Now that preseason games are in full swing, backfield battles are playing out and we're getting a better idea of the kinds of roles certain running backs will play on their respective teams. Committee Meetings is here once again to fill you in on the latest developments with the Giants, Browns, Cowboys, Patriots and Titans backfields. So with draft day quickly approaching turn up your "Hard Knocks" playlist and get your study on!
No clarity in Giants' unproductive backfield
Rashad Jennings | Shane Vereen | Andre Williams // Giants
Unfortunately, we've learned pretty much nothing about the Giants' backfield over the course of the team's three exhibition games. New York's top three running backs, Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen and Andre Williams have averaged an appalling 2.8 yards per carry average combined on a total of 25 attempts. Jennings is the lone member of the trio to score a touchdown all preseason. While it's difficult to gauge how things will shape up when the games actually matter from a few preseason touches, we had hoped for more clarity here. Rashad Jennings will still likely lead the pack while Vereen plays the passing down role. Williams, who has only had five carries all preseason could be a touchdown vulture and like last season, may play a bigger role if the 29-year-old Jennings goes down with an injury.
Browns backfield mediocre at best
Isaiah Crowell | Terrance West | Duke Johnson // Browns
The heir apparent and savior to the Browns' backfield, rookie Duke Johnson, only had two touches in Cleveland's last preseason game before being sidelined with a concussion. So once again, we saw Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West alternate their way to mediocrity with the first team. Through three preseason games, West (3.5) actually has a better YPC average than Crowell (2.7), but on tape Crowell looks like he desires the lead role more. But just because he runs hard doesn't mean he has what it takes to be a No. 1 running back. A lead runner needs to be able to pass-block, something Crowell has evidently struggled with:
It's not out of the question for Cleveland to look into signing a free agent before the season begins, which would knock the value of Crowell and West down. But until that happens, the only option is to take a flier on Johnson with the hope that he can get and stay healthy and make an impact at some point during the season.
McFadden rises to the occassion
Joseph Randle | Darren McFadden | Lance Dunbar | Gus Johnson // Cowboys
Believe it or not, but Darren McFadden actually had a great outing against the Vikings last weekend with 37 yards on just four carries. Granted, some of the holes he ran through were the size of the Grand Canyon, but regardless, he showed speed, burst and agility that nobody really expected. Meanwhile, Joseph Randle rushed for just 15 yards on six carries and seemed somewhat indecisive and impatient on a few of his runs. The Dallas backfield is about as muddled as RBBC can get and although McFadden ran with a purpose against Minnesota, his injury risk is too high to invest too much into. Randle's asking price at RB19, which puts him on borderline RB2 value is also way too inflated for a member of a committee. The best route here is to avoid both backs and let your league-mates deal with this headache.
New England RBs continue to mystify
LeGarrette Blount | Dion Lewis | Jonas Gray | Brandon Bolden | James White // Patriots
Jonas Gray and Brandon Bolden got first-team reps for the Patriots last weekend, while LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis got work in the second half. That left James White as the odd man out. Lewis was the standout for the second week in a row, scoring on a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo in the third quarter. Providing absolutely no clarity on the committee situation in New England, Bill Belichick discussed in a press conference on Tuesday how he likes to utilize the running back position. "Sometimes we feel like it's better to give one guy a longer dose in this game and not play another player, and then maybe reverse or switch those around in other games," he said. At least he was transparent in his convoluted misdirection. Good luck to those of you who courageously draft or have already drafted a Patriots running back.
Sankey misses opportunity
Bishop Sankey | David Cobb | Dexter McCluster | Antonio Andrews // Titans
With David Cobb on the shelf last weekend with a calf injury all eyes were on Bishop Sankey to see if he could take advantage of some first team reps. Alas, he failed in this effort. Sankey ran six times for 17 yards and coughed up a fumble, which was recovered by Tennessee. We have to wonder if Cobb, who is reportedly in a walking boot and is week-to-week, will get a shot at the starting role sooner rather than later once he gets healthy. Dexter McCluster could also end up playing a larger role than we might expect, and Antonio Andrews, who has two rushing touchdowns this preseason is also lurking on the depth chart and could become a touchdown vulture. Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt has also stated that he'd be open to adding another back before the start of the season. Wouldn't that just be grand?
Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. His nickname around the NFL Media office is Franchise, and he's totally cool with it. Follow him on Twitter for fantasy advice all season long @m_franciscovich.