Nearly every backfield is a committee of some sort. Three-down backs are becoming a rarity in the NFL with only the elite backs remaining on the field for near the entirety of the game. With the draft and some recent moves in free agency, it’s time to take stock of some of the backfields around the league that will be relevant for rookie drafts, dynasty/keeper leagues, and can even serve as some early prep for redraft leagues.
While the Lions backfield isn’t necessarily full of star-studded talent, it is crowded after the selection of Kerryon Johnson in the second round of last week’s NFL draft. It’s possible Johnson immediately steps into a role as a three down back — he is regarded as an adequate receiver and good blocker — but the team also signed LeGarrette Blount during the offseason. Their commitment to Blount was not major, his contract is ranked 29th among all running backs in the league, so he could be pushed out of a role fairly quickly. However, it’s unlikely that Theo Riddick will be pushed out of his role as a receiving back as he saw 71 targets last season.
This can be a quicker discussion, as Derrius Guice took a surprising fall in the draft but should be the workhorse back this season. That spells trouble for Samaje Perine, and almost certainly ends Rob Kelley’s time in Washington (or at least any major role on the team). It figures that Chris Thompson will keep some role in the offense, though it remains to be seen if he is healthy. For long-term dynasty or keeper leagues, it is worth noting that Guice isn’t viewed as a great receiver now, but we didn’t see his ceiling in that phase of his game while at LSU due to an abysmal pass offense.
Royce Freeman was the headline addition to the Broncos’ backfield and with C.J. Anderson gone, it is presumed that Freeman is the feature back in Denver. Devontae Booker also remains on the roster there, and It appears, on paper, that he Freeman create a perfectly paired backfield. Booker was a good receiver at Utah and has since carried that into the NFL, converting 61 of his 84 targets into catches through two seasons while averaging nearly nine yards per catch. That would leave the workhorse role to Freeman, who has shown he is capable of carrying the load, posting a 30.4% dominator rating at Oregon while averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Denver also picked David Williams, but he is an afterthought for the time being.
CJ Anderson recently signed with the Panthers, which made a lot of sense for the team after Jonathan Stewart departed for the Giants this offseason. Much like the Broncos, the pairing of Anderson and Christian McCaffrey makes a lot of sense. Anderson is a big back — his BMI is in the 97th percentile — who has managed to log over 150 carries in three of his four seasons when relied on as the starter. Meanwhile, McCaffrey handled 117 carries in his rookie season to go along with 113 targets. Both should be able to keep up their usual workloads, though McCaffrey could lose some targets due to the return of Greg Olsen and selection of D.J. Moore, and their roles should serve more as a complement to each not as competition