Aside from the word “injury”, there is no other word more feared in fantasy sports than the word “platoon”. It has been much more common in fantasy baseball with Outfielders and Closers for many years, but the offensive approach in the NFL has been evolving for some time. We are now seeing platoon situations commonly used in the NFL backfields. The polite way of describing the use of multiple running backs is “running back by committee”. No matter how you term the approach, Platoon situations can be fantasy football team killers.
We have come to expect starting running backs to produce on a weekly basis, which is why they normally make up 80% of the players drafted in the first two rounds of standard-scoring fantasy football leagues. However, with over half of the league employing a Committee approach to their backfield, it is proving wise to change your drafting strategy. You can now use your first three picks on one of the top quarterbacks and two of the top wide receivers. This leaves plenty of productive running backs to draft from these committees, some of who could be the primary workhorse during the season in the event of an injury.
Teams With RB Committees To Consider
* Detroit Lions – Kevin Smith, Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris. You should target Best as your fourth round pick. There is a good chance that Kevin Smith will see little time after coming off an injury. The Lions have a good opportunity to see if they made the right choice with Best in this year’s draft.
* Carolina Panthers – DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart. Williams will be drafted in the first three rounds. Stewart is a number 1 back in most offenses, but is 1A here and is coming off of a foot injury. Over 1000 yards and double-digit TDs is very nice so grab him if Best is not available.
* Miami Dolphins – Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams. Brown always has great games, but is too injury-prone. Ricky had a fantastic year after Brown went down last year and has plenty left in his legs. Grab either of these, Williams first, should they be available next.
* Arizona Cardinals – Chris Wells, Tim Hightower. The Cardinals will run much more this year with Leinart at the helm. Both running backs are productive and you cannot go wrong with either. Your preference should depend on your scoring system. Wells will get more carries, but Hightower will see more passes floated his way as well as more action around the goal line.
* Cleveland Browns – Montario Hardesty, Jerome Harrison. The Browns will be horrible, but they will continue to run the ball a lot, especially with Jake Delhomme at QB. Harrison had a monster final three games of 2009, but Hardesty seems to be getting drafted in the same location as Harrison (rounds 6-7). Hardesty seems to be the carrier the Browns would like to see succeed, but he is already dinged up. So, I would rank them equally at this point and consider getting both of them if you have the chance.
* Seattle Seahawks – Julius Jones, Justin Forsett, Leon Washington. Jones is way to unreliable and unproductive. Washington is coming off a devastating injury. So, Forsett would be the only back that I would draft. You could steal him in rounds 8-10 and end up with a possible number 1 RB.
Teams With RB Committees To Consider only when finishing your skill positions
* Houston Texans – Steve Slaton, Ben Tate, Ryan Moats, Arian Foster. After butterfingers, lack of production and injuries last year, Slaton should not be considered before the last few rounds. I truly think the rookie, Ben Tate, will be used sparingly and may be the first player drafted from this committee. So, your may strike gold with Arian Foster in low double-digit rounds.
* Oakland Raiders – Darren McFadden, Michael Bush. Both of these guys are only worth a risk in round 10 or later. With a more talented QB running the show, Oakland’s offense may actually score some points. Which RB is the better choice is yet-to-be-determined. I have a slight lean on Michael Bush.
* Washington Redskins – Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, Willie Parker. I don’t think Fast Willie makes the team. With Portis coming off a knee injury, he is a risk and should only be considered around round 10. Larry Johnson may be cooked but is worth a gamble in the later rounds. Hey, someone needs to get the carries in the Nation’s Capital…just who and how successful they will be is a true mystery.