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Committee Meetings: Crowell, Bell Week 1 starters

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In the latest episode of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast the gang previewed Thursday night's NFL season opener between the Patriots and Steelers and reacted to the rash of roster moves from over the weekend. They also answered some of your burning fantasy questions via the mailbag. Don't forget to subscribe and listen in HERE!

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It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Optimisim surrounding fantasy rosters is at an all time high. This is your year to win it all! Now, don't get ahead of yourself. The draft is only half the battle.

If you drafted a running back on a team that uses a running back by committee backfield, well you've come to the right place. Every week in Committee Meetings, I break down some of the most headache-inducing backfields and sift through the depth charts and whispers to try and hone in on which backs will bring you the most fantasy value. So while there is some good and some bad, it's all worth your while if you're planning on winning your league. Get to it!

 

Crowell gets boost with West's departure


Isaiah Crowell | Duke Johnson // Browns
On Thursday, Browns coach Mike Pettine said that Isaiah Crowell had the edge as the team's starting running back over Terrance West. On Sunday, the Browns traded West to the Titans and in turn, Crowell's fantasy value went from week-to-week FLEX play to borderline RB2 behind a solid Cleveland offensive line. The big question here is, how will rookie Duke Johnson work into the mix? Johnson is reportedly still in concussion protocol and Crowell is "the only health running back" on the Browns roster, which is a scary thought. But for fantasy owners who took a chance on Crowell, their risk-taking has seemingly paid off. Just be wary of a Week 1 matchup against a stingy Jets run defense before you consider locking him into your lineup.

 

Bell listed as Lions No. 1 back


Joique Bell | Theo Riddick | Ameer Abdullah | Zach Zenner // Lions
After not playing a single snap the entire preseason, Joique Bell has been listed as the Lions' starting running back. While it makes sense since Detroit has stood strong on the fact that Bell was their lead back all season, it bursts fantasy fans' Ameer Abdullah bubble a bit. But the rookie runner should still have a role on passing downs even though he is listed as the third back behind Theo Riddick. Abdullah also brings the homerun potential which isn't something you can depend on, but could make him a great DFS play. Like we've been saying all along if Abdullah outshines Bell early on, he will likely take over as the lead back in no time. But as far as Week 1 is concerned, Bell seems to be the high-volume play against San Diego and is the favorite for short-yardage and goal-line work.

 

Christine Michael further clouds DAL backfield


Joseph Randle | Darren McFadden | Lance Dunbar | Christine Michael // Cowboys
When the Seahawks traded former second-round draft pick Christine Michael to the Cowboys over the weekend, the Dallas backfield became even more of a question mark than it already was for fantasy purposes. Although Joseph Randle has been "penciled in" as the team's starting running back for Week 1 and has been the favorite to be the lead back throughout the offseason, the presence of Darren McFadden and now Michael clouds the situation. Will Michael eventually usurp the lead role from Randle? Or will this just become a three-headed monster type of committee? It's clear that Michael has the talent to take over, but during his time in Seattle, he had been "unable to master the fundamentals" of what it takes to be a featured back. For now, Michael is nothing more than a speculative add in deeper formats, while Randle remains a viable FLEX play in Week 1 against the Giants. With McFadden's history of injury, Michael may find himself in a more substantial role sooner rather than later. It's a situation to keep close tabs on as the season gets underway.

 

Confidence in Sankey tumbles


Bishop Sankey | Terrance West | Antonio Andrews | Dexter McCluster // Titans
Tennessee is making moves to bolster its depth at running back with rookie David Cobb on IR/designated to return with a calf injury. Terrance West, formerly of the Browns, was acquired by the Titans for a conditional seventh round pick in the 2016 draft. There have also been reports that the team is working out Jonas Gray (who was cut by the Patriots) early this week. While West and Gray (if added) will need to learn the offense, neither are likely to make an immediate impact in Week 1 against Tampa Bay, leaving Sankey the favorite for the lead role for the season opener. But with the Titans so active in the running back hunt, it makes one wonder just how confident the coaching staff is in Sankey to lead the pack.

 
Every game, all season

Dion Lewis Week 1 sleeper candidate


Dion Lewis | Brandon Bolden | James White | Travaris Cadet | *LeGarrette Blount // Patriots
With the departure of Jonas Gray (cut by the Patriots over the weekend) and the suspension of LeGarrette Blount in Week 1, one name stands out as a potential sleeper in the New England backfield for the season opener. Fantasy owners should be looking for none other than Dion Lewis on the waiver wire. He's pretty much locked in as the team's passing-down specialist so he brings more value to the table in PPR formats. I even tabbed Lewis on a recent episode of the Fantasy LIVE podcast as a deeper waiver-wire add for those looking for some running back depth. Now that Gray is out of the picture Lewis seems like even more of a solid FLEX play against the Steelers on Thursday night.

 

Chargers backfield a RBBC?


Melvin Gordon | Danny Woodhead | Branden Oliver | Donald Brown // Chargers
Just when we thought we had a good thing in Melvin Gordon as a feature back in San Diego, quarterback Philip Rivers proclaimed that the Chargers' backfield a "running back by committee crew." Rivers added that "We're going to need all of them to carry the load in the run game and to catch the ball out of the backfield." This puts a bit of a damper on things for fantasy owners who paid for Gordon at his hype-inflated Round 4-to-5 ADP earlier in the preseason. But don't fret too much about the committee situation here. Back in 2013 with San Diego, Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead both finished as top 20 fantasy running backs. Mathews had a career year with 1,444 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns while Woodhead racked up 1,034 scrimmage yards and eight total touchdowns. Point is, it is possible for several members of a committee backfield to bring viable fantasy value to owners. So while Gordon's volume may not be what you thought it was when you drafted him, he should still be able to produce as a top-20 running back. Just be careful when considering him as a starter on your fantasy squad in Week 1 against a Lions defense that allowed less than 1,000 yards and just seven rushing touchdowns to running backs last season. As the primary passing-down back, Woodhead may be the better option.

 

Rams RBs not ideal for Week 1


Tre Mason | Benny Cunningham | Todd Gurley // Rams
While Todd Gurley has been ruled out for Week 1, Tre Mason is apparently a game-time decision as he recovers from a hamstring injury. That leaves backup Benny Cunningham as the next man up in the St. Louis backfield. But if you're pondering starting either Mason if healthy or Cunningham in Week 1, ponder no further. The Rams matchup against the Seahawks, whose defense surrendered the third fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs in 2014.


Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. His nickname around the NFL Media office is Franchise, and he's totally cool with it. Follow him on Twitter for fantasy advice all season long @m_franciscovich.

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