Vulture Back

Fantasy Football Definition of Vulture Back

Vulture Back - a term for second or third string running backs who steal goal line carries from the team's starter. These are the players stealing touchdowns from a fantasy manager's starting running backs.

A guy like Ronnie Brown may be doing "all the work" to get the Dolphins into the red zone, but isn't utilized to score the TD. It seems nothing gets the blood of a fantasy player boiling like his starter not getting the six points.

With more and more teams practicing a running back by committee approach to the run game, the pool of solid running back choices is now much "deeper" than in the past. The unfortunate other side effect of this -- we have fewer running backs putting up monster numbers than we did, say, 15 years ago.

Often, vultures exist because a back who puts up tons of yards is sitting down for short yardage situations -- either to put a bigger or a more rested back to pick up the six points. From the NFL perspective this makes perfect sense -- protect the guy putting up the yardage in favor of a more expendable or larger player who may not necessarily be able to clock up big yards. What ends up happening is that your starting back loses touchdowns because of a team's strategy. Thus, the second or third string back is picking off TDs from your starter.

This is obviously trouble for fantasy managers, as we are much more likely to start a guy like Ray Rice without stopping to think that most of his touchdowns are going to go to his vulture back, Le'Ron McClain. McClain is better in short yardage situations, and as the two of these guys play for the Ravens (who run three backs regularly) you should expect them to split work as it is.

Vulture backs aren't always a bad thing. If you understand a team's run game and figure out who they use in different yardage situations, you can set yourself up for some big surprise points from guys like McClain from the Ravens or Rashard Mendenhall from the Steelers. See, I just gave away two for free. I gotta stop doing that.

As with anything in fantasy football, vulture backs can work against you or in your favor. I read so many fantasy football experts complain about vulture backs, and it makes me wonder how long they've been at this. If you want to build around a vulture back, DON'T DRAFT the players most likely to be vultured. If losing a touchdown here and there bothers you that much, go for guys that won't get their touchdowns sniped as often. Otherwise, you might want to consider one of the "vulture backs" as a viable running back alternative. If he's scoring so many points, you may as well pick him up.

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