Fantasy NFL

What is winning the RB competition worth?

By Steve Schwarz, Fantasy Sports Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - There are workhorse running backs in the NFL that fantasy owners covet.

There are two-down backs with a receiving back and two-down backs with a goal- line back which have a slightly lesser value.

And then there are real battles for a starting NFL running back job. This analysis is about those backs and the fantasy values the winners can produce after they emerge from actual training camp and preseason competition.

C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson (Buffalo) - Spiller is the more explosive of the two backs, but also the more injury prone. He's been the "starter" for the past three seasons, but has never been able to completely "own" the job. Rumors of Jackson's fantasy demise have been greatly exaggerated over the past seasons and he continues to produce at a high level. In 2013 Jackson was the better fantasy option because he was the touchdown-maker (10). This season I'm expecting Spiller to be the better fantasy option, but not by enough to become an elite fantasy option.

Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno (Miami) - The Dolphins paid the price to bring in Moreno after he was a breakout star in 2013 with Denver, but injuries, primarily a knee issue, have plagued him all spring and into training camp. Although Miller is now likely to start the season at No. 1 he's proven in the past to be ineffective. I still like Moreno to be the better fantasy option.

Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley (New England) - Though Ridley is the better pure runner, Vereen fits the Patriots system perfectly. He's a much more accomplished receiver and the better pass protector and keeping Tom Brady healthy and happy is of primary importance to everyone on the New England roster. Ridley could still be a solid fantasy option if he stops fumbling the ball (eight lost fumbles over the past two seasons) and taking up residence in coach Bill Belichick's doghouse, but at this point Vereen is the back to have, particularly in PPR leagues.

Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden (Oakland) - The latest news out of Oakland is that they like what they have seen out of Jones-Drew and he's ahead of McFadden. MJD is the better inside runner and a much better pass blocker. Neither back has been able to stay healthy enough to make fantasy owners happy and this appears to be a true 50-50 spilt of the workload ... at least until the inevitable injury. It's the ultimate high-risk draft day selection and my recommendation is to stay away from both guys.

Reggie Bush and Joique Bell (Detroit) - Bush (fantasyfootballcalculator.com ADP 33.1) has been very good over the past three seasons and normally I would be happy to select him on my team, but the Lions have shown they want to utilize Bell when they signed him to a three-year $9.3 million contract when they could have locked him up for one year at a lot less money. I believe this situation will be close to a 50-50 spilt which makes Bell the better option based on his going two rounds later (60.3 ADP).

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart (Carolina) - Williams and Stewart have been stuck in this situation for the past six years and nothing appears to have changed. Williams is the starter, but they share time ... at least when Stewart is healthy which hasn't been often of late. Add Mike Tolbert as a goal-line back and Cam Newton skimming touchdowns off the top with his great running ability and neither Williams or Stewart can produce RB1 statistics. If forced, I'd choose Williams, but he's a low-end RB2 ... at best.

Bishop Sankey and Shonn Greene (Tennessee) - Sankey is easily the most complete running back on the Titans' roster, but it's always tough for a rookie to grab the primary role before opening day. He's got to earn the confidence of all the coaches and quarterbacks that he'll; a) run the right plays, b) hold onto the football and c) protect the quarterback on passing plays. I think Sankey will eventually be the team's main running back, but early in the season Green and RB/WR Dexter McCluster will be utilized more than Sankey's fantasy owners would like.

Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson (New Orleans) - The Saints simply don't run the ball enough to support three fantasy-worthy running backs. I think Thomas will be fantasy worthy based on his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and will take over the "Darren Sproles role." Meanwhile, Robinson will beat out Ingram for the primary running job. That leaves Ingram out in the cold unless there are injuries. Make Thomas the No. 1 choice and in PPR leagues by a significant margin.

Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Donald Brown (San Diego) - Even Mathews himself is calling the Chargers backfield a "three-headed monster." When it was just Mathews and Woodhead we liked Mathews enough to draft him, but the addition of Brown makes it an impossible call. Mathews figures to get the early rushing attempts, but his injury history says that won't last. If he can stay healthy, he would be our only pick out of the trio and even then only in the late- fourth or fifth round. Woodhead caught 76 balls last season, but that number could drop significantly along with his fantasy value because of returning Malcom Floyd and the improvement of backup tight end Ladarius Green.

08/05 12:34:04 ET