The NFL backfield approach have changed dramatically over the past two decades. Aside from seeing much more passing nowadays, we are now seeing a backfield “by-committee” commonly used. This type of sharing-the-workload situation can be a fantasy football team killer.
It is foolish to start a quarterback that is not the designated full-time starter unless you are using a Team QB position. Wide receivers, by nature, are treated as committees and can occasionally turn in a very poor performance. But, 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. There are around 40% of the league’s teams that will still use the old-fashioned one-back “workhorse” to shoulder the load. These are the running backs you will want to focus on first. If you draft any of these running backs, do not forget to grab their back-up as a “handcuff” in case of injury.
* Chris Johnson (TENN) – the number 1 pick on average in all standard leagues. CJ has no threat to steal significant carries.
* Adrian Peterson (MINN) – the only other player to consider as top pick. AP will be spelled on occasion by rookie Toby Gerhart, but that will tend to be in late game blowouts.
* Maurice Jones-Drew (JACK) – MoJo proved to be a workhorse last year. He will repeat that activity this year.
* Rashard Mendenhall (PITT) – Mendenhall proved the Steelers were right in drafting him to be their workhorse in 2008. They will run more this year and he will be expected to be the offensive force.
* Steven Jackson (STL) – No one embodies the workhorse definition more than Jackson. His picture is displayed next to the word in Webster’s Dictionary.
* Frank Gore (SF) – The main knock on Gore is that he is injury prone, so make sure you have Glen Coffee should you draft Gore.
* Cedric Benson (CIN) – Benson was a machine in 2009. Due to injury and off-field issues, he is a risk so grab Bernard Scott as your handcuff.
* Ryan Mathews (SD) – The Chargers drafted Mathews to return to the young workhorse back with Sproles handling the scatback duties.
* Ryan Grant (GB) – Grant had his best season in 2009. The team loves to throw the ball, so he should retain the same role. Make sure to grab Brandon Jackson as his backup.
Workhorses with concerns:
* Michael Turner (ATL) – This one is tough. Turner was phenomenal in 2008 but many believe that the workload caused his 2009 injuries. During his time in the infirmary, the Falcons found two competent fill-ins so I would not be shocked to see Turner get spelled early in the season and, if the team is successful, this approach will continue.
* Ray Rice (BAL) – Rice looked like a workhorse back in the second half of last year. However, one needs to be concerned about losing caries, especially around the goal-line since the Ravens still have Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain.
* Carnell Williams (TB) – Cadillac is hard to place in this group, but has to be listed since Derrick Ward was a non-factor in the offense last year. Sadly, the entire offense is a non-factor.
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