Jamaal Charles



Hope you enjoy my third column in an ongoing series over the off season, predicting who will be starting at each position in 2013.  Of course there will be many changes based on the results of the draft in April, as well as other happenings during the off season, so I’ll re-visit each column later in the summer.  But for those of us in dynasty and keeper leagues, some shrewd moves early in the off season based on forward thinking can really pay off.  For running backs, simply determining who will start is not really enough information.  The starter for Team A may be a true lead dog and get a clear majority of touches while on Team B the starter may only get a handful more touches than the backup.  So I’ll provide a list of the running backs and provide a percentage of the total touches (running attempts and receptions by running back) I think each will get.  I’ve shown the fullbacks and quaterbacks mostly for reference as either can eat into a running back’s production.





Let’s get started with the AFC.

Baltimore Ravens

Primary – Ray Rice: 62%
Secondary – Bernard Pierce: 22%
Depth – Anthony Allen: 4%
FB – Vonta Leach: 6%
QB – Joe Flacco: 6%

It may seem like the Ravens don’t get Rice the ball enough but looking at the numbers that’s clearly not the case.  Reports say the team is high on Pierce and want to get him more involved in the offense.  With the success Baltimore has had I don’t see the overall formula changing too much.  There’s no reason to think Allen will increase his share of the load.  There’s also no reason to think the Ravens will add another back, unless they pick one up in the draft for depth.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Rice: 59%
Pierce: 25%
Allen: 4%

Buffalo Bills

Primary – Fred Jackson: 30%
Secondary – C. J. Spiller: 50%
Depth – Tashard Choice: 10%
FB – Corey McIntyre: 0%
QB – Ryan Fitzpatrick: 10%

The numbers may look like Spiller was the primary back, until you recall that Jackson missed 6 games where Spiller was the lead back.  If not for the injury the numbers would probably be flipped in Jackson’s favor.  Look for a more truly even split in 2013 between the two assuming both play all 16 games.  That may be wishful thinking in Jackson’s case.  Choice is a UFA and may be back if he can be signed at a good price.  Buffalo doesn’t have anyone else in the pipeline and will likely draft a running back for depth.  Either Choice or his replacement will likely lose some touches to Spiller.  All of the numbers may be affected if the Bills change quarterbacks, but based on new coach Doug Marrone’s history I’m comfortable assuming the run:pass ratio will stay about the same.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Spiller: 47%
Jackson: 38%
Choice: 5%

Cincinnati Bengals

Primary – BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 68%
Secondary – Cedric Peerman: 10%, Brian Leonard: 10%
Depth – Bernard Scott: 2%
FB – John Conner: 0%
QB – Andy Dalton: 11%

The law firm had the majority of the carries in 2012, but rumor has it the Bengals coaching staff is not entirely happy with him.  At an average 68 yards per game I don’t blame them.  Peerman appears like he can do the job, he is an RFA but it seems like the Bengals may not want to bring him back.  Leonard is a UFA but is no more than depth at this stage of his career.  Scott is also a UFA but at 28 years old and coming off ACL surgery, he’s not the answer.  Look for Cinci to add a back fairly early in the draft.  If the Bengals can get more production from their run game look for them to increase the run:pass ratio.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Green-Ellis: 45%
Peerman: 10%
New Guy: 35%

Cleveland Browns

Primary – Trent Richardson: 68%
Secondary – Montario Hardesty: 14%
Depth – Chris Ogbonnaya: 7%
FB – Alex Smith: 3%
QB – Brandon Weeden: 6%

Richardson will continue to see the majority of carries for Cleveland.  Hardesty has done well and should continue in his current role.  Ogbonnaya is decent enough as a pass catcher but great as a pass blocker so his role will remain limited.  He’s an RFA and should be back.  Overall I expect more of the same from the Browns.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Richardson: 68%
Hardesty: 16%
Ogbonnaya: 5%

Denver Broncos

Primary – Willis McGahee: 36%
Secondary – Knowshon Moreno: 30%
Depth – Ronnie Hillman: 18%, Lance Ball: 9%
FB – Jacob Hester: 3%
QB – Peyton Manning: 4%

When McGahee was in the lineup he was clearly the lead back so the numbers are a bit deceiving.  McGahee should be healthy and step back into his lead role in 2013.  Moreno has shown himself to be capable, but the jury’s still out on whether he can ever be the lead dog.  The organization is high on Hillman for the future.  We should see he and Moreno split the carries in a backup role  Ball is an RFA, assuming the Broncos bring him back it will be strictly for depth.  Considering it was Manning at the helm the number of attempts per game was fairly high.  I expect that to continue.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
McGahee: 45%
Moreno: 20%
Hillman: 21%
Ball: 7%

Houston Texans

Primary – Arian Foster: 66%
Secondary – Ben Tate: 13%, Justin Forsett: 11%
FB – James Casey: 6%
QB – Matt Schaub: 4%

