Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew and Dallas' Marion Barber are both young, powerful running backs who averaged a touchdown a game last season despite sharing time with 1,000-yard runners.
They have another thing in common when it comes to fantasy football: Both are likely to be drafted way too early by owners still wide-eyed over TD totals that trailed only LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson.
Jones-Drew and Barber are nice players, but it's a big mistake to blow a high pick on them. Like most running backs who share time, you shouldn't overvalue them because they just can't produce big yardage and touchdowns every week.
Consider the top part-time employees of 2006.
Jones-Drew, a 5-foot-7 back who's like a really fast cement block, scored 11 times in the final eight games. But he only had more than 10 carries in half those games. Half the time he had fewer than 85 total yards. And half the time he was below 50 yards rushing.
Barber only averaged about 10 touches, and in 10 games he was held below 50 yards rushing. Twice he was in the teens. Once he had a 3-yard game. Once he went for minus-1 yard.
Such regular vanishing acts on the yardage front can kill your team, especially from a high pick.
Still, Jones-Drew or Barber will go quickly simply because of their TD totals, or because owners will reach the seemingly logical conclusion that high-scoring part-timers will be rewarded with more work.
But it doesn't look like either back will get significantly more carries, as their new offensive coordinators both said committees will remain.
The Jaguars brought back the ancient Fred Taylor, who ran 65 more times than Jones-Drew last season. They also got back 255-pound bruiser Greg Jones, who had a couple 100-yard games in 2005 but missed last season with injury. He's sure to scrape up a few carries.
In Dallas, Julius Jones is the starter, replaced by Barber on third down and the goal line. Jones had about twice as many carries as Barber while gaining 1,084 yards last year. He's also in a contract year and jazzed to be in an offense free of Bill Parcells' hollering.
Both backs are extremely long shots to score 16 times with so few carries (10 a game for Jones-Drew, 8 1/2 for Barber). It didn't happened in the 20 seasons before last, so a repeat is unlikely.
Given all those concerns, where do you draft the part-timers?
Typically they shouldn't go until the most promising full-timers are off the board. There are about 20 backs who have 20-25 carry potential, so it's possible to snag a pair of them before looking at committees.
Of course, health and other factors could drastically change a time-share, so monitor them closely during camp. If somebody is limping around or projected to miss time, his counterpart becomes more valuable.
For example, LaMont Jordan's value increased when his time-share partner in Oakland, Dominic Rhodes, was suspended for four games. (OK, so his value went from crummy to kind of bad, but you get the point.)
Here's a brief look at some other time-shares to keep an eye on during camp:
- Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister are exceptions to the rule that you wait for the part-timers because the Saints have found a way for them to share time and produce stats. McAllister did most of the running and finished with nearly 1,300 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Bush caught about 90 passes and had about 1,300 yards and eight scores. Both should be in your top 20, with Bush ranked higher on potential and youth.
- The Minnesota backfield is extremely intriguing. Rookie Adrian Peterson could end up a 1,500-yard back, but for now he's sharing with starter Chester Taylor. Both have injury histories so either could wind up the featured back.
- The Giants' enormous duo of Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns will share, with Jacobs probably getting more carries, including all near the goal line. Jacobs could be a solid starter, but Droughns should go much later.
- Atlanta's Jerious Norwood and Warrick Dunn will share, but it isn't clear how many carries each will get. Norwood has more breakaway potential and Dunn's getting old. (This decision's probably pretty low on the Falcons' priority list right now.)
- Starter DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams will share in Carolina, but neither has stayed healthy or hit the end zone much. Only get excited if somebody's the clear winner in camp.
- Tennessee has three backs in the mix: rookie Chris Henry, plump second-year guy LenDale White and one-time starter Chris Brown. Who will come out on top, if anyone, is a mystery. Henry seems to have the most potential.
- Tatum Bell could be the clear starter in Detroit. Unless Kevin Jones returns from injury or T.J. Duckett hogs the goal-line carries.