of Danny Woodhead and un-drafted FA Michael Hill. Woodhead will take away from Mathews value during third downs as well as passing downs, and his ADP is much more appealing. If you play PPR, he is also the RB you want to draft. He is a player I am targeting across the board in most of my leagues. Michael Hill is going un-drafted at this time. He is built similarly to Mathews and I believe if he makes the team could easily step in and tout the rock if / when Mathews goes down. Keep an eye on Hill during preseason and after final cuts. He may prove to be a waiver wire gem in 2013.
New York Giants: David Wilson (3.09), Andre Brown (7.07)
While both Giant running backs should be productive this year, Andre Brown clearly has more value. In the three games that Brown received more than 10 carries, he averaged 16 fantasy points per game. Even though all 8 of Andre Brown’s touchdowns came within the 3 yard line, he still averaged more than 5YPC. There is no doubt that David Wilson has upside and potential this year. I even think that Wilson will finish the year scoring more points than Brown. What doesn’t resonate with me is why there is a four round difference between the two. Even if the Giants were to split the carries 60:40 in the favour of Wilson, Brown still has the capacity to be a high upside weekly flex play. You know he’ll the short-yardage guy, and Wilson won’t be trusted with the majority of the carries the way Ahmad Bradshaw was. If anything were to happen to Wilson, say a fumble or injury, the backfield would be shifted in Brown’s favor, giving him an edge in fantasy value.
New England Patriots: Stevan Ridley (2.05), Shane Vereen (6.07)
Over the past month Shane Vereen’s ADP has shot up. Rumors of him splitting out as a WR and in the slot have only intensified his meteoric rise. Currently he still represents the better value between the two NE backs. At this point we know what Ridley is… He is the bruising inside runner and goal line back. He rarely plays 3rd downs, and typically does not catch many passes (7 for the entire 2012 season). In non ppr leagues he is a monster, similar to Michael Turner when he first signed with ATL. He is good at what he does, however I would prefer to go with another option in the mid 2nd and attempt to catch lightening with Vereen four rounds later.
Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Stewart (8.05), DeAngelo Williams (9.05)
The Panthers backfield is not quite a fantasy wasteland, but the uncertainty of which RB will lead the load has given such a short turnaround between the two RBs in drafts. This pair were being selected back to back only a few weeks ago in ADP, which shows how tough analysts are finding it to separate the two guys. Throw in Mike Tolbert (undrafted) and you’ve got a full-blown fantasy horror story. These two guys are examples of how not to draft RBs. If you wait on QB you get Romo in the 8th, if you wait on WR you get Lance Moore in the 8th, if you wait on RB you get Stewart in the 8th… To me neither of these players offers value, especially Stewart who is carrying a minor injury and unlikely to make a good start in week 1. Of the two I like Williams a little more but its definitely a situation to avoid in fantasy.