Running Back Committees To Avoid In 2017

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Running back committees are essentially the kiss of death for fantasy production. The unpredictability of who gets touches when is enough to drive an owner to a hair-pulling hissy fit. And that's just for the teams we can even identify as even having a committee in the first place. Considering that we haven't hit the preseason yet, there are only so many of these situations we can point to and say you should definitively avoid them. Nevertheless, some teams look to be flat out nightmares at the running back position.

For the purposes of this piece we'll be defining a committee as a team that has at least two backs who are poised to see considerable playing time. It's a simple definition but one that's worth repeating. As an example, we can't really claim that the Green Bay Packers are a committee despite drafting three rookies at the position because Ty Montgomery is still the presumed starter. There is currently no reason to believe that anyone else is due to get significant run.

Now, let's look at the teams with full-blown committees that fantasy owners should consider off-limits on draft day.

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Running Back Committees to Avoid

New York Jets

The combo of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell has created a head-scratcher in New York. Both backs were able to produce to some extent in 2016 and had similar numbers to boot. Forte clocked in at 813 yards and seven touchdowns compared to Powell's line of 722 yards and three TD. Forte had significantly more attempts, however, skewing the efficiency a bit. Looking ahead, there's been a ton of talk about Powell overtaking Forte as the starter, leading some rankers to pencil Powell in as an RB2. Meanwhile, there's also some reports out there that suggest the offense will run through Forte. Fantasy owners have a tendency to have knee-jerk reactions to this sort of thing, forcing themselves to one side or the other.

This has all the makings of a genuine committee. You have the grizzled veteran who keeps proving people wrong and the (slightly) younger, trendy fantasy name. Rather than committing to a firm stance of being a "Forte guy" or a "Powell guy," you're better off calling this situation what it is. It's an unknown. At best, one of the two backs gets the bulk of the workload. That would mean you'd have to actually figure out which one it is first. At worst, this is an even split that cuts both them off at the hip. The most likely possibility is the latter. We're also talking about a Jets team that is going to be flat out bad anyway. Do you really want your RB2 to hinge on the possibility that you're able to guess which running back a terrible offense is going to commit to? You'd be much wiser taking someone like Ty Montgomery or Frank Gore, players who you at least know are going to start at the top of the depth chart.

Baltimore Ravens

I'm bound to offend the Terrance West defenders out there so I might as well go all-in on my criticisms. Terrance West has been in the league for four seasons and has only played all 16 games once, missing 26 in the process.  Those 26 missed games coincidentally line up with his ripe age of 26, but he's also failed to produce a significant fantasy year. The only reason he even got significant playing time to begin with was because both Lorenzo Taliaferro and Javorius Allen missed significant time. To be fair, 2016 was indeed his best year at 774 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Even with that in mind, he's not someone to be considered a lead back no matter what the situation is. And speaking of situations, West isn't in a good one to begin with.

The dual presence of Taliaferro and Allen is bad enough but to make matters worse the Ravens added Danny Woodhead during the off-season. Woodhead possesses strong PPR value provided he's able to stay healthy at 32 years of age. He's coming off of a torn ACL in 2016 and missed all of 2014 with a broken leg. Health is a genuine concern for the elder 5' 8" running back. Woodhead is a pass-catcher who should only be targeted as a flex in PPR formats. Beyond that, the Ravens are another team whose backfield offers more headaches than necessary.

New Orleans Saints

Another offseason, another raving review of how good Adrian Peterson looks. Admittedly, this is a whole different narrative now that Peterson is on a brand new team in New Orleans. His new teammates are talking him up like the second coming. What you don't hear much about, though, is that he too is 32 with two major knee surgeries to boot. By the way, the Saints still have Mark Ingram. The team also added intriguing rookie Alvin Kamara via the draft. Yikes.

Some expect Peterson to waltz right in and steal the starting gig away from the incumbent Mark Ingram, with Kamara taking a back seat in his rookie year. The more likely scenario is a three-headed monster approach at running back. We've seen the Saints do this plenty of times before. They like to rotate backs at will. In fact, they actually did it as recently as last year with Ingram and Tim Hightower. Expecting such a drastic change in philosophy is pretty unfounded.

If you want one last bit of assurance as to why this backfield is better off ignored, just think about how many football fans you know who are Adrian Peterson diehards. There is bound to be someone in your league who is infatuated with Peterson enough to where they'll reach for him. Maybe you're that person, and to that I say more power to you. For as good as Peterson can be this year, you're going to have use a decently high pick to get him. Mark Ingram is no slouch, he's going to have a legitimate role in the offense. Kamara may be a rookie but he's bound to be a factor in the passing game. Barring a brand new offensive approach, the Saints will continue to rotate multiple backs, limiting everyone involved.

 

Honorable Mentions

New England Patriots

As a surprise to no one, the Patriots have once again hoarded a plethora of weapons heading into the new season. They've added running backs Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead to go along with the likes of Dion Lewis and James White. It might seem like this is a disaster waiting to happen but each player's individual value is low enough where you don't need to "avoid" the situation. Gillislee has the most intrigue as he's shown he can produce while complimenting LeSean McCoy in Buffalo. He's the safe bet to lead the team in carries while Rex Burkhead and James White see action in the receiving game. Dion Lewis will likely be the odd man out and a candidate for an off-season release. It's murky for sure, but it could definitely be worse.

Denver Broncos

There seems to be a common misconception that the Broncos are entering 2017 with a committee approach. People forget that C.J. Anderson was actually having a decent year prior to getting hurt last season. He was on pace to crack 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns, good enough to net him high-end RB2 value. Considering Anderson's track record of inconsistency, the presence of Devontae Booker is a tad threatening. Add in the signing of Jamaal Charles and some folks are running for the hills. Booker is still very much an Anderson handcuff while Charles is a Hail Mary signing for Denver. Charles has had significant ACL problems the last two years and is already 30 years old. This is closer to a situation of uncertainty rather than a committee. C.J. Anderson is on track to be undervalued with Jamaal Charles as the deepest of deep fliers.