All eyes of the NFL media will be on Johnny Manziel when the Browns open training camp next week. Fantasy owners should focus their eyes a few yards behind the rookie quarterback and to an important and fairly even running back battle.
According to Vic Carucci of the Browns' official website, Ben Tate will enter camp as a "slight favorite" to begin the season as the starter ahead of third-round rookie Terrance West. But Carucci writes that "it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if [West] ends up winning the starting job ...."
"He's more of a glider than a runner, showing remarkable nimbleness despite his powerful, 5-foot-9, 225-pound frame," Carucci wrote of the rookie. "West seems like a natural in the Browns' outside-zone-blocking scheme. He shows the necessary patience to allow gaps to form as the offensive line moves laterally and the necessary ability to plant a foot and explode through the hole. He's also big enough and strong enough to shake tacklers, but has the speed to tear away from them in the open field."
Carucci notes that Tate is already experienced with a zone-blocking scheme; he ran in one for four years in Houston.
Not to be forgotten, Carucci mentions that Isaiah Crowell, a former top high school recruit and undrafted free agent, has impressed coaches and could be a key backup if he can beat out Dion Lewis for the No. 3 gig.
But the men to really watch here are Tate and West. This is going to be a fun one. The Browns are going to run a lot this season with an offense designed by Kyle Shanahan and most likely executed by Manziel, a fantastic scrambler. If both backs remain healthy, I think this will become a timeshare, but West is the smarter selection right now. Tate has an extensive injury history in his four seasons and is being drafted on average about three rounds before West.