Thereís no debate that wide receivers have taken over fantasy
football. They are almost universally viewed as safer, more consistent,
and more reliable from season to season and week to week. I am
not here to tell you thatís not true. I believe it is. But even
so, making sure you grab two running backs in the first three
rounds might be the key to getting a leg up on your competition
The purpose of this article is about draft theory and team composition.
I will use specific players as examples to illustrate my point,
but the players themselves are irrelevant Ė focus instead on what
the players represent.
We are now in the heart of draft season. Iíve done more mocks
than I can count from the front, the middle, and the back end.
Iíve tried every strategy you can imagine and what I noticed was
something unexpected: I always like my team most when I draft
running backs early.
I often find when itís my turn to pick, I have a receiver ranked
as the best player on my board. Using the very common ďbest player
availableĒ (BPA) strategy, in theory, I should be selecting a
receiver each time. But obviously, I have to draft running backs
at some point, which means in a handful of rounds, I canít select
the best player available. This poses the all-important question:
When is the right time to ignore the best player on my board and
take a running back? The answer typically comes in Rounds 1-3.
In the WR-happy world of fantasy football,
taking two running backs early is still a viable strategy.
This seems counterintuitive. Receivers are safer and less likely
to fail. However, I am also looking to gain an edge over my opponents.
Letís say I pick somewhere between 6 through 9 in Round 1. The big-three
wide receivers are already gone (Antonio
Beckham Jr., Julio
Jones). There are a number of receivers I like ranked 4-20,
but only a handful of running backs I feel confident in. Even though
I have a plethora of receivers ranked ahead of the running backs,
I pass on the likes of A.J.
Green or Dez
Bryant and take Adrian
Peterson in the middle of the first round. In Round 2, I can
select a wide receiver (Brandin
Cooks or Jordy
Nelson) without much drop-off from Green or Bryant.
But this isnít all that uncommon Ė to take a single running back
early. What about selecting two? The depth of the receiver position
means there are still high quality receivers available in the Round
3. I would pass on them and take a second running back even if itís
a little bit of a reach based on ADP. In a PPR format, I project
Murray to score approximately 14 fantasy points per game and
would select him instead of Julian
Cobb, or Demaryius
Thomas, all of whom I project to outscore Murray. It doesnít
have to be Murray; it can be any running back you believe in.
After three rounds, I now have two running backs and one wide
receiver. But in the fourth round, I now set my sights on Jordan
Decker, or Jeremy
Maclin, all of whom I project to either match or outscore
Edelman, Cobb, and Thomas. Meanwhile, the running backs typically
available in the fourth or fifth round, I project to score ranging
from 10-12 fantasy points per game. I have now created value for
myself by taking the running back early because the difference
between a receiver in Round 3 and the receivers in Rounds 4-6
is less than the difference between my third-round RB and my top
ranked running backs in Rounds 4-6.
This is just one manís analysis, but Iíve found that there are
more receivers in the mid-late rounds that Iíd feel comfortable
with as flex players as opposed to running backs that I may have
to start. The players may not be the same, but the theory holds
true. The depth at the receiver position coupled with the scarcity
of quality running backs makes drafting two running backs within
your first three picks a viable strategy.
You may not like the same players as me and you may conclude that
you just want to play it safe and stack up on WRs. Thatís perfectly
fine. But as the old clichť goes, sometimes you need to zig while
everyone else zags. Before you draft for real this year, at least
consider how you may be able to benefit from taking two running
backs in the first three rounds.