Each week during the 2015 season, we're going to take a look at five running-back-by committee (RBBC) situations that you should keep a close eye on. Some will have big questions, while others might be noted due to their circumstances becoming clearer. We'll focus more on the week immediately ahead than down the road.
Also, we're not going to address the Patriots this week, because nobody knows what the hell they'll do with their backs on Thursday night. If you want to start Brandon Bolden or Dion Lewis or James White, you're a braver man than I. Or a crazier one.
And now, in alphabetical order ...
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Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman both struggled with hamstring injuries during training camp, but Coleman played in the third and fourth preseason games, while Freeman stayed on the bench. On Tuesday, the team said that Coleman will start against the Eagles next Monday night. Freeman says he'll play as well, and he's been practicing this week.
I've been a big Coleman booster since he got drafted, and since I own some Coleman fantasy shares, I'm pretty happy. But let's not bury Freeman just yet; if healthy, he'll probably get significant action. Coleman is at RB29 in my rankings, with Freeman at RB35.
The Cowboys, who started a fantasy football geek freakout on Twitter when they acquired Christine Michael over the weekend, will start the season with a committee of Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar (passing downs). However, Fort Worth Star-Telegram beat writer Clarence Hill tweeted this on Wednesday:
Hill clarified his statement by writing that "who goes out first at RB for the Cowboys may not be the same as who gets the most carries." The Randle owners out there can't be happy with this development, but I'll keep him at RB23 with McFadden at RB40 and Dunbar at RB47. McFadden might start, but you need to be good to gain yards, even behind that monstrous offensive line. DMC might be D-O-N-E.
Joique Bell is technically atop the Lions' depth chart, ahead of preseason superstar Ameer Abdullah. Bell is likely to get a decent share of carries along with the red-zone work once he's healthy, but we don't know how healthy he is at this point.
Abdullah is RB27 for me in Week 1, with Bell following at RB34. We all might want Abdullah to take this job and run with it, but it doesn't look like head coach Jim Caldwell shares our sentiments. At least not yet.
Rookie T.J. Yeldon is atop the depth chart for Week 1, but First Coast News reports that Denard Robinson is "expected to see quite a bit of action even if he isn't starting," and adds that Robinson "may be leaned on heavily if Yeldon struggles to get going early on."
The team seems to want Yeldon to be its lead back, but a couple of beat writers have been steadfast in their opinion that Robinson's role will not be a small one. Yeldon is my RB22, with Robinson at RB41 ... and I can't say I'm supremely confident about those rankings.
San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers said during the preseason that his team would use a "running back by committee," and it's impossible for a statement to better fit this weekly feature. However, the suspicion here is that the committee will play out in the form of Melvin Gordon with a sprinkling of Branden Oliver on early downs, and Danny Woodhead when the team is in passing mode.
Translation: Gordon is RB19 for Week 1, with Woodhead at RB38 and Oliver at RB51. Gordon struggled a bit during the preseason, but the Bolts didn't draft him to share early-down work with Oliver.
BONUS TEAM: Tennessee Titans
The Titans put David Cobb on IR when final cuts were made, meaning that Bishop Sankey owners could finally rejoice! For a minute or two, anyway.
The Titans acquired Terrance West from the Browns over the weekend, and then signed Patriots' castoff Jonas Gray. For Week 1, Sankey is probably safe as the lead back, and you can flex him if you own him (he's my RB25). Once West and Gray learn the playbook, this is anyone's game, so the RBBC confusion should commence soon. Too bad none of these guys are very good.