By Adam Harris-
(CBS) The stud running back is a hot fantasy football commodity nowadays with many teams utilizing a pass-first offense. This year, NFL teams are averaging 33.5 pass attempts per game after averaging nearly 36 a year ago. That's up nearly five full pass attempts per game since the 2004 season.
This pass-first mentality has led to fewer stud running backs in the NFL and also an increase in the amount of dual backfields across the league. Currently the dual running back attack dominates the league, so I'm going to go through the most prominent ones and provide advice you on what to do with each back. Some dual backfields have two startable fantasy backs, while others have one and still yet others scream for you to stay away from altogether.
Let's break them down.
Cincinnati: Giovani Bernard/Jeremy Hill
Bernard remains the top option in the Bengals offense, despite Hill's promising third game in which he rushed for 74 yards. Hill had just seven carries in the Bengals' blowout win over the Titans last week. Hill earned a goal-ine carry, scoring from the 1-yard line, but it was with four minutes left in the game with the Bengals up by 26.
Bernard had the two previous goal-line touches in the game, scoring two times from the 1-yard line, asserting himself as the main option in all situations. Hill has some promise, adding a punch to Bernard's quick style, but Hill has been outtouched by Bernard, 55-24, and that stayed consistent in their most recent game, with Bernard accumulating 14 touches to Hill's seven. Hill is certainly ownable but isn't a flex option week in and week out as of now. Just be patient and later in the year he could reach the flex status every week. Bernard is a must-start every week.
Kansas City: Jamaal Charles/Knile Davis
Last night was great for Charles owners, as they saw him weave in and out of Patriots defenders for three scores, more than 100 total yards and 30 fantasy points in half-PPR leagues. The interesting stat line came from Davis, who intermittently had 16 touches on the ground for 107 yards, which was 15 more than Charles.
It's clear that Charles remains the main back, but Davis didn't gain his yards in garbage time or on every third series. Davis remained an integral part of the offense, scoring 12 fantasy points in half-PPR leagues, doing so with a 6.7 yards-per-carry average. Charles had two more ground touches and two more receptions, but Davis asserted himself as a solid flex option moving forward. If you own both of these back,s I would argue that you should start both when in bye week trouble. Davis could have easily stolen Charles' rushing touchdown from the 2-yard line and had himself a 20-point day. The Chiefs made it clear that they are going to win through their dual-threat backfield, and I would jump on that train if I were you.
New England: Shane Vereen/Stevan Ridley
Last night was scary for anyone who owns anyone donning a Patriot helmet. There aren't enough points to go around on that offense, which makes Vereen and Ridley obsolete week in and week out.
Let's begin with Ridley, who is the "workhorse" of the two backs. Ridley has seen 62 carries so far, with 25 coming in Week 2. Ridley has scored only one time this year, and that Patriots offense isn't conducive to an every-down back getting in the end zone right now. Ridley has been stopped numerous times inside the 5-yard line, and the Patriots hurry-up has hurried them to an average of 20 points per game, ranking 20th in the NFL.
The scat-back complement and Tom Brady's safety blanket, Vereen is an even worse play at this point. Vereen's appeal is that he has good hands and is on the same page as his quarterback. When Brady is in trouble, he looks to Vereen. When Brady wants to hurry up, Vereen is standing right beside him in the shotgun. So far Vereen has touched the ball 42 total times, 14 of those on receptions. His longest catch is 28 yards, which isn't bad, but he has one score, from Week 1 in Miami
Long story short, both these backs are unstartable each week because of the question marks. There are better options in this article alone who will get you a consistent 10 points each week instead of guessing who will get the bulk of the carries in New England.
New York Jets: Chris Ivory/Chris Johnson
Both of these backs are similar fantasy wise, despite the difference in how they get their points. Ivory will gain all of his points between the tackles and inside the red zone, while Johnson needs to break a long one to be worth anything fantasy wise.
I obviously give the edge to Ivory's 50 ground touches, but Johnson is right behind him with 41. Last week, Ivory was the main guy with 17 touches, but Johnson caught a break, scoring from 35 yards out. The area that Johnson should dominate Ivory in is the passing game, yet he only leads Ivory by two targets. Ivory is a solid flex while Johnson is a bye week fill-in at flex. Neither are RB2s, but they are certainly not on the same fantasy level. If you own both, start Ivory every week over Johnson and go through all efforts to keep both out of your lineup at one time.
Detroit: Joique Bell/Reggie Bush
Bell has outtouched Reggie Bush in every game so far except last week because of a head injury that Bell suffered. Bell remains the go-to back despite poor performances the past two weeks. If I owned both of these guys, I would deal Bush right now. Bush currently carries a larger name and fantasy impact to owners and could bring back the likes of a Zac Stacy if the owner is in bye week trouble. Bush is still the dominant option in the passing game, so sell fellow owners on that when looking to deal him. Bell is a good flex with RB2 potential.
Minnesota: Matt Asiata/Jerick McKinnon
With Adrian Peterson out of the picture, Asiata has taken over the red zone for the Vikings with three scores from inside the 10 last week and 78 total rushing yards. McKinnon, however, was a monster in the ground game. He was electric on 18 carries for 135 yards, amounting to a 6.7 average. That's only two fewer carries and a full 3.5 yards per carry more than his partner. McKinnon is a rookie, which is why the Vikings are easing him into the system, but it seems like they might put the pedal to the metal moving forward on McKinnon. I would trade Asiata right now for McKinnon straight up. Asiata will continue to get touches, but it's hard to argue with McKinnon's raw talent. The Vikings won't argue as the season moves along.
Buffalo: Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller
Both of these running backs are startable each week in the flex position, with a slight edge to Jackson because of targets in the passing game. Jackson has 24 targets in the passing game to Spiller's 10. That's surprising, but the Bills seem to like Jackson as a passing-down back.
Spiller is more consistent, scoring at least eight fantasy points in all four games this year, but he hasn't had a big game yet. Jackson got into the end zone and scored 21 fantasy points in Week 3. Spiller's max was 13 points in Week 1 against the Bears, and he got in the end zone that week. The edge goes to Jackson, but Spiller is an every-week starter as well. If I owned both, I'd be horribly angry at myself. Trade Spiller in that situation.
These dual-backfield threats are confusing and frustrating, but I hope my breakdown and advice helps as you move forward in planning your roster for the rest of the year. Start to make trades with the idea of getting rid of depth and securing a solid, well-rounded team with blow-up potential for the second half of the fantasy season.
Adam Harris is a producer for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @aharris670 and feel free to ask fantasy questions.
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