Running back committees are the worst. We can all agree on that, right? You go into the season drafting a guy that you’re expecting to get 300+ touches in a year, and it becomes evident early on that he will in fact be splitting touches with that fourth-round rookie. Rather than getting 25 touches in a game, he’s getting between 12-18. That’s an ok number, but it could be a whole lot better.
Now, if you draft a guy out of a committee, you can still get value from him as long as you have your expectations set appropriately. That’s what we’re going to try and target today. These are the guys who are in committees that you can still put in your starting lineups with confidence and expect they'll put up a safe amount of points every week. They aren’t likely to get you RB1 numbers, but they can get you RB2 numbers without much trouble.
A committee that still presents value isn’t the most common, but you can still find them if you go looking for them. I wouldn’t advocate for you to make any of these guys your top running backs because there will be weeks where they get scripted out of the game because of score or the other back getting hot. However, having them as your second or third guy is a great option.
San Francisco 49ers
I think we all knew this one was coming. Last year, the 49ers were the second-best running offense in the NFL, and they had three running backs who could have been the lead guy on any given week. That doesn’t factor in running back Jerick McKinnon, who has seen his first two seasons in San Francisco cut short before they ever got started. Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman, and Raheem Mostert each shouldered workloads as the lead backs last season.
Breida is gone, but McKinnon is expected to be healthy. The value that is presented in this backfield is immense. Mostert will likely be the lead guy from the outset, especially after he was given a restructured contract this offseason. He still makes less than the other two guys, but he’s coming off a postseason that saw him put up some healthy totals. I’ve got him ranked in my top-24 running backs as a result.
When the 49ers chose to give one of their running backs at least 10 carries, those guys were producing. This scheme hasn’t changed, and they added Trent Williams this offseason to man the left tackle spot that was vacated by longtime starter Joe Staley. Because they’re in a committee, you can get each of Mostert, Coleman, and McKinnon at severely discounted ADPs. This is a backfield with a lot of value to be had.
This backfield is one that I expect to evolve throughout the season. Incumbents Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines figure to have well-defined roles early on, but rookie Jonathan Taylor appears poised to be the late-season guy that you’ll be wanting to own. Mack was at his best when the team let him get rolling early in the game. Now, with an improved defense, he should have more late-game opportunities to put up points.
With quarterback Philip Rivers under center, this offense will have a much different feel from last year. With that, you can expect a much better season from running back Nyheim Hines. Hines has registered 107 receptions through two years, which is just 30 fewer catches than he has carries. He’s not going to be Austin Ekeler 2.0, but he does have the ability to put in an RB3 season through the volume of his receptions.
The final piece of this puzzle is Taylor. Right now, Taylor is coming off the board as RB20 compared to RB38 for Mack. I love Taylor as much as the next guy, but I can’t be really be drafting the guy that’s going to be the backup to start the year that early. If you are ok with him failing to return on investment for the first month or so of the season, grab him because he will bring that value later in the year and could help you possibly win your league.
The NFL’s best rushing offense from last season should be the top unit again in 2020. Quarterback Lamar Jackson makes it impossible to defend him in traditional ways, and that’s why they’re so successful. Behind Jackson, Mark Ingram had a great year en route to an RB11 finish. They added rookie running back J.K. Dobbins in the draft and this stable is absolutely terrifying for opponents.
With Ingram, you’re getting a guy that has seen a career resurgence in the last four years. Excluding the 2018 season where he dealt with some injuries and a suspension, he’s gone over 1000 yards in each season, and he’s scored 44 touchdowns in that time span. The threat of Lamar’s running ability forces teams to dedicate fewer resources to him, and that’s going to remain this year. However, if you’re drafting Ingram to be an RB1 again, you’re a little high on him. I will say that one thing I love about Ingram is his efficiency. From the first half of the season to the second half, his scoring line was nearly identical. You just can’t argue with that. His ceiling isn’t the highest, but his floor is damn good.
Who should you be rostering after Ingram? It’s Dobbins. The second-round pick was arguably the best running back in the draft this year, and he’s already been hyped up this offseason by coaches and players. Dobbins brings the aspect of receiving to this team, but he’s also a great runner, which is how he’s able to take over the Justice Hill role. Dobbins averaged 6.2 yards per carry during his time at Ohio State, and he can show that efficiency again.
If you’re looking for a third running back to roster in this backfield, I would go with Gus Edwards. Edwards doesn’t bring much in the running game, but he’s extremely efficient at running the ball. He’s averaging 5.3 yards per carry, which is an extremely impressive mark. If either Dobbins or Ingram goes down with an injury, he would instantly move up the depth chart.
Committees can reap havoc on your fantasy team if you’re expecting to draft an elite talent that sees his value diminished due to an insurance back. However, if you plan for it, you can build your roster with this committee member as your third running back with upside if he’s able to emerge. Don’t be afraid of committees. Just know how to manage them appropriately.
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