RB in Round1: Your draft sets up nicely
if you're comfortable taking David Johnson at 1.05.
For each of the past three seasons, there was a particular strategy
I preferred regardless of draft position. That is not the case in
2019. For those of you counting down the days until my late August
draft strategy article, fear not, as that article is still coming.
The only difference is it won’t be the strategy for me this
season. In 2019, the optimal strategy is split depending on your
draft position. In this bonus July strategy article, I will cover
my ideal strategy when drafting with a top five pick.
ADPs are going to change so I will do my best to be as broad as
I can but there is a clear “big four” at running back this year:
Kamara, and Saquon
Barkley. The consensus 1.05 is and will likely remain David
Johnson. I understand arguments for Melvin
Gordon (before this holdout issue arose), but I believe DJ is
in a tier by himself at 1.05. It is always advantageous to secure
an elite running back over an elite wide receiver. Using 2018 as
an example, there were six running backs that averaged more fantasy
points per game than the WR1, Davante
Adams. In 2017, Todd
Gurley and Le’Veon
Bell both averaged more fantasy points per game than the WR1,
(and it got even worse as you moved down the ranks of RB1s vs. WR1s).
In 2016, four running backs averaged more fantasy points per game
than the WR1, Antonio Brown. You want the elite RB if you can get
him. There is a cutoff after 1.05 because the safety level of the
running back drops such that the advantage in having the elite RB
no longer outweighs the safety of the WR.
When picking in the top five, you should take one of the aforementioned
five running backs. Going RB in the first round gives you the flexibility
to go in any direction in each of the next four or five rounds making
“Single RB” - which was the topic
of last year’s draft strategy article - a very viable strategy this
year. You have the advantage of being able to secure a very strong
WR1 like Mike Evans,
or Adam Thielen
in the second and there is a decent chance Hilton, Thielen, or Stefon
Diggs will be there in the third. If you can draft two WR1s
to go along with your elite RB1, you are sitting pretty. That is
the secondary reason drafting in the top five is so different than
being saddled with a pick in the back seven. As I will get into
more in August, your WR options in the third round are going to
be weaker relative to those picking at the top, which impacts what
you do in rounds 1 and 2.
After you’ve taken your elite RB in round 1, you don’t
have to go WR-WR in the next two rounds. If Nick Chubb falls, he
is hard to pass on or you could roll the dice on Todd Gurley. You
could also take your pick of Leonard Fournette, Damien Williams,
or Marlon Mack. I prefer going WR-WR because I trust the second
and third round WRs more than the RBs. It is very easy to see how
things can go very wrong for every second and third round running
back. Fournette could get hurt. Williams is a UDFA thrust into a
feature role for the first time at age 27 and has never had more
than 50 carries in any season. Mack has passing down concerns due
to Nyheim Hines and goal line concerns due to Spencer Ware. With
the concerns noted, the RBs all have higher ceilings than the WRs.
It is obviously important and necessary to balance risk vs. reward.
If you think Fournette can stay on the field this year or Damien
can hold that job for the entire season, those RBs are going to
end up being better picks than the WRs available in rounds 2 and
3. That’s the inherent advantage of picking top five –
you have this freedom.
Another benefit to my preferred strategy of going RB-WR-WR is the
running backs available in rounds 4 and 5. For the past two seasons,
the running back landscape was a complete wasteland in round 3.
For example, look at last year’s ADP of running backs being in the
Yikes. Compared to the WRs available in round 3 last season (Mike Evans, T.Y. Hilton, Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill) it’s easy to
see where your draft capital should be focused. Taking a look at
rounds 4, 5, and 6 in 2019, you can grab Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake,
James White, Tarik Cohen, and Tevin Coleman. While none of these
backs are extremely safe, I feel much better about them than I did
about their 2018 counterparts. This difference also plays a huge
role in the viability of the optimal strategy for picking in the
Ultimately, the crux of the top five pick strategy is securing an
elite running back in the first round. Doing so allows you to mine
for value over the next few rounds without having to worry whether
or not you’re strong enough at the position. If you want to
wait until the seventh or eighth round to take your next running
back, you can do that. So while y preference would be to go WR-WR
rounds 2 and 3 and then take an RB with either my fourth or fifth
round pick, I am not pigeonholed into any one path. If WR value
presents itself or if you want to take a TE or a QB, you can do
so without worrying about being weak at RB; your sole elite RB can
carry your backfield. On the flip side, if you want to load up at
running back, possibly taking as many as three in the first four
rounds, there is enough WR value, particularly in rounds 5 through
7, to make that strategy work.
Taking the elite RB in the first round opens up the remainder of
your draft. However, it only works if that RB is both extremely
safe and has elite upside. Check back in late August as I delve
into why the rest of the RB1s do not meet this threshold and discuss
the best way to build your team from picks 6 through 12.