Friends, I speak to you now at our darkest hour.
The football world is about to experience a season that could change fantasy football life as we know it.
I, of course, am talking about all the freaking teams with two or more starting running backs who will compete for time in 2010.
The situation is almost as ridiculous as me channeling an end-of-times movie narrator. Almost. We’re going to survive this. We’re going to have fantasy football. We will endure a great storm this season. But I also come to you now with hope, with a bright light glimmering in the distance
This running-back-by-committee mess we are entrenched in started with Chris Johnson‘s arrival in Tennessee in 2008. Yes, the Panthers did the same thing that year, but Jonathan Stewart‘s injuries made sure they were a follower not a leader.
I also am not making an outlandish claim that the Titans are the first team to do the thunder-and-lightning thing — Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn were doing it in the late-90s and they were not the first either.
However, our current disaster I blame on the Jeff Fisher-led tandem. Their success in 2008 — LenDale White and Johnson combined for 2,277 yards from scrimmage, 25 total TDs and only two fumbles all season — was only as impressive as the team’s success.
In 2008, the Titans were 13-3, AFC South champs, won their first 10 games and 12 of their first 13. Smash-and-Dash, as the Titans backs called themselves, worked. And it was awesome.
It worked for the Panthers, too. And it actually made for some fantastic fantasy performances.
Using multiple backs reduces injury and allows for better specialization (passing situation, change of pace, power formations), but not every team has a duo like the Titans or the Panthers did in 2008. In fact, many teams don’t have one back as good as all four of those backs were in 2008.
It’s 2010, and we’re all in trouble
Now, following the 2010 NFL Draft, every team seems to have two or three backs. We’ve got months before the fantasy football preseason so I’m not going to list every team with multiple backs here, just some new cases:
- Many fantasy owners thought Justin Forsett had some serious fantasy value this season. Then Pete Carroll went out and traded for LenDale White AND Leon Washington. So, now it’ll be Washington, White and occasionally some Forsett in Seattle.
- While the Bills are trying to shop Marshawn Lynch — after picking C.J. Spiller in the first round on Thursday — they haven’t got, and are not likely to get, serious offers. They could easily be stuck with Spiller, Fred Jackson and Lynch at the start of the season.
- On the surface, the Chiefs selection of Dexter McCluster seems harmless. McCluster is a fast, third-down, change-of-pace type player. But the Chiefs had already signed Thomas Jones, presumably to be a goal-line back, and have 2009 breakout star Jamaal Charles ready to take a swing at a full season as the starter.
- When Chester Taylor signed with the Bears, Adrian Peterson owners had to be downright jubilant. Taylor’s too good to keep off the field. New backup Albert Young is not. But then the Vikings picked Toby Gerhart. As Guest pointed out in the comments of our 2010 NFL Draft Fantasy Liveblog, Gerhart doesn’t have chronic fumblitis so he could hoard short-yardage and goal-line carries from AP.
I could go on (Montario Hardesty to the Browns) and on (Joe McKnight to the Jets) and on (Jonathan Dwyer to the Steelers).
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that in 2010 there will be a glut of fantasy-relevant running backs to pick. However, few of them will be consistently helpful and even fewer will be great.
Dark days indeed
There is hope, however. And, ironically, that hope comes from the very team that I’m blaming for this mess.
Hope springs from darkness
It was announced yesterday, that the now LenDale White-less Titans are going to roll with Javon Ringer as the primary backup to Johnson.
Ringer and Johnson are the same player. Well, Ringer’s no Chris Johnson, but you get what I mean. Ringer is two inches shorter and five pounds heavier than Johnson (5-11, 200), but that doesn’t make him a power back by any measure.
Last season, the Titans — and Chris Johnson in particular — proved they don’t need LenDale White’s “Smash” to produce massive yardage on the ground. “Dash” had 2,000 yards on the ground and more than 2,500 from scrimmage while scoring 16 total TDs.
They expect Ringer to be able to step in to the system and produce, maybe not with the same awesome as Chris Johnson, but with enough good to keep Tennessee winning.
Of course, we won’t know for sure if teams follow the Titans’ lead again for a year or two. But it’s hard for me to believe that any team, coach or owner who saw the havoc wrought by Johnson last season didn’t say a couple times “I wish we had one of those.”
For all of us fantasy football fanatics, “one” is the operative word.