No surprises with Foster, his workload should be pretty much the same in 2013.  Tate and Forsett had almost the same number of carries but Forsett’s yards per carry was about 1.5 higher than Tate.  Tate still looks like the one with more upside so he should continue to be the #2 guy behind Foster.  Forsett is an unrestricted free agent it will interesting to see if he’s back with Houston.  If not Forsett, the Texans do need to bring in at least one running back for some depth.  A lot of Casey’s production came via the pass when he lined up as a tight end so not really relevant for this discussion.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Foster: 65%
Tate: 15%
Forsett/New Guy: 10%

Indianapolis Colts

Primary – Donald Brown: 25%, Vick Ballard: 50%
Secondary – Delone Carter: 7%
Depth – Mewelde Moore: 4%
FB – Robert Hughes: 0%
QB – Andrew Luck: 14%

Brown started the season as the main man for the Colts, but he was injured in week 10 and by season’s end it was Ballard who proved he deserves the lead role.  Expect that to be the case in 2013, as Ballard grows into the role he should get even more of the touches.  The juries still out on Carter, personally I’m leaning towards him being strictly a depth option.  Moore is a free agent, I haven’t heard if the Colts want to bring him back, I’m thinking no, but he’s not a fantasy option anyway.  The team has many higher priorities than getting better at RB so don’t expect anything significant to happen in the off season.  Luck’s percentage is higher than I would have expected.  That should go down as the offensive line improves.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Ballard: 55%
Brown: 29%
Carter: 6%
Luck: 10%

Jacksonville Jaguars

Primary – Maurice Jones-Drew: 24%
Secondary – Rashad Jennings: 29%, Jalen Parmele: 11%
Others/Depth – Keith Toston: 5%, Richard Murphy: 6%
FB – Montell Owens: 12%, Greg Jones: 4%
QB – Blaine Gabbert: 4%, Chad Henne: 5%

The running back position was a mess for the Jags in 2012.  So many injuries make the percentage of touches tough to break down.  What is clear is that Jones-Drew will be the lead man in 2013.  Jennings was everyone’s favorite fantasy pick in the pre-season and he fell flat, not even making 3 yards per carry before getting injured.  Parmele looked good for a game and then got injured himself.  Jennings and Parmele are both UFA’s and both will probably be gone.  Owens is listed as a fullback on depth charts but he was forced to fill in and looked OK.  The Jags want him for special teams though.  Toston and Murphy are purely depth options.  Look for the Jags to take a running back in the draft, but not with their first pick.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Jones-Drew: 60%
New Guy: 21%
Toston/Murphy: 10%

Kansas City Chiefs

Primary – Jamaal Charles: 57%
Secondary – Peyton Hillis: 17%
Depth – Shaun Draughn: 15%, Cyrus Gray: 2%, Nate Eachus: 1%
FB – Patrick DiMarco: 0%
QB – Matt Cassell: 5%, Brady Quinn: 3%

So much for Thunder and Lightning 2.0.  Charles held up his end of the bargain, averaging over 5 yards per carry.  Hillis on the other hand was horrible and won’t be back.  Draughn is here for depth only.  Gray and Eachus are young RB prospects, we’ll see if either or both can impress enough in camp to do a better job with Hillis’ share of carries.  Personally I like Gray’s chances.  He was a promising prospect who dropped on the draft board due to injury.  Keep an eye on him in preseason.  Andy Reid will figure out a way either with the current QB’s or someone new to improve the passing game so the run:pass ratio will come down.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Charles: 60%
Draughn: 12%
Gray: 12%
Eachus: 8%

Miami Dolphins

Primary – Reggie Bush: 53%
Secondary – Lamar Miller: 11%, Daniel Thomas: 21%
Depth – Marcus Thigpen: 0%, Jonas Gray: 0%
FB – Jorvorskie Lane: 5%
QB – Ryan Tannehill: 10%

The big question is Bush, will he re-sign with Miami?  At this point it looks like he won’t which will leave a pretty big hole in the Dolphins backfield.  Look for Bush to move on and become a third down back somewhere.  Miami will give Miller first crack at the starters role, with Thomas as a complementary back.  Neither Thigpen nor Gray look to become anything more than depth.  Miami will probably look to add another back via free agency or the draft.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Miller: 55%
Thomas: 12%
Gray: 3%
Thigpen: 2%
New Guy: 13%

New England Patriots

Primary – Stevan Ridley: 53%
Secondary – Danny Woodhead: 21%, Shane Vereen: 12%
Others/Depth – Brandon Bolden: 10%
FB – Spencer Larsen: 0%
QB – Tom Brady: 4%

