The summer is over, and it’s never easy to say goodbye to the warm weather, the hot sun, and the longer days. But with the start of another beautiful season – football season – underway last week, the sting hurts just a little less. One area of concern for every Fantasy Football player every year is the dreaded Running Back By Committee (RBBC) approach employed by more than a couple of teams across the league. In this weekly column, we’ll be taking a look at those teams and their personnel to determine who among each cadre is worth a pick-up, hold, or drop. It’ll be hard to chart trends after just one game, but the data available will be used to make the best educated guesses for the coming week, or weeks to come. Let’s get to it!
New England Patriots
Trending Up: Dion Lewis (15 carries, 69 yards; 4 rec., 51 yards)
Hold: LeGarrette Blount (DNP, Suspended)
Trending Down: James White (1 snap)
Well, it’d be no surprise if Belichick decides to keep everyone guessing all season by rotating his corps of backs depending on the game situation. What we learned was that Dion Lewis is a competent, shifty player who is equally capable of playing every down. He showed some really nice moves, and will be a factor in the coming weeks. That’s why he’s trending up, and will be a priority waiver add if he hasn’t already been scooped up in your league. Week 2 will see the return of LeGarrette Blount from his suspension, which is why he’s a hold (we haven’t seen him in action yet). The Bills will play host to the Pats, which should be a tough day for whichever RB gets the most touches, if there is a “most” to be had. The Patriots are the standard-bearers for the RBBC, and it’ll be interesting to see how things play out in Week 2.
Trending Down: Alfred Blue (9 carries, 42 yards; 1 rec., 7 yards)
Trending Down: Jonathan Grimes (6 carries, 28 yards; 1 rec., 2 yards)
Trending Down: Chris Polk (5 carries, 22 yards; 1 rec., 9 yards)
The downward trend is because of Arian Foster. Yes, it looks like Foster will miss another week as he recovers from his horrendous injury, but this is one of the most uninspiring backfields in the NFL. The workload was pretty close to even, as was the snap count, and the “production” was equally lackluster. This was yeoman’s work from start to finish from a platoon of also-rans; it’s hard to trust them even as true value plays in DFS. The Chiefs defense is formidable, and the crew admittedly had to deal with quarterback play from the likes of Brian Hoyer, and when he was deemed too ineffective, Ryan Mallett. It seems the best bet is avoid this mess until Arian Foster is healthy enough to suit up, which could be as soon as Week 3.
Hold: Isaiah Crowell (12 carries 20 yards; 2 rec., 13 yards)
Hold: Duke Johnson (7 carries, 22 yards)
This was a tough one to glean much from; starting QB Josh McCown was lost early in the first half to a helicopter spin that would’ve made Petey Pablo proud, and Johnny Manziel took the reins from there. The Browns did put ten up in the second quarter, but that was as far as the offense went. Crowell played 35 snaps (49 percent) while rookie Duke Johnson was in on 31 (44 percent) offensive plays. Because their output was equally miserable, it’s hard to make any long-term determinations at this time. If I had to pick, I’d go with Johnson because of the negative perceptions around Crowell all through camp, and what I assume is a very short leash affixed to him. Don’t rule out Robert Turbin being a factor once healthy after Week 7 or 8.
Trending Up: Chris Ivory (21 carries, 90 yards, two TDs; 1 rec. 9 yards)
Hold: Bilal Powell (12 carries, 62 yards; 2 rec., 16 yards)
Now this was the Jets ground-and-pound offense we’ve come to expect under Rex Ryan… wait, Rex Ryan is gone. I suppose Todd Bowles is picking up right where Rex left off thanks to the personnel still wearing green, including a formidable front five and two capable backs. The offensive line of the Jets was dominant for almost the entire afternoon, and while the snap count shows Ivory (32 of 61 snaps, 51 percent) and Powell (29 of 61, 48 percent) were close to equal, that’s a little misleading. Half of Powell’s carries came after Ivory sealed the game with his second touchdown of the day with 10:38 remaining. He was the iceman down the stretch, as the Jets bled the clock and looked forward to Week 2. If there’s a guy to grab, it’s Ivory. He looked elusive, had some pep in his step, and there are few guys in the NFL who produce more yardage after initial contact. If you drafted Ivory in the fifth or sixth round, you’ve got to be feeling pretty good about getting what appears today to be a very high-end RB2.
Trending Down: Andre Ellington (12 carries, 69 yards, one TD; 1 rec., 9 yards)
Hold: Chris Johnson (10 carries, 37 yards)
Trending Up: David Johnson (1 rec., 55 yards, one TD)
With Ellington now out for what looks like two or three weeks with a PCL injury, the Johnsons will be manning the fort in his absence. It’s a shame, too, because before he went down, Ellington was playing very well, and kept the defense off balance for much of the game. Coach Bruce Arians has said that Chris will be the “lead dog” in Ellington’s absence, but I still think D.J. is the better pickup. We know the former Titan and Jet has lost some zip on his fastball since his Pro Bowl years, so the upside just isn’t there even if the opportunity may be his for now. The next two opponents for the Cardinals are the Bears and the 49ers, and Ellington should be absent for each. While David Johnson only had one touch on Sunday, it was a reception to the right of the hash marks in the flat that he took 55 yards for a touchdown. The speed and power he can run with makes him worth a speculative pickup for all Ellington owners, and even for those who don’t own Ellington but want to take a shot on a player with tremendous immediate and long-term potential.
