What to expect from the Washington Commanders backfield

What to expect from the Washington Commanders backfield

Fantasy football player analysis tips and advice

What to expect from the Washington Commanders backfield


The Washington Commanders having a muddled backfield is nothing new. Difficulty predicting the main man has been normal the past few years, and often it wasn’t the back you thought it would be in August.

Trying to determine the impact of Commanders running backs Antonio Gibson, Brian Robinson Jr., J.D. McKissic and Jaret Patterson isn’t easy, but it does have a familiar ring.

When Washington drafted Gibson in 2020, he immediately became the primary back but was part of a platoon with McKissic and Peyton Barber. In 2021, Gibson had more than three times the carries as anyone else on the roster and responded with a 1,000-yard season. Things were looking up for Gibson to join the featured back fraternity.

Then Marty Hurney struck … again.

Hurney, the Commanders executive V.P. of player personnel, cut his front-office teeth as the Carolina Panthers general manager. He made headlines more than a decade earlier by doubling down on running backs. In the span of three drafts, he selected DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart – both in the first round.

Tired of losing your league every season? Be sure to sign up for The Huddle today to gain an award-winning edge on the competition! We have 26 years of experience online building fantasy football champions.

Fans remember how that turned out. Both posted strong numbers but were always viewed as a tandem. Both were drafted to be a RB1 in most formats, and both were formidable players, but they negated each other enough to become prone to having time-share stat lines too often.

You get the sense that the same is happening 14 years later in Washington. Two years into his career, the shifty, speedy Gibson is being joined a power runner to line up next to or at least behind him. There is very little subtlety about Robinson’s game. He’s a 230-pound power runner who attacks defenses and is yet another in a long list of Alabama running backs to transition to the NFL. Robinson waited his turn behind Bo Scarbrough, Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris and Najee Harris – the latter trio being currently viewed as three of the respective bell cow running backs for their franchises. Robinson is looking to be the next in line to quickly and successfully make the jump from ‘Bama to the NFL.

Complicating matters is that McKissic agreed in principle to a deal with the Buffalo Bills but backed out at the last minute and accepted a contract to stay with the Commanders. He carved out a role as a third-down receiving back, and his objective at this point is merely to hold on to that role.

The wild card here is Gibson’s penchant for fumbling, which can kill a fantasy player – especially when there are viable options to put that player in the coach’s doghouse for a game. In his first two seasons, Gibson has lost six fumbles. Washington didn’t really have the luxury of sitting him last year. With Robinson, they might.

Much in the same way the Panthers lit a fire under Williams by drafting Stewart, eventually Stewart kept earning more and more playing time and Williams had to learn to share the load. If one of them was injured, the other one thrived. But, the team was better off with the thunder-and-lightning combination they bring – even if it lessens their weekly numbers.

Fantasy football outlook

When it comes to putting a fantasy value on the top two Commanders running backs, it has all the earmarks of being a tale of two seasons. Gibson is going to get the benefit of the doubt early given Ron Rivera’s acknowledged loyalty to his veteran players. But, his fantasy value has already taken a hit with the arrival of Robinson. The rookie is likely to going to start the season on the low end of a 3-to-1 time share, but one of two things could change that as the season goes along.

The first could be that he forces the hand of the coaching staff by making the most of his opportunities – like Tony Pollard has done in Dallas. The other could be if Gibson’s fumbling remains an issue. Injury, of course, is a third path, but players tend not to lose their role to minor ailments.

For the yearlong fantasy numbers, the money is on Gibson. He still has RB2 value, but when you need fantasy wins in December, Robinson may be more valuable at that point – especially at a discount price on draft night. The rookie is a must-handcuff for Gibson owners and also has RB4 worth in his own right. McKissic serves as viable roster depth in PPR leagues but offers little beyond the occasional flex play out of desperation.


More Huddle