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5 running backs trapped in committees who could be league winners if fully featured

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Stuck in frustrating committees, these runners could excel if they ever get a full workload

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

In today’s NFL, we don’t see too many running backs carrying the ball over 30 times anymore. Even when a back rushes the ball more than 20 times, it is a mild surprise. There’s just too much injury risk not to use committees, and specific situations, such as third downs and goal-line opportunities, often require the right personnel.

That’s understandable, but for fantasy football managers, it is extremely frustrating. And when there is a talented back stuck in one of these timeshares, all we want is for them to get that lucky break and end up with most of the backfield touches on his team.

Sometimes, this lucky break does happen and you suddenly have a fantasy football star on your roster just in time for the playoffs. Remember last year when Raheem Mostert finally got his shot as the 49ers’ lead running back and he was the RB9 in .5PPR from Week 11 onward? Keeping these players on your fantasy roster—or going out and trying to get them onto your team—could be the key to a fantasy championship in 2020.

Here are five running backs that are trapped in a committee, who are still giving you solid fantasy performances, but could be absolute stars if they finally get their break.

Darrell Henderson Jr., Los Angeles Rams

The Rams’ running situation is extremely frustrating for fantasy purposes. Sean McVay seems fixated on the idea of assigning 1A and 1B roles, which is essentially an even timeshare between Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown. Additionally, rookie Cam Akers is also an ever-present threat to steal some carries.

Late in the first half of the Rams’ game against the Dolphins in Week 8, Henderson suffered a thigh injury and didn’t return. Akers was inserted in his 1A role and got ten touches, while Brown has averaged ten carries and 1.5 receptions in the last two weeks.

With 4.8 yards per carry, 578 total yards and four scores, Henderson has been fantastic in 2020, yet he has surpassed 15 carries only once. Provided his health returns after the Week 9 bye, he should be getting a higher percentage of the backfield touches.

Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

Stuck in a timeshare with Melvin Gordon, Lindsay is one of those runners that you look at his numbers, especially his yards per carry (6.4) and you want them with a full workload.

It isn’t going to happen for now, barring injury (the Broncos seem committed to giving Gordon at least 50% of the carries as long as he’s healthy) but hey, we are allowed to dream, right?

Lindsay kind of wore down to finish last season, and added 10 pounds of muscle before the action started in 2020. He now looks explosive, and his last game is proof of that (he turned just six carries into 83 yards with a score, breaking two 20+ yard gains.)

Gordon hasn’t been bad (375 rushing yards, 4.2 YPC, five touchdowns) but Lindsay is far more exciting.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team

This one is especially frustrating. Gibson, a 22-year-old rookie taken in the third round of the 2020 Draft, is clearly Washington’s best and most talented runner. Yet Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic keep getting (heavily) involved in the game plan.

Washington was on a bye this weekend, but the week before, against the Cowboys, Gibson was very impressive: he rushed 20 times for 128 yards and a touchdown. Sure, the rival wasn’t the best, but still! It was quite an effort.

The thing is that Barber still got ten (!) carries and McKissic handled seven touches. And, for those saying that Gibson could be scripted out of the contest when Washington is trailing, he has 19 receptions in the season’s first seven games. He’s by no means a zero in that department. He has the ability and he needs to be freed.

Damien Harris, New England Patriots

Maybe the Patriots are starting to realize that they have a good one in Harris. They gave him the ball 16 times in rushing plays, and he amassed 102 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Bills. He looked awesome in the process, breaking some big gains and injecting life to New England’s running game. In fact, he is now averaging a shiny 5.7 YPC.

Burkhead, however, has been stealing some early-down totes off Harris. On Sunday, the latter out-carried the former 16-6, and here’s hoping the trend continues. Also problematic for Harris owners is that Cam Newton is a running threat, and James White usually handles third downs.

The situation is not particularly optimistic if we, in addition, consider the fact that Sony Michel should eventually return. But it sure is fun to wonder what kind of fantasy lines would Harris achieve if he didn’t have that many obstacles to a full workload (and if he could catch the ball.)

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

If you have read this blog in the last couple of weeks, you know that I have a soft spot for D’Andre Swift. I believe he is an RB1 waiting to happen, but it all comes down to opportunity. He’s just not receiving many chances as long as Detroit wants to keep Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson involved.

Swift didn’t play particularly well on Sunday, rushing six times for one yard and catching three passes for 22 yards in Week 8 against the Colts. Nine total touches is a disappointment, especially since Johnson had a receiving touchdown. At least Swift slightly out-carried Peterson this weekend.

With 4.5 yards per carry, 23 total receptions and five touchdowns on the year, it’s clear Swift has some big-time ability. It’s just a matter of time for the Lions to realize that they have a very good, young all-downs back waiting to explode.