San Diego Chargers
Hold: Melvin Gordon (14 carries, 51 yards; 3 rec., 16 yards)
Trending Up: Danny Woodhead (12 carries, 42 yards, two TDs; 4 rec., 20 yards)
There were more than a few surprises in the Lions vs. Chargers game. Philip Rivers threw for 404 yards, Keenan Allen finished with 15 receptions (on 17 targets) for 166 yards, and the 30-year-old undrafted free agent out of Chadron State, Danny Woodhead, punched in two scores for the Bolts. Melvin Gordon got most of the publicity heading into the season because of his pedigree and what many thought would be a clear path to lead back duties. After one game, it would appear that’s not entirely the case. Woodhead out-snapped Gordon 43 plays to 37, and it didn’t have anything to do with Gordon’s fumble mid-way through the third quarter. Woodhead looked great in his first game action in nearly a year (357 days, but hey), and perhaps looked his best on his first score of the day:
If he wasn’t stashed in your league (51 percent ownership on Yahoo!), expect Woodhead to be right up there among the top three adds. I still like Gordon a lot and think he maintains a major role in Frank Reich’s offense, but Woodhead is a sneaky good flex play in standard leagues, and could be a borderline RB2 in PPR formats by year’s end.
Trending Up: Ronnie Hillman (12 carries, 41 yards)
Hold: C.J. Anderson (12 carries, 29 yards; 4 rec., 19 yards)
The Ravens and Broncos played one of the least inspiring games of offensive football in recent memory on Sunday, but that was due in large part to the sheer excellence on the defensive side for both squads. Peyton Manning finished the day 24 of 40 for just 175 yards. He also took four sacks on the day, and the only touchdown the Broncos scored was by Denver safety, Aqib Talib. It wasn’t pretty for the Broncos offense, and it was especially concerning for those among us who selected C.J. Anderson in the first round, or paid fine auction dollars for his services. Luckily, the toe injury he was dealing with looks to be less than serious, so he’ll be suiting up for Week 2. I have high hopes for C.J. Anderson this year, and believe he will have a chance to be the workhorse he was last season. Keep an eye on Ronnie Hillman as a change of pace guy with a very definite ceiling (he played just 17 snaps to Anderson’s 57), but I’m confident Anderson takes control of the backfield. That’s exactly what the Broncos are going to need if Peyton’s only going to muster 175 yards a contest.
Joe Lombardi’s first game with the Lions was a weird one. The Lions rushed the ball just 16 times, and rookie Ameer Abdullah delivered a 7-50-1 line. His score came on his first touch of the day/his career, a 25-yard scamper to paydirt. We’ll have to keep an eye on how Week 2 goes before making any determinations on their committee approach, and whether or not Zach Zenner, the pre-season phenom, makes any real impact. In the meantime, Abdullah looks like the real deal, and if he keeps producing, we may be saying so long to the Joique Bell experience in Rock City. … The Bills had perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend in their upset victory of Super Bowl contenders, the Indianapolis Colts. LeSean McCoy secured 20 touches in the win, and looked good. He had one score called back because of a penalty, and started a bit slow, but it seems clear that he’ll get his touches in Rex Ryan’s plan of attack. The two players in that backfield who bear watching are rookie Karlos Williams, and, surprise (!) Tyrod Taylor. Williams scored on a nice run; he bounced outside after getting stuffed at the line and finished with 55 yards on the afternoon. Taylor was an efficient 14 of 19 for 195 yards and a score, plus nine carries for 41 yards on the ground. He’s an interesting pickup in two-QB leagues and dynasty formats, though I wouldn’t rush out and grab him as a backup in standard lineup leagues just yet. … It was basically the Bishop Sankey show for Tennessee on Sunday (12 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown; two receptions for 12 yards and a score), though Terrance West amassed 13 carries for his new team. Those were garbage-time touches, and I don’t expect Sankey to relinquish any carries in Week 2. We’ll see how Dexter McCluster factors in as well in a more, shall we say, traditionally competitive game for the Titans. … On Monday night, boy was DeMarco Murray’s debut a stinker. He finished with 20 yards on 12 touches (8 rushing, 4 receiving) but was saved by the fact that he scored twice. I think he’ll have his opportunities to score, but it has to be a concern that Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles produced as they did. Mathews tallied a key red zone carry that resulted in a score. He only rushed three times for four yards, and caught three of four targets (24 yards), but is a very high-end handcuff should Murray miss a game or two. Sproles, however, was as dangerous as ever. He totaled 126 yards on the evening via five rushes for 50 yards, and seven receptions (on nine targets) for 76 yards. Be wary of his usage, though: He had a similarly bananas Week 1 last year, but Chip Kelly sort of tucked away his pretty little pet after that, and the rest of his year was pedestrian. I guess what I’m saying is, try to trade Sproles for Dez Bryant right now, and tweet me a thank you note later when the other owner agrees. … In the same game, rookie Tevin Coleman looked like the better running back for the Falcons, and it really wasn’t close. Coleman ran 20 times for 80 yards (4.0 YPC) while Devonta Freeman toted the oblong rock 10 times for 18 yards (1.8 YPC). Freeman did deliver 29 yards via three receptions, but it’s clear, at least for now, that this is Coleman’s show. He’ll be a decent RB3 option for Week 2 against the NY Disappointments, while Freeman is no better than a RB4/5, and should not be started.