StrategyJuly 2, 2012

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Drafting Strategy: Running Backs - 2 comments

By murphysxm

As mentioned in my last article, Draft Strategy: Quarterbacks, this is a different kind of draft year. Let us continue through my drafting strategy series and shift to the running back position. If you take nothing out of this article, remember this, RBs will be scary this year. After Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice (in that order) are off the board, name one RB that you are absolutely positive will be a No. 1 fantasy RB for 16 weeks. No, go ahead, I’ll wait. No good answer, is there?

When I approached the QB position, I based things off of two unique strategies. For RBs, I am going to go a different direction and break the backs into three tiers to help illustrate a point that is coming later in the article. As of today, here are my PPR draft tiers through the first 24 backs.

Tier 1
Absolute stud, must draft if have the chance

Foster, McCoy, Rice

Tier 2A
High upside, but not locks

Ryan Mathews, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray, Trent Richardson, Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles

Tier 2B
Either have a lower ceiling or more question marks/risks

Darren Sproles, Ahmad Bradshaw, Adrian Peterson, Stephen Jackson, Frank Gore, Michael Turner, Reggie Bush, Fred Jackson, Doug Martin, Jahvid Best, Beanie Wells

So, let’s assume a vacuum, where all 12 teams take two of these running backs. How many teams are going to be excited about whom their No. 1 RB is, let alone whom their No. 2 back is? It is a reality that in order to have elite RBs this year, you will need to gamble, and gamble early. Drafters in the back half of Round 1 are going to have a clear choice. Take the stud QB or WR that is safe, or gamble at RB. My advice today, roll the dice on the RB. Now let me explain why.

It is fairly universally accepted that WR and QB are by far the deepest positions of the draft. There are legitimately 15-18 WRs that I would be absolutely secure if they were my team’s No. 1 WR. There are 3 RBs I feel the same confidence in. So, if I don’t have confidence in any of the RBs in Tiers 2A and 2B, why am I recommending you take that gamble? Value. This is a word and a theme you will see me carry through all my positional rankings.

To me, it is going to be so much easier to grab a talented, high upside WR in Rounds 3-6 than a similar RB, i.e. WR value will be had later on. If I can get out of Rounds 1, 2 and 3 with two players from the top 2 RB tiers, I am doing it. What makes this strategy so appealing to me is that I will still be able to draft a WR in Rounds 3 or 4 who has No. 1 potential. Let me put some names to the strategy so you can see how it can work. Out of the four-hole in a mock I did recently, I walked away with Mathews, Charles, Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Marshall. The person out of the five-hole drafted Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Reggie Bush and Shonn Greene.

Clearly my team is much better off at RB, but he has better players at WR. So why do I like my team better? A) My WRs are fairly close to his WRs, but I think I dominate at RB; and B) In this particular mock draft, at the end of Round 4, there was much more WR talent left available (Jeremy Maclin, Dwayne Bowe, Antonio Brown, etc.) in comparison to RB, where Jonathan Stewart and C.J. Spiller were the best left. Our teams leave Round 4 relatively equal, but my base at RB will allow me to scoop up WR value, while the other team needs to take chances at RB to fill their need.

I will fully acknowledge the risk in this approach, as any of the backs in tiers 2A and 2B could be disappointments and many have huge medical red flags. It is also completely possible that you can go QB/WR/WR and hit right on all your mid-round RB choices, but I believe the odds are in your favor if you start with great RB play.

In a nutshell, I would rather spend Round 5 selecting from Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Jeremy Maclin, Torrey Smith and DeSean Jackson at WR than between Ben Tate, Roy Helu, Jahvid Best, Donald Brown and Stevan Ridley at RB. These are the actual players currently ranked with an ADP of Round 5 at Mock Draft Central. To me, there is absolutely no question that I want to be scooping up receivers and avoiding the crapshoot that is these running backs.

As always, these are just my opinions based on what I am seeing in mocks and my personal value drafting philosophy. Feel free to mock, criticize and compliment; feedback is what makes this site so great.

Next up, wide receivers.

Just an average guy that enjoys talking fantasy. Follow me here in the forum under username murphysxm.
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2 Responses to “Drafting Strategy: Running Backs”

  1. User avatar Dolfan19 says:

    agree with your tiers, and agree with your analysis. Calvin is very tempting at 1.04, but I agree to go Mathews, because it is so important to fill up that RB hole. I would want to have at least one RB from your top two tiers (11 RBs) on any team I draft. Then I am confident I can get decent production at RB2 with the combination of RB picks I make after that. Great article!

  2. jippja01 says:

    I completely agree with your philosophy but at what point would you deem calvin, Rogers, brees, Brady, gronkowski, and graham too good to pass up. Certainly anywhere in the second round for some of them but what if Rogers is on the board late first?


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