It's the ugliest, nastiest four-letter "word" in the fantasy football vernacular. And according to recent reports, it's about to infect a pair of big-name running backs.
In Tampa Bay, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford plans to use multiple runners in his backfield. With Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey and rookie Charles Sims at his disposal, Tedford's plans could become a constant headache for fantasy leaguers in 2014.
"I think you have to alternate," Tedford said, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "... I don't believe that one back can carry the load. It's just too physical. I think you probably need to have two to three guys to bring different things to the table."
The big name affected in the Buccaneers backfield of course, is Martin. A fantasy star in his rookie campaign, he was a disappointment in 2013 due in large part to a shoulder ailment that cost him all but six games. He had experienced major declines across the board before suffering the injury, however, finding the end zone once while averaging fewer than 10 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, the Bucs averaged 144.8 rushing yards per game in the four weeks following Martin's ailment.
The team averaged just 101.2 yards per game in Martin's six starts.
With the threat of a backfield committee that includes a talented rookie in Sims (who Tedford sees as a complete back), Martin is going to come with at least some level of risk in fantasy drafts. In fact, I'd feel more comfortable drafting him as a high-end No. 2 runner than a true No. 1 fantasy option at the position.
I won't say the same about the situation in Seattle and Marshawn Lynch.
On Wednesday night, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said the Seahawks "are going to be running back by committee" next season at a team Town Hall event. While that's a threatening statement to Lynch's fantasy value on the surface, let's dig a little deeper into the situation. The veteran hasn't been present at Seattle's OTAs, while 2013 second-rounder Christine Michael has been impressing the coaching staff.
Maybe Bevell and coach Pete Carroll are simply trying to get Lynch's attention?
Lynch has been the key component of the Seahawks offense over the last three seasons, the last of which resulted in a Super Bowl championship. He has averaged 334 rushing attempts in the past three years, including the playoffs, and has finished no worse than fifth in fantasy points at his position during that time. Due $7.5 million in salary and bonuses heading into the 2015 campaign, this could also be the last season Lynch wears a Seahawks uniform.
That makes Michael someone with value in dynasty and keeper formats, but not a threat to put a major dent into Lynch's touches in 2014 ... despite Bevell's claim. In fact, I still see Lynch as a first-round pick in re-drafts and one of the first eight overall selections across the board. Michael will be worth a late-round choice as a handcuff in re-drafts, assuming he can pass Robert Turbin on the depth chart.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!