Perhaps its the spread offense, or maybe the new breed of quarterback like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, but teams are throwing the ball downfield more and not to the running backs. Only three traditional running backs, Darren Sproles, Ray Rice and rookie Trent Richardson have been targeted more than four times per game this season. Dexter McCluster is more of a slot back and Marcel Reece an H-back, whose numbers will diminish with Darren McFadden back. Injuries have slowed the super-tight end's, with the "King Of Pain" Jason Witten running away as the most targeted at the position.
Why don't teams throw to running backs? I know I have been harping on this all season, but when only seven backs are averaging more than four targets a game, the numbers are down. Making matters worst, Darren McFadden and LeSean McCoy aren't avaialble and Darren Sproles is just working his way back. At tight end, All-World Rob Gronkowski is gone till December and Jimmy Graham's numbers have been tempered a bit. Jason Witten owners are happy that his spleen hasn't impacted his league leading numbers.
Note to self- Do whatever it takes to get both Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy on my fantasy football teams in future seasons. Arian Foster you ask? Injury concerns and the Ben Tate presence are a slight distraction with Marshawn Lynch the only running back worthy of argument. Dreams aside, Jamaal Charles appears fully recovered from injury and is the next best all-around bet along with Maurice Jones-Drew. The sleeper of the year remains Alfred Morris, who has quietly been nearly as important to the resurgent Redskins offense as Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III. Jason Witten owners are feeling a bit better this week, actually a lot better after he was targeted more than any tight end in week four, catching 13 of 14 Tony Romo attempts (with the rest going to the Bears).
With the exception of the usual suspects like Darren Sproles, it appears that running back targets are down this season. We find only 18 running backs league wide with double figure targets through three weeks of play. Further to the drop off, only Sproles and Darren McFadden have been targeted more than 19 times this season out of the backfield. With running back by committee now virtually league wide, it becomes increasingly important to get the few backs that are part of their teams passing game. The league's best pass catching backs top the "fallers" list in week three, further representing the drop off we are seeing. Perhaps the looks are going to the tight ends as we have seen some solid options emerge in September. With teams using tight ends in the backfield as "H-backs" on passing downs, this could contribute towards the numbers we are seeing.
With the dreaded running back by committee plauging the NFL, fantasy owners need to find added value at the position. Receiving yards and touchdowns is an obvious option and futher to that, the number of times a player is targeted by his teams quarterback. The NFL is a copy cat league and more and more teams are going to the double tight end formation to try and duplicate the great success in New England at the position.