Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Running Backs

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The NFL is becoming a passing league with multi threat RBBC systems killing the old school workhorse RB. 300 touch per season running backs are hard to come by. This impacts your fantasy draft strategy at multiple levels. Let's take a look.

The running back position, while still a big part of the offense, isn't utilized like it used to be. There is no better example than this year's NFL draft where no running backs were drafted in the first round, the first being the Bengals' pick of Giovani Bernard with the 37th overall selection in the second round. Bernard can run, block and catch, which will help him push BenJarvus Green-Ellis for touches as the season goes on. This class clearly wasn't as strong as last year, where Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and David Wilson were all first-round picks. But it's still somewhat of a tell-tale sign that running backs in the NFL aren't used as much as they used to be.

While there are still full-time running backs such as Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster, injuries and changes to offensive philosophies are causing a lot of teams to slowly convert to the dreaded Running Back By Committee approach. Is it a bad thing? Yes, because RBBC is killing off the workhorse back. No, because RBBC has created more depth at the RB position, allowing you to find some decent mid round picks at the RB position.

How This Plays Into Your Draft Strategy

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers scored more fantasy points than guys like Doug Martin, Ray Rice and Marshawn Lynch last year.

While you'll find a bevy of RB depth in the draft, few hold the title of "workhorse RB". If you have an opportunity to draft two top tier workhorse running backs (top 10 guys) then I would pull the trigger. You can then go with a two mid-round QB system where you play the QB based on matchups, allowing you to fill your WR with picks 3, 4 and or 5. Look for our QB, TE and WR draft strategies here.

In a recent mock draft that I plan on covering in the next week, I took Rodgers with the 1.12 pick and A.J. Green at the 2.1 pick. Who are my top two running backs? Stevan Ridley and Vick Ballard, who I listed as one of my breakout candidates. I didn't force myself to take a running back simply because of outdated rules. Keeping up with the new way of thinking will help you maximize the value of every player you draft.

In Conclusion

Here is a summary that every fantasy owner will want to consider when looking at running backs during their draft:

  • If you can't grab 2 workhorse backs in the first 3 rounds, then just grab one then wait for a couple sleepers or value picks later.
  • Don't feel the need to draft 2 Running Backs early if your scoring rules dictate other positions having greater value (6 points for all TDs, PPR, etc). Don't forget rule 1!
  • The dreaded Running Back By Committee isn't as dreaded as it used to be since it opens up more possibilities for a sleeper to be had later in your draft.


    • Kurt Turner says

      It’s just in time for the guys that have only been playing a couple years or are newbies. Trust me, we see people in our forums (and others) that are taking three running backs in the first 3 or 4 rounds and two of the three are part of a RBBC. People are still drafting RB like that RB’s are not part of a RBBC. All Greg is saying is we have a couple of top tier RB’s.. draft them early, everyone else can wait because their value is low low low and you can match it mid draft with ease.

  1. Bill says

    It’s all about position scarcity. I’m hoping the other guys in my league take a WR & QB in the first round.

    • Greg Brosh says

      Guys like Megatron, Green, Brees, Rodgers have all been going in the early first round. That leaves quite a bit of RB talent left.

    • Kurt Turner says

      Greg said “In a recent mock draft …. I took Rodgers with the 1.12 pick and A.J. Green at the 2.1 pick…my top two running backs (are) Stevan Ridley and Vick Ballard”

      While I dont love his Ballard pick, it has potential, and knowing Greg he got a couple more RB in the later rounds.

      position scarcity is huge, but outside of the top 10 RB’s, if you can’t get them, you can pretty much wait a round due to the point value on the RB’s after about the #10 guy. It’s hard to nail down facts etc without know an individuals point setting, but you should get the picture.

    • Bill says

      @Greg & Kurt,

      I should have placed a caveat on that WRT relative value. Take ffcalculator and their current mocks. #12 is the neighborhood of Green. No doubt he’s a stud. In my league (PPR), I project him for about 18ppg. Available RBs at #12 are Forte/Jackson/MJD–all of which I’m projecting around 16ppg. On the surface, seems like Green is the right choice based on points alone.

      However, if you look two rounds down at #32, the available WR’s are Fitzgerald/Cobb/White. I have them in the neighborhood of 16ppg. RB’s are Wilson/Ball/Ivory, who I can’t even project well because none have any history with their ballclubs. I value them all around 13ppg mainly because none are “bellcow” backs–2 down starters mostly with another back siphoning touches on 3rd down.

      If those projections are accurate, going RB/WR gives you a projected 32ppg vs WR/RB at 31ppg. That’s overly simplistic and projections are notoriously inaccurate, but that’s the best we can do.

      I could even make the case for JGraham at #12 if Gronk is banged up. There are no other tight ends worth owning in the top 8 rounds after Graham.

      Regardless, I like seeing your viewpoints, guys–and nice job on this one Greg. Good luck this year!

      • Kurt Turner says

        @Bill, our cheatsheet system does all the value based point projections based on your leagues point setting and accuscore stat projections.. I wrote the system so I “get” what you’re saying 100 percent. It’s much deeper than simply player a will net you 18 points with ADP X, and player B will net you 19 points with ADP X. You’ve also got to identify the number of draft-able players, starting players in your league and the drop off between tiers of players at each position, if you want to really nail it down =)

        but for the folks that don’t break it down, Grep kept it simple in this article.

        for folks like you, you might want to read this more in-depth analysis.

        In less than 30 days I’ll be releasing a 12 video “training” series on how to create the perfect fantasy football cheat sheet. the theory used is value based and not losing points ideals.

        I say losing points, because your comments, my comments and Greg’s article doesn’t take into account the # of starting positions on any given fantasy league week. IE the number of starting / draft-able players at each position. This changes your math “projected 32ppg vs WR/RB at 31ppg” a great deal since the value drop off is substantial and varies for each tier. The videos I’m releasing teach you how to do the projections and assign value ratings just like we do (for you) in our premium draft guide.


    • Greg Brosh says

      He fell to 3.12, which surprised me just as much as it does you. Could be a combo of things. He doesn’t catch many passes and many think Shane Vereen will hog more playing time.

  2. EL says

    How many running backs and or wide recievers do you start in your roster. IS one position favored over the other?

    • Greg Brosh says

      All depends on your league’s scoring. There are 100s of different ways you can set up your scoring to make any of the positions more important than the others.