DuJaun Harris vs. Eddie Lacy vs. Johnathan Frankin vs. James Starks vs. Alex Green (GB)
The Packers have a tough decision to make over the next few weeks in regard to their crowded backfield. There are five running backs fighting for the starting job, although two of those standout among the crowd. In the end, it is likely to come down to Harris and Lacy, and their first real battle will be in Saturday's preseason game against the Rams. Both running backs are slated to play in this one, although their carries will likely be limited. Considering Lacy's skill set, it is going to be hard to deny him carries this season, although Harris finished the 2012 season strong for the Packers.
The last time the Packers had a 1,000-yard rusher was back in 2009, when Ryan Grant surpassed that total, which is not promising for anyone looking to target either one of these running backs. No matter who wins the battle it is going to be tough to start either player week in and week out with most of the Packers offense coming through the passing game. In dynasty and keeper leagues, Lacy has more upside, but it is tough to determine his value in redraft leagues at this point.
Daryl Richardson vs. Isaiah Pead vs. Zac Stacy (STL)
The Rams decided to part ways with Steven Jackson this offseason, which has opened the door for one of the team's young rushers to earn the starting gig. Following the Rams first preseason game, coach Jeff Fisher stated that Richardson is the frontrunner heading into Saturday's contest with the Packers, which is warranted after a solid 2012 campaign in limited duty. The fact that Pead has a Week 1 suspension looming gives Richardson the early edge, although if he doesn't perform well over the next few weeks, it could end up being more of a split decision.
If the season started today there is no way Richardson wouldn't be the Rams starting running back, but that isn't a guarentee of fantasy sucess. The Rams improved their offensive line this offseason, which was desperately needed, although there are still some holes to fill. If Steven Jackson couldn't find the end zone in this offense, it is hard to believe that Richardson, Pead and Stacy will be able to either.
Montee Ball vs. Ronnie Hillman vs. Knowshon Moreno (DEN)
The Broncos are in line to have one of the best offenses in the NFL this season, but there are still a lot of questions circling around their ground attack. In addition to having Hillman and Moreno, the Broncos drafted Ball in this year's draft after the departure of Willis McGahee. Early reports from training camp have Ball and Hillman as the frontrunners for the starting job, but Ball has a lot to prove in his first season in the NFL. Both running backs failed to separate themselves from the pack in their first preseason game, so it looks like it is going to come down to who performs better over the next three weeks.
Both running backs bring a different skill set to the table, with Ball being a physical inside runner and Hillman a speedy back better suited for running outside the tackles. The best case scenario for the Broncos would be to use both running backs based on their needs during a game, but that is not what prospective fantasy owners want to hear. No matter which way the team decides to go, there is a good chance both players end up with the same amount of carries by season's end.
: Ronnie Hillman
Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Vick Ballard (IND)
The Colts will be running a new style of offense this season, after bringing in a fresh face at offensive coordinator, which is going to factor into the team's decision on their backfield situation. Ballard separated himself last season and ended up No. 1 on the team's depth chart, but the acquisition of Bradshaw is going to make him have to earn his carries once again. Considering Bradshaw has yet to practice, let alone play in a game, Ballard has the early edge, but it has been proven year after year that Bradshaw doesn't need much work during practice to be successful during games. A split backfield is likely in store once Bradshaw is healthy enough to take the field.
You never want to see a running back committee for fantasy football purposes, but Bradshaw has been in similar situations in the past and found a way to be a valuable asset. If this is in fact the case, Bradshaw is the player you want to own out of the Colts backfield, but it would be wise not to count on him to play all 16 games due to his injury history.
Rashard Mendenhall vs. Ryan Williams vs. Stepfan Taylor (ARI)
The Cardinals are basically starting from scratch this season, after bringing in a new head coach to go along with a new quarterback and a new running back. Mendenhall was brought in on a one-year deal, so he has a lot to prove to his doubters after a miserable 2-12 campaign following knee surgery. Both Williams and Talyor have little experience carrying the workload of an every day back, so the early edge has to go to Mendenhall, although he appears to have lost a step after making his return. The biggest question is whether or not the offensive line will be able to improve on last year's dismal performance, which will dictate the success of whoever wins the job.
The only reason why there is a battle for the starting job in Arizona is because of the overhaul the tema went through this offseason. Mendenhall is clearly the one to target out of hte Carindals backfield on draft day, but those interested may want to handcuff him with Williams. As mentioned above, with a new offense and new quaterback, the runnig game should open up a lot more than what we have seen from the Cardinals the last few seasons, so there is some upside potential considering how late Mendenhall is going off the board.
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Matthew Beck is a Fantasy Sports Columnist for Rotoinfo.com. If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow him on Twitter @MatthewRBeck for up-to-date Q&A and fantasy information. And, to make setting your Fantasy Football lineup easy, be sure to utilize RotoInfo.com’s new NFL Lineup Grids.