2012 Fantasy Football Draft Guide: How to Handle Running Back by Committee Situations

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If you’re a fantasy veteran, you’ve been there before.  You need a RB3 in the middle rounds of your draft, and there are two distinctly different options on the board.  There’s one guy who’s a middle-of-the-road talent, but he’s a safe pick because you’re pretty sure he’s going to get the bulk of the carries.  Then there’s this other back with tons of talent and gamebreaker potential.  You love this guy’s measurables and his upside, but there’s one thing you can’t get over.  His coach believes in RBBC: Running Back By Committee.

More and more, coaches are going to a committee approach in the running game because it keeps their backs fresher as the grueling NFL schedule wears on.  But RBBC is a philosophy that has left plenty of fantasy owners with a tough decision to make.  Are you better off with a talented RB3 who’s stuck in a timeshare situation or a less talented back who’s got a heavier role in the offense?  More often than not, we’d rather have the guy who’s on the field more, but that doesn’t mean that there’s never value to be found in a crowded backfield.

Take Carolina for example.  For much of the last four years, both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have been useful RB3 options.  The timeshare has limited their carries, but each has put up 5+ yards per carry in two of the last three seasons.  Sure, their TD count has been painfully low for the last two years and we definitely worry about Cam Newton stealing TDs near the goal line, but Stewart and Williams have both been potent enough that we would have no problem employing one as a RB3.  We wouldn’t tell you to target either of these guys necessarily, but if either one – preferably Williams – is around in the later rounds, you shouldn’t be afraid to pull the trigger – especially if they’ve got good matchups when your RB1 and RB2 have their bye weeks.  

On the other hand, some RBBC situations are just destined to be barren wastelands of fantasy failure.  We can’t help but cringe when we look at the Redskins backfield.

Washington cut Tim Hightower on Friday, leaving them with Roy Helu, Evan Royster, and rookie Alfred Morris at RB on the depth chart – in no specific order.  And therein lies the problem.  Beyond the fact that none of these guys will conjure up memories of Barry Sanders, there’s a good chance that none of them will see enough carries to make them roster-worthy.  And that includes Steve Slaton, if the Redskins are able to acquire him from the Dolphins in a deal they’re reportedly working on.

Worst of all, we wouldn’t put it past serial RBBC-employer Mike Shanahan to feature one RB, then switch to another the following week without the courtesy of giving you any notice.  If you still had the first RB in your lineup, that’s enough to cost you a game.  Look, we aren’t telling you Helu isn’t worth a late-round flier as an RB4.  What we are telling you, in no uncertain terms, is that drafting any of these guys in a position where you’ll be relying on them for consistent production is probably going to put a serious damper on your season.  

The moral of the story is that you’re generally better off with a guy who’s going to be on the field more often, even if he’s a lesser talent.  Colts RB Donald Brown fits the bill, provided he holds off upstart Vick Ballard.  He’s not going to average five yards per-carry.  Heck, he probably won’t average four.  But if he ends up getting the bulk of the carries in Indy, he’s good enough to be your bye-week fill-in.

Written by Aaron Schuldiner exclusively for Follow Aaron on Twitter @SheaLivesOn.

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