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Tandem Running Backs and their Fantasy Value

DeAngelo Williams (right) should get more touches than Jonathan Stewart (left) in 2010.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Last week we did an article about the 15 running backs in 2010 who we feel will be considered "workhorses." They'll get at least 200 carries this season and maybe as many as 350. Unfortunately, 15 "stud" running backs in a 12-team league means that many of us will have to look elsewhere for a No.2 back.

Which means we will have to look at the "tandem" running back and the "running-back-by-committee" situations to find our second starters and our bench depth.

Tandem running backs are just what they imply. They are two running backs who will split the majority of the carries fairly evenly. Carolina's prolific pair of running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, are a perfect example. Even with both backs spending part of the season in the trainer's room, Williams carried the ball 216 times and Stewart 221 times. No one else on the Panthers had more than 22 carries.

"Running-Back-By-Committee" is when three-or-more backs share the load. It's almost impossible to predict who will star each week. The 2009 New England Patriots are an example of "RBBC" with a backfield that consisted of Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk. Last season each of the four New England backs led the team in rushing at least one week.

We will cover the four RBBC situations next week.

There are 13 tandem, or shared situations to evaluate. Each two-back team could easily become a workhorse situation if one of the running backs gets hurt, but for our purposes we will evaluate the combination based on the fact that neither back will suffer a season-ending type injury.

DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart - Carolina

Williams was the TSN Fantasy Player of the Year back in 2008, but injuries held him back last season and allowed Stewart to shine over the final half of the season. Williams should get more touches in 2010, but Stewart, who is healthier than he has been in a couple of years, will score more touchdowns. Barring injury, neither back will take over the running back chores by himself. Therefore, Williams might be overpriced, with a RapidDraft ADP of 13.2, but Stewart should provide "fair market value" as a fourth-rounder (ADP 44).

Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams - Miami

Coming off a Lisfranc injury, it's difficult to gauge how healthy Brown will be coming into 2010. But consider that his best rushing season is just 1,008 yards and he's only scored 10 touchdowns-or more one time (2008), I think I'd rather have Williams with an ADP of 77.9 than Brown at 67.4.

Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw - New York Giants

Jacobs was a huge disappointment in 2009, due to a knee injury early in the season. Of course, that shouldn't have surprised anyone since he has yet to play a complete 16-game schedule. Of equal concern is the age of the line in front of him and whether they can open up big holes. Bradshaw showed last year he was a warrior, playing with two injured feet. I think Bradshaw's outside running ability and his better receiving skills makes him the better option and at a cheaper price - Jacobs' RapidDraft ADP is 75 versus Bradshaw's ADP of 79.5.

Felix Jones, Marion Barber - Dallas

When the owner/general manager says he wants you to be the team's starter, that's a very good sign that you will play a major role in 2010. Jones is that guy and with the failure of the "big back," Marion Barber, to get it done in short-yardage situations, Jones could actually get a bigger piece of the pie. I love Jones as a late-fourth/early fifth-round pick with an ADP of 49.1. The only concern I could have is if the Cowboys overuse him early in the season.

Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush - New Orleans

They are a perfect combination with Thomas doing the "heavy lifting" and Bush as the quick-scoring threat. But Bush as a fantasy player has always been overrated and 2010 is not exception. He combined for 725 yards and eight scores last season which simply isn't worth a sixth-round pick. On the other hand, Thomas, who shared the running duties with Mike Bell last year, accumulated 1,095 yards and eight scores in just 14 games. Bell has gone to Philadelphia. Select Thomas and pass on Bush.

Matt Forte, Chester Taylor - Chicago

Forte failed to live up to expectations last season when he was a top-five selection, but as a end-of-the-third round pick (2010 ADP 36.2) should provide "fair market value." If Forte is healthy again, he wasn't in 2009, he could relegate Taylor to short-yardage and goal line situations. In that case, Taylor's ADP of 109.8 might be too high. On the other hand, if Forte isn't back to 2008 form, Taylor could actually win the starting job. Watch the preseason games to determine which way the Bears will go.

Joseph Addai, Donald Brown - Indianapolis

Addai was not highly thought of in fantasy circles last preseason after an injury-filled, disappointing 2008 season in which he ran for just 544 yards. He rebounded to have a solid 828-yard, 10-touchdown season and added 51 receptions for 336 yards and three more scores. The result has Addai being drafted in the third round (ADP 33.5) and Brown relegated to an ADP of 92. However, Addai never cracked the 80-yard mark in any game and Brown is the more explosive running back. Look for the carries to be a bit more even than last year's 219-to-78 ratio in favor of Addai. That could make Brown the better value.

LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell - Philadelphia

I've said on many occasions that I'm not sold on McCoy as the starter in Philadelphia. I believe Bell is the better pure runner and by season's end could start with McCoy being the third-down and passing situation back. In addition, the Eagles throw the ball more than almost any other team. Given that, McCoy's ADP of 26.2 is way too high and I love Bell as a late-round selection (ADP 195.9).

Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith - Detroit

Best reminds me of Reggie Bush in many ways. Best is a quick-strike threat, but he's also injury prone. Since Bush has never lived up to his fantasy expectations, the same is likely for Best. Be wary of selecting him, particularly in the fifth-round (ADP 54.5) without handcuffing him with Smith. And keep in mind that the Lions' offensive line wasn't very good last year.

Michael Bush, Darren McFadden - Oakland

Bush (4.8 ypc) outperformed McFadden (3.4 ypc) last season and is a better inside runner, but McFadden and his big contract will probably end up as the Raiders' starting tailback. With Justin Fargas gone, both runners will get more playing time and it will be interesting to see which gets the "lion's share" of the work. I'd pick Bush with his ADP of 103.4 rather than McFadden at an ADP of 100.4.

Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward - Tampa Bay

Cadillac Williams was a nice surprise in 2009, beating out Earnest Graham and Ward for the starting role. He'll keep that role in 2010, at least at the start of the season, but do you really want your fantasy championship chances riding on Cadillac's health? You can get Ward three rounds later than Williams and the upside makes him the better selection.

Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson - Washington

If this was the year 2005, then it would be a fantastic backfield, but it's five years later and likely neither running back has much left in the tank. If you put a gun to my head, I'd choose Portis at an ADP of 113.3 over Johnson at an ADP of 166.9, but I'd rather select a back like Arian Foster (ADP 150.7) or Michael Bush instead.

Jerome Harrison, Montario Hardesty, Cleveland

Hardesty is the bigger back and fits coach Eric Mangini's style better than Harrison. On the other hand, he's injury prone with three knee injuries on his resume already. Harrison proved late last season that he could carry the workload, and in late July Hardesty "tweaked" his knee. Based on Hardesty's injury history, the only pick you can make here is Harrison.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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