2012 Fantasy Football: Full RBBC Breakdown and Analysis
The dream in fantasy football is to land two stud running backs to pair with an elite quaretrback and a solid, balanced lineup of wide receivers.
Unfortunately, in today’s game, that dream is quickly dying. Now is the time to take a chance on rookie backs with big roles, or draft sleepers late in the draft in the hopes that you land a guy that gets the ball more than 300 times in a year. That’s no joke, either, as teams are getting more pass-happy and are less willing to tie their fortunes to a one-man wrecking ball in the form of their rushing offense.
Just take a look at 2011, when just two running backs in the entire league topped 300 carries. It might not always be that way, but we have to start preparing based off of the numbers and strategies the league throws at us. With this in mind, here’s a look at all of the major Running Back By Committee‘s in the league, and which guy in those group likely carries the most value:
New England Patriots – Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Joseph Addai
Ideally, you’re just going to stay away from New England’s back-field. No one had a clue who to take last year, and that confidence never really changed. BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored 11 touchdowns, which was great, but he was wildly inconsistent in the yardage department (667 rushing yards), and had a non-existent role in the passing game.
Needless to say, if he didn’t score a touchdown, he wasn’t worth the play in most weeks.
He’s gone to Cincy now, though, so it’s anyone’s guess who emerges from the league’s most crowded back-field. Stevan Ridley sits atop most depth charts for the moment, so you’d have to give him the early lead. After all, of the four top backs in New England, he arguably has the best combination of size, speed, and versatility.
Vereen and Woodhead are probably more explosive and more experienced receivers, while Addai holds the most experience of anyone in their back-field. However, Addai has a history of injuries and is aging, so he’s not even a lock to make the team.
In an ideal world, Ridley is the starter and goal-line option, with Vereen picking up the slack on third downs and operating as a change of pace runner. Woodhead would then rotate with Vereen and help on third downs and obvious passing situations.
I’ll rank them as Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead and Addai for now. Vereen did battle the injury bug in his rookie season last year, though, so keep an eye on his health. If he’s shaky entering 2012, Woodhead could have a lot more value very quickly.
Detroit Lions – Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith and Mikel Leshoure
Detroit’s back-field is such a mess. I actually like a lot of things about each of their. Best is versatile and explosive, Smith is a bruising runner with underrated agility, and Leshoure is a complete back with a nice blend of speed and power. Unfortunately, all three of them come baring injuries.
Leshoure even has off-field drama, which could mean a potential suspension – and that’s if he’s even healthy enough to serve it.
But back to Best, who would be the clear starter if he didn’t have foot and head injuries bog him down through his first two seasons. There’s no doubt you have to be concerned about Best’s health, but this guy is turning out to being a major sleeper for 2012. He’s been a full participant lately, so it’s clear he’s back to full health. If it stays that way, the explosive guy that we saw glimpses of the last two years could finally take off.
Smith was great when healthy in 2011, but that was pretty much for one game, while Leshoure hasn’t played an NFL down yet. Obviously you have to rank them as Best, Smith and Leshoure for the moment, but as long as he’s healthy I’ll gladly take Leshoure over Smith in drafts due to his potential.
This will likely be a bit of a three-headed horse of a back-field no matter what, as the Lions are kind of modeling their offense after what the New Orleans Saints do, but Best still has high RB2 potential in the early going if he’s healthy.
Indianapolis Colts – Donald Brown, Delone Carter and Vick Ballard
It sure would make life easier on Andrew Luck if he walked into his rookie season with a healthy, consistent running game. I’m just not sold that’s what he’s getting with Brown, Carter and Ballard.
Brown can be explosive, but has struggled with inconsistency through his first two seasons, and I don’t buy him just yet as an every down back. The Colts probably don’t either, which is why you’ll see a solid dose of second-year man Carter, as well. Ballard figures into the mix to a certain degree and could be a bit of a sleeper if both Brown and Carter absolutely bomb, but I don’t think that happens. I think it’s something in the middle.
Brown still isn’t a reliable receiver and he can’t run effectively in between the tackles, so I’m shying away from him in drafts. Obviously if he’s the starter and I’m not drafting him, I really can’t vouch for Carter or Ballard, either.
I’m ranking them Brown, Carter and Ballard as a far down number three. But none of these guys should be relied upon for serious fantasy production this year.
Washington Redskins – Tim Hightower, Roy Helu and Evan Royster
I have no idea what to expect out of Washington’s ground game this year. I just known that all three of these guys carry potential, and none are bonafide safe options as long as Mike Shanahan is around.
Hightower was above average as the starter in 2011 before tearing his acl, and while his return could spell death for Helu or Royster, I think he’s more of a third down and goal-line guy with a less than 100% knee. Royster ended the year with two straight 110+ yard games, so he’s more in the mix for early work than you’d think. Helu, on the other hand, is your all-purpose back who can do it all and has nice potential. I just don’t know if Shanny and co. have bought into him yet.
As it stands, Helu appears to hold the most value, while Roster has the least talent overall. I’d rank them Helu, Hightower and Roster, but you really need to monitor Royster. He clearly can be productive, and is probably the toughest and strongest of the three.
New Orleans Saints – Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Chris Ivory
Darren Sproles wasn’t even the true number one back in this system, yet he was far and away the guy out of the Saints’ back-field you’d want to be using in 2011. I really don’t see a change going into 2012.
Ivory is dead last in this platoon, while Ingram has knee issues and was fairly under-whelming as a rook. That means, at best, you’ll see Ingram battle Thomas for early down work, and Sproles will still see the ball in several ways – rushing, catching, and probably still on returns.
I’d rank them Sproles, Thomas, Ingram, Ivory as it stands, although a healthy Ingram should trump Thomas eventually.