How you look at running backs depends largely on the scoring in your particular league. Leagues that use PPR (Points Per Reception) pay much greater attention to their running back's involvement in their team's passing game. Much of the same can be said for tight ends, perhaps even more so. A good indication of how involved your player can be is the amount of targets (or looks) he is getting from the quarterback(s). Backs like Detroit's Reggie Bush may actually score more points receiving, while others like Seattle workhorse Marshawn Lynch get the majority of their production from the ground game.
As we wrap up 2012, I wonder how many season's were won.... and lost, due to lack of passing yards accumulated by running backs. It appears that Darren Sproles will be the only back that will hit triple digits in targets for the season. Only half a dozen other backs are averaging four or more targets per week. Injuries to LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte diminished the every down back list, but all in all, teams are throwing the ball downfield more. The "super" tight ends also took a bit of a hit this season. Rob Gronkowski remains sidelined and has dropped from the league leaders. Jimmy Graham has had a solid season, but Jason Witten remains the standard bearer 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.
Finally, the dreaded bye weeks are behind us. It's time for the home stretch and in week 12, fantasy owners applaud the return of Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Johnson and Ahmad Bradshaw. Tight end's returning from bye include Kyle Rudolph, Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook. While the bye weeks are behind us, keep an eye on multiple Thursday games, Saturday games coming soon and the usual Sunday and Monday prime time action.
I haven't compared historical numbers, but fantasy owners just aren't getting the passing numbers (targets) to supplement the dreaded running back by committee. Ray Rice owners have quickly moved him back into starting lineups after his bye week. The Buffalo duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the law firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and fantasy god Arian Foster are also returning. Shonn Greene, Frank Gore, Stephen Jackson and the New England committee are on vacation in week nine. Tight ends Jermaine Greshmam, Dennis Pitta, Scott Chandler and Owen Daniels are back in starting lineups, with Dustin Keller, the struggling Vernon Davis and fantasy favorite Rob Gronkowski taking a seat this weekend.
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).
As we reach the mid-way point of the NFL season, we really begin to see trends developing. The occasional really good or bad week don’t skew the season averages like they do early on. Many teams have had their bye weeks, with all teams done following week 11. The raw totals are a tad higher for those who have yet to have their bye week: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville and Minnesota are off this week; Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Pittsburgh are on bye during week 11. We have three sets of numbers for you, for both running backs and tight ends. We share those that are exceeding the norm, those that didn’t receive the normal “looks” they have become accustomed to and the season aggregate totals.
“Money Ball”, the movie based on a best seller book, by the same name arrives in theaters this week. Money ball is a true story based on the life and times of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane. Beane successfully put together a baseball team by using computer generated analysis to pick his players.