It's late, I'm bored and I wanna get my thoughts on paper. Been playing around with my rankings for a bit and some ideas came to mind. It's not earth-shattering stuff and most people are probably aware of it to some to degree. Maybe it'll make you think.
Anyways, when it comes to ranking and drafting RBs, the part I always struggle with is ranking the backups and RBBCers. Generally it's easier to predict a guy locked into a starting job over guys where you're also equally factoring how much playing time they may or may not get. When I started thinking about it I realized there at 2 types of non-starters if I may call them that, guys in an RBBC and guys that are straight backups. I'll go over both. Now when drafting backup or secondary RBs probably the most important thing is how many carries the player will or has the chance to receive. Yes skill factors but getting carries is more important.
I'm not gonna try and draw the line between and RBBC and spelling a feature back. Most of us can kinda make our own judgments there. Generally an RBBC features 2+ backs where no one back is receiving more than probably 60-75% of the carries. In most cases there is 1 RB that stands above the others either because he'll get more carries, he's more skilled, or both. In some cases like NO, Jax, Minny, this is very apparent. In some cases like Cincy or Oakland it's less. Either way there are still other RBs part of the committee. In an RBBC it's far easier for RBs to have value even if they aren't the primary or more valued back. In established RBBCs like Minnesota and Jacksonville both Taylors have significant value as quote unquote backups or secondary backs because they are guaranteed a certain amount of carries. As a result they can be ranked significantly higher than straight backups and although may have somewhat lower ceilings than starters can be drafted amongst many of the starting backs. In muddier cases like Cincy, Oakland, Seattle where there is looking like there will be an RBBC RBs in those systems should have lesser value than established RBBC backs for two reasons. A) no primary back is readily apparent and b) the actually RBBC may disappear altogether. Much more risk but possibly more reward. Still, any back who lives in a potential RBBC system should still have greater value than straight backups simply because their chances of receiving carries is greater.
If you're not running an RBBC than you're going with a feature back (or at least a very diminished RBBC). What I'm concerned with are the backups. Now in my opinion backups in a non-RBBC should basically never be drafted over RBBC backs unless there are some specific circumstances (which I'll detail later). There is simply more chance the RBBC backs get more carries. That aside when looking at backup RBs and ranking them my main criterion if the chance the RB takes over for the starting back. I don't really care about skill, just their chances of getting more carries. The two biggest causes for promoting a backup are injury to the starter or under-performance by the starter. That means when ranking backups you're looking for guys playing behind injury prone or already injured starters or guys playing behind someone like to be a bust, the easiest way to predict probably being a lack of experience, either a rookie or first time starter. Looking at last year as an example Michael Turner may be the poster boy for my comments here. He was easily one of the top 3 guys who were straight backups drafted. Sure he's skilled but he's playing behind one of the best and most consistent backs in the league. Turner ended up well under-performing draft position. Meanwhile, guys like Adrian Peterson (Chicago) who was playing behind a very unproven and injury prone Benson or Justin Fargas behind Jordan coming off a bust of a season and knee surgery were both drafted well behind Turner and both outperformed him. Of course there were guys like Graham and Grant in shaky RB situations but I'm letting them slide because they were literally buried on the depth charts.
Looking at this years consensus on backups I'll point out what I've been discussing. A couple of the guys I've been hearing thrown out are Dominic Rhodes, Jacob Hester, Ladell Betts and Felix Jones. The first two guys back up two of the top RBs in the league, neither of which appear to have any risk of getting hurt. Betts backs up Portis who to me despite his injury looks virtually locked in. Jones is a bizarre case because Barber is neither injury prone nor unproven. People assume a RBBC will continue in Dallas but there wasn't really one after Julius was out last year. I doubt Jones gets more than 3-5 carries a game tops. Furthermore there are guys like Washington and Hightower, both playing behind workhorses who despite getting old have generally avoided injury troubles. Those are all guys who I believe are being overrated as backups and I would not look to draft them assuming other ones with more opportunity to start are available.
Now, on the flip side I'll throw out some guys that I believe are more valuable backups because they have a better chance of starting. I'm excluding guys like Perry or Mo Morris where a RBBC is looking likely. My top guys are generally still valued pretty highly by most, Rice, Slaton, Brown, and Chris Johnson so I'll throw out some deeper guys.
Andre Hall: Denver is a special exception cause even if the starter is healthy and performing Shanny can turn everything around in a second. With Torain out Hall becomes one of my top backups.
Brian Calhoun: The fact that Smith is a rookie should draw red flags. I'm always wary of rookie starters. Bell looks to be cut and Calhoun seems like the favorite to be the backup. Calhoun may at least eat into Smith's carries, especially on 3rd downs.
Cory Ross: Ray Rice is already probably the most hyped backup in the league. I like Rice but he's becoming borderline overvalued. Frankly Willis looks like the most likely RB to fall first and Rice as a rookie already presents some uncertainty. Ross here is the definition of uber sleeper, he might not even make the team but if he does he's got a shot to compete with Rice. Ross played well in week 17 last year.
Derrick Ward: Bradshaw may be the one guy more hyped than Rice. Jacobs certainly presents himself as injury prone, especially with that upright running style. When Jacobs goes down I can't see Bradshaw as a feature back. Ward will get a split at worst and he proved himself last year.
Michael Bennett: Rumblings in Tampa say he may pass Dunn. Graham to me is one of the riskiest starters in the league. He's started for half a season so I'm labeling him a risk on experience alone.
Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe: Forte is a rookie and unproven so he's already a risk. Now Kevin Jones, who people seem to be valuing far and away the most as the backup is perennially injured and probably an injury away from ending his career. Peterson is not unknown so he may be the most high profile player I have here but he is definitely being bumped down. Wolfe is a wild card that could fit in the mix.
Most of the stuff I discussed is basically just summing up a lot of common sense in drafting. Still, writing down my thoughts help get me thinking. I'm prepping for a 20 team league so I gotta look deep underground. Maybe I can unearth the next Ryan Grant