Those runners who share carries can still be elite fantasy performers. One such situation is shaping up in Kansas City, where newcomer Peyton Hillis has been literally bowling over his teammates. In practice Hillis has displayed the punishing running style that made him the waiver-wire pickup of 2010, when he totaled 1,177 yards and 13 total touchdowns while playing in Cleveland for Kansas City's new offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll. Hillis is paired with the speedy Jamaal Charles, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry through his first four seasons and appears to be fully recovered from the torn ACL that sidelined him for the final 14 games of 2011. They'll be playing in perhaps the league's most-run heavy offense, so touches won't be an issue for either. It's possible that both will end up in the top 20 of all fantasy scorers this season.
Other potential high-production tandems include the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson; the Saints' Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram; and the Bears' Matt Forte and Michael Bush.
Running backs take a pounding, which is why it's a young man's position. More often than not, running backs in their early 30s are considered past their prime. That makes it wise to target the backups of top runners who are approaching their expiration dates.
In Atlanta, Michael Turner has been a paragon of consistency since coming to the Falcons in 2008, placing third in rushing yards per game (89.5) and second in rushing touchdowns (50) during that span. But he has also led the league in rushes since 2008, with 1,189. Turner's now 30, and his coaches are rightfully determined to lighten his load.
That opens the door for Jacquizz Rodgers, who can better keep up with the potentially explosive attack of new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Small but powerful, Rodgers is reminiscent of Maurice Jones-Drew, and while he likely won't produce like MJD this year, he will be involved enough that he should be owned in all leagues.
Teams with similar situations include St. Louis, where Isaiah Pead is ready to sub in for Steven Jackson, 29; San Francisco, which has Kendall Hunter backing up Frank Gore, 29; and Denver, where Lance Ball and Ronnie Hillman each await their chances behind Willis McGahee, 30.
While the new pass-happy NFL has devalued running backs, fantasy success still requires a few good ones. It may no longer be wise to automatically grab a back in the first round, or even the second, but every fantasy player needs at least four on the roster.