Every year you anxiously await to see if you land the first overall pick in your fantasy football draft in hopes to grab the stud running back who will lead you to the promised land.
For most of you, that is not going to happen.
The No. 1 pick, naturally. There are draft various draft strategies to employ that can still lead you team to fantasy football glory even if you missed out on the Adrian Peterson Sweepstakes.
In years of playing fantasy football, I do not think I have ever received the first pick. Multiple leagues a year and never once have I had that shining moment. That does not mean I have not won my fair share of leagues. It just takes a little practice.
When it comes to running backs, if you miss out on Peterson or Chris Johnson (this year’s consensus first overall pick), the drop off is significant. Yes, Maurice Jone-Drew, Stephen Jackson and Ray Rice are all fine backs but after the first couple of picks there are better first round options than a running back. That is why I like to wait if I cannot get in on the big names and go tandem style for maximum efficiency.
That means taking two running backs, from the same team in relatively short order. Some fantasy owners like to make it a sandwich. For instance, they will draft a team’s top running back, get a second-tier guy early and then come back for the backup. This method can work and does help your team avoid the nasty pitfall of production that comes about when your primary and backup running backs have their bye week (which always seems to come at the most inopportune time, doesn’t it?)
Yet there are some tandems that you will want to take rapidly to keep them together as they often work in cohort as opposed to a feature back and the guy that spells him. Drafting this way can also allow you to look for other production at other positions as these players will be on the board in later rounds at good value. So, here are half a dozen running back tandems to keep an eye on heading into your draft.
Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins
The Wild Cat. Got to love it. The Dolphins have resurrected their once-wretched offense in recent years by taking two talented though slightly flawed backs and turning them into the feature of an attack that can be confounding to opposing defenses (just ask the New England Patriots). Brown has always been a bit of an enigma and do not be fooled this year into drafting too high. He platoons heavily with Williams and is injured more often than you would probably like but he holds his end of the bargain pretty well when on the field. He broke his foot after nine games in 2009 so that is something to watch and he has never had more than 1,008 yards in a year but if he is good for between 800 to 1,000 yards and six or seven touchdowns, trust that the Dolphins will find a way to make the rest of the production up with Williams.
Williams, The NFL King of Cosmic Cleansing (or whatever he is doing these days) is still viable at age 33. He definitely got tired towards the end of the year in 2009 when Brown went down but if their stats do not look pretty similar (granting health, of course) by the end of the year, I would be surprised.
Bye Week -- 5
Pierre Thomas/Reggie Bush – New Orleans Saints
Thunder and Lightning. Vanilla and Chocolate. Sting like a bee, light as a butterfly. OK, so now the cliché superlatives are out of the way, Thomas and Bush are a great tandem of complimentary backs as you will find in the league. Thomas is a top-20 back, probably just barely, and he will have days where you pinch yourself and say “did he just win this week single-handedly for me?” Because he might. Then again, he might not. He is consistent enough to start on a weekly basis but head coach Sean Payton won a Super Bowl last year with an offense that was so dynamic you were not sure what it was going to do play-to-play, let alone week-to-week.
That is where keeping Bush around comes in. Between the two there will be plenty of production to go around for one of the leagues best offenses. Bush is almost the type of player who you would like to start him at wide receiver as opposed to running back and match somebody else with Thomas but alas, that is not how the game works. Bush is also a guy you can sleep on for a couple rounds if you know that you are going to pair him with Thomas since his numbers the last couple of years has not matched his hype.
Bye Week -- 10
C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson – Buffalo Bills
I was an ACC football beat reporter last year and there was nobody else in the conference as quick or dynamic as Spiller was for Clemson in 2009. He could be the type of back that people always envisioned that Bush would be without actually being Bush. Great vision and cutback ability, good for kickoffs and can punish when he needs to. Spiller has all the makings of a back who can have a great first couple of years in the NFL before the punishment takes its toll and he flames out after five years or so. Being that this will be his first year in the league, it is safe to put him on your fantasy roster and hope the Bills line can give him the three yards he will need to create a cloud of dust.
Jackson had a lot of carries last year and was effective as he could be considering that that aforementioned Bills offensive line is something of a cesspool. There is a reason Buffalo has been looking up at the AFC East heavy hitters for the better part of the last decade. In terms of fantasy though, the Jackson/Spiller combination should provide some decent production at good value later in your fantasy draft.
Keep an eye on Marshawn Lynch as well, who still has the potential to be a productive fantasy back if his off the field problems allow him to get in the lineup. Lynch could be a significant wrench in the duo but it is a situation worth monitoring in training camp.
Bye Week -- 6
A couple other tandems to watch out for:
Matt Forte/Chester Taylor – Chicago Bears
Taylor has always been a second banana in the NFL but Forte has not yet proved that he can be productive individually. Neither Taylor nor Forte should be drafted as stand alone guys but together have decent potential.
Bye Week -- 8
Shonn Greene/LaDainian Tomlinson – New York Jets
The opposite of Forte, Greene has a good thing going with the Jets now that he has inherited the No. 1 slot with Thomas Jones in Kansas City. He has a great offensive line and a coach who loves to run. Tomlinson will be his backup and without the punishment of being The Man on a regular basis probably still has a few shining moments (and touchdowns) in his reserve tank.
Bye Week – 7
Thomas Jones/Jamaal Charles – Kansas City Chiefs
Outside of Johnson in Tennessee, Charles was one of the best backs in the second half of 2009. He probably will not be the heavy torch carrier with Jones at Arrowhead but between them the Chiefs should be able to get back to the great ground game they had between Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes in the not-so-distant past.
Bye Week – 4
Dan Rowinski is a Fantasy Columnist for Rotoinfo.com. If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at Dan_Rowinski.