Understanding each NFL team’s running back platoons is a vital part of fantasy football draft preparation. It’s not enough to just draft the top RB available without understanding to what degree his role in the backfield is shared with teammates.
While no two teams’ situations are exactly alike, on the whole each team can be grouped into one of four categories. There’s those with an unquestioned lead dog, one whose backup isn’t fantasy relevant (barring injury); teams with a solid No. 1 back and a second RB worth handcuffing; backfields with two RBs projected to see roughly equal touches; and squads whose situation is unclear enough to consider shunning.
49ers, Bears, Bills, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jaguars, Rams, Steelers
Most of this group includes the consensus top RBs. That includes David Johnson (Cardinals), Le’Veon Bell (Steelers) and LeSean McCoy (Bills). Others, such as the 49ers and running back Carlos Hyde, aren’t likely to feature juggernauts but lack a reasonable reserve.
This isn’t to say a strong backup won’t emerge along the way, but feel safe entering the season without drafting the top RBs’ handcuff from the aforementioned teams.
Browns, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Falcons, Giants, Packers, Raiders, Texans, Titans
These teams all feature a true starting option, but it wouldn’t be the worst idea to snag his other top backfield mate.
For the Falcons, that means pairing Devonta Freeman with Tevin Coleman. While Freeman is elite, Coleman receives heavy usage. It isn’t crazy to start both in a given week, but Atlanta is the only team that strategy applies to.
Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys), pending Tuesday’s appeal, will serve a six-game suspension to start the year, so snagging early-season starter Darren McFadden in the mid to late rounds is important.
Other teams, like the Titans, are simpler. DeMarco Murray is the unquestioned starter, but Derrick Henry figures to be one of the most sought after backups.
Jets, Lions, Panthers, Saints, Vikings
All of these teams feature two RBs worth owning, although the carry splits could fluctuate from week to week.
The Saints, with Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson, figure to be the most stable source of fantasy points in this class. The Panthers and Vikings, meanwhile, each feature rookies whose roles have tremendous upside and could migrate to the Handcuff class.
Bengals, Broncos, Buccaneers, Colts, Eagles, Patriots, Ravens, Redskins, Seahawks
By and large, these teams’ respective backfields need time to sort out — or constantly will be in flux.
Look for the Bengals and Seahawks to eventually become a time share when their trio finds suitable roles.
The Patriots RBs have been a maddening collective for years, and aren’t worth the boom-or-bust frustration. The rest of the teams just aren’t very strong options to begin with.