Commitee Meetings backfield categories:
Last season, this 'Committee Meetings' column focused on some of the most headache-inducing committee backfields for fantasy owners to deal with. This season, for the sake of reducing some of those headaches we thought it would be helpful to put all of these committee backfields into categories based on how carries are projected to be split, the various roles each running back plays in their respective situations and the philosophies of different teams when it comes to the all-important run game.
Hopefully you can use this categorization as a guideline to make decisions on whom to start each week, build some bench depth at the running back position, handcuff your starters and uncover some potential waiver-wire targets along the way. As the season evolves, these categories will evolve and be revised depending on how things shape up each week. A look ahead will also be provided to preview upcoming matchups and hone in on some hidden value plays.
Remember that this is not a ranking of fantasy running backs, but more of a reference on how different teams project to utilize their running backs. Be sure to check back for weekly updates that will reflect backfield storylines as they develop over the course of the season.
Three headed monster
Running backs in this category are usually the most frustrating to own in fantasy. Basically, any back can lead the team in fantasy points one week, only to put up a goose egg the following week (See: Gray, Jonas). Usually, there is a standout lead back with the most talent who projects to receive the bulk of the carries, but either the coach believes in "keeping fresh legs on the field" or just decides that it seems like a nice day to get someone else involved. Save for the obvious studs like DeMarco Murray and Mark Ingram, many of the players from this group are nothing more than RB3 options or flex plays in any given week.
DeMarco Murray | Ryan Mathews | Darren Sproles // Eagles
I wanted to put Murray and the Eagles backfield in the "elite" category but because of the other backs who will split work with him, this group had to fall under the "three-headed-monster" class. Murray still projects to get the majority of the workload but Mathews and Sproles will likely spell him more than fantasy owners might like. If you do draft Murray, Mathews is a must-own handcuff, while Sproles should have some value in PPR formats. The other issue here is the unpredictability of coach Chip Kelly. He's slowly advancing through the ranks toward Bill Belichik status in terms of unintentional hate toward fantasy teams across the globe. Just talk to a LeSean McCoy owner from last year to find out.
Mark Ingram | C.J. Spiller | Khiry Robinson // Saints
Following a career year, Ingram projects as the Saints' leader and early-down back in this committee. Despite missing three games due to injury, Ingram nearly eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark last season. The utilization of Spiller as a pass-catcher out of the backfield should help keep defenses off balance. Recent reports project 60 receptions for the former Bills runner, which would make him a must-own in PPR scoring formats. Robinson is probably not worth owning, save for handcuff purposes by Ingram owners in deeper leagues. Keep in mind that the Saints spread 501 backfield touches around just a season ago, and are reportedly moving toward an even more run-based offense, especially with the departure of Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills.
Rashad Jennings | Shane Vereen | Andre Williams // Giants
It will be interesting to see how the Giants utilize their backfield talent. Vereen was a PPR-specialist in New England, but there is potential for that to change in New York. Jennings, the projected leader of this committee (at least on early downs), is also capable of working in on passing plays. Second-year plodder Andre Williams will take a backseat, save for short yardage situations and possibly goal-line chances. The Giants ranked in the top 10 in terms of total backfield touches last season (488), so there should be more than enough to go around.
Chris Ivory | Stevan Ridley | Zac Stacy | Bilal Powell // Jets
Okay, so the Jets techincally have a four-headed monster situation here. Ivory is the best bet to lead this unattractive group of Gang Green backs. Ridley is one to watch in the preseason, as he recovers from an ACL surgery. Although he'll only be 10 months removed from his procedure come September, he may be the most talented back on the team. He could bring some value later in the season, if his recovery goes well. Stacy may get some playing time if Ridley is unable to start right away, while Powell isn't worth owning in any format, even though he could begin training camp as the team's No. 2. But let's not avoid the hard truth here -- nobody wants to own a Jets running back in fantasy.
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. If you're looking to kill some more time, be sure to check out his player rankings and follow him on Twitter for fantasy advice all season long @m_franciscovich.