I was very surprised to see that the Patriots were second in the NFL for rushing attempts per game.   You just don’t think of them as any kind of run-first offense.  Ridley was the clear workhorse back in 2012, but tailed off a bit at the end, opening the door for Vereen to siphon off more carries.  Woodhead is a free agent and probably won’t be back.  Bolden is still a prospect, look for him to pick up some of the touches from Woodhead.  The Pats will need a body to replace Woodhead, possibly a veteran via free agency.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Ridley: 45%
Vereen: 28%
Bolden: 13%
Woodhead/New Guy: 10%

New York Jets

Primary – Shonn Greene: 57%
Secondary – Bilal Powell: 24%
Depth – Joe McKnight: 6%
FB – Lex Hilliard: 2%
QB – Mark Sanchez: 4%, Tim Tebow 6%

Greene proved he’s not the answer as the lead back, averaging less than 4 yards per carry.  He did go over 1,000 yards though so he can certainly be a 1a or complementary back.  He’s a free agent and probably won’t be back.  The Jets like Powell’s potential, though he only just averaged 4 ypc.  McKnight performed very well with limited carries.  I hear the Jets will be on the lookout for another back but I imagine McKnight and Powell will team up and the Jets go with the hot hand.  They will need to sign or draft someone at least for depth though.  Rex Ryan says he wants to move away from the ‘ground and pound’ but he’ll need viable QB play and some better receiving options to decrease the run:pass ratio drastically.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Powell: 38%
McKnight: 38%
New Guy: 18%

Oakland Raiders

Primary – Darren McFadden: 53%
Secondary – Mike Goodson: 10%
Depth – Jeremy Stewart: 7%, Taiwan Jones: 2%
FB – Marcel Reece: 23%
QB – Carson Palmer: 4%, Terrelle Pryor: 2%

Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp and his zone blocking scheme are out, Greg Olson and his power blocking scheme are in.  McFadden should benefit and continue to get the majority of the touches.  Goodson is a free agent and although he did OK in limited action he’s most likely gone.  Stewart and Jones still have some upside but are just depth at this point, although one or both will see action when McFadden is invariably injured.  Reece should continue to be a big part of the offense.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
McFadden: 50%
Stewart: 14%
Jones: 11%
Reece: 20%

Pittsburgh Steelers

Primary – Rashard Mendenhall: 13%, Jonathan Dwyer: 37%
Secondary – Isaac Redman: 27%
Depth – Chris Rainey: 8%, Baron Batch: 6%
FB – Will Johnson: 4%
QB – Ben Roethlisberger: 5%, Byron Leftwich: 0%, Charlie Batch: 0%

Mendenhall was only able to play in six games and did poorly when he did play.  He’s a free agent and will go elsewhere.  Dwyer was hot and cold but he’s only 23 and will likely be given the chance to find some consistency as the lead back.  I’m seeing reports that Pittsburgh management doesn’t like Dwyer as the lead back and will try and acquire someone else, but I don’t believe it.  Dwyer showed enough he will be given a chance.  He’s an RFA and will remain a Steeler.  Redman is a decent enough complementary back who’s also an RFA and most likely will be back also.  Batch had injury troubles but is a decent depth option who could surprise if he can stay healthy and gets an opportunity.  Rainey is gone, released due to his legal troubles.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Dwyer: 50%
Redman: 30%
Batch: 11%

San Diego Chargers

Primary – Ryan Mathews: 42%
Secondary – Jackie Battle: 21%, Ronnie Brown: 18%
Depth – Curtis Brinkley: 10%
FB – Le’Ron McClain: 4%
QB – Philip Rivers: 5%

Mathews was the man when he was healthy, his percentage would have been closer to 60% if he played all 16 games.  The Chargers seem to be losing confidence in Mathews’ ability to carry that kind of load.  Look for San Diego to add a quality back in the off season.  Both Battle and Brown are free agents, if either are brought back it will be strictly for depth.  Brinkley is an RFA but showed very little with the opportunities he was given and likely won’t be back.  Edwin Baker was a 2012 draft pick who will likely get a chance to show he’s NFL capable.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Mathews: 46%
Battle/Brown: 10%
Baker: 5%
New Guy: 30%

Tennessee Titans

Primary – Chris Johnson: 73%
Secondary – Javon Ringer: 1%, Darius Reynaud: 5%
Depth – Jamie Harper: 5%
FB – Quinn Johnson: 2%, Collin Mooney: 1%
QB – Jake Locker: 10%, Matt Hasselbeck: 3%

Johnson was the definition of a bellcow back with a whopping 73% of touches.  He started the season slow but finished well with an overall 4.5 ypg.  He’ll be the lead back again in 2013, especially since none of the other backs showed much of anything.  Ringer went on I.R. in late October but was injured long before that and only got into 2 games.  He was used very sparingly and as a UFA probably won’t be back.  Reynaud is also a free agent.  He did nothing as a runner but was the Titans primary return man so he will most likely be brought back.  Harper really struggled when he got carries, but he’s only 23 and may still have upside.

Percentage of rushes, RB receptions in 2013:
Johnson: 67%
Reynaud: 5%
Harper: 10%

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