Don’t be fooled, the best way to a Fantasy Football Title is not through the air but, like the old school days, is still on the ground.
I’ve recently heard guys say they’re more than content on waiting to draft running backs, instead investing picks on the sexier positions of quarterback wide receiver and even in some instances tight ends. I’m here to tell you if you’ve done that in the past and succeeded, you lucked out and if you plan on doing it in the future you might as well go ahead and have somebody prepare your fantasy football funeral. There’s plenty of reason to believe that’s the way to go these days. For one, the league is clearly and quickly becoming a passing dominated game. More teams are deciding to go with the spread offense philosophy putting more emphasis on quarterbacks, tight ends, and to be more specific, even slot receivers. In turn this takes the ball and production away from the running backs now more than ever. The other reason this sounds pleasing is more and more teams are deploying a running back by committee approach to the backfield. Most teams now have two or even three running backs they deploy regularly in a single game. You have your big -bodied touchdown specialists, more elusive sure handed receiving backs, and the most boring of all regular back that gets most of the carries between the twenties. In essence, spreading out the production over all three backs making them all attractive for their own reasons but making none of them elite at the same time. It’s these trends exactly that actually disprove this thinking all together.
Yes we all know what Peyton Manning did last year torching all passing records and setting the fantasy world on fire starting from week one. Unfortunately only one of the guys in your league was able to snag him saving his season from the rest of his terrible draft. To expect Peyton to be separated that far from the field of other fantasy players for a second year in a row is at least wishful thinking. Let someone else make that rush to take him with their first round pick and take one of the other talented QBs in the draft. Although their not all Peyton Manning, according to fantasypros.com 21 out of 25 of the highest scoring players per game in standard league scoring were quarterbacks. This means you can grab a highly productive signal caller much later in the draft, in fact after second ranked Drew Brees, the next twelve QBs were separated by 3.5 points per game. Before you say anything, yes I have lost my fair share of matchups by less than 3.5 points, but the whole point of this is to have the better running backs making the 3.5 less relevant. On the flip side out of that same top 25 only two were running backs (Jamaal Charles – 20.5) and (LeSean McCoy – 17.3). An important factor to remember is all the misses on "elite" RBs last year in the first round of the draft. According to fantasypros.com who took a consensus of 6 sources to acquire the average draft positions in last years fantasy drafts of standard scoring leagues the top 10 picks looks like this (Peterson-Martin-Foster-Charles-Spiller-Lynch- Rice-Ca. Johnson-Richardson-McCoy). Only four of those were in the top 25 RBs in average scoring. Yikes, that 40% success rate stings a bit. So your chances of hitting on one of the two top dog running backs are even more narrowed meaning even less teams have one of them as well. Because there are less teams that feature one "elite" RB and actually use him to his fullest, coupled with the fact that more than half of the first round backs don’t succeed seem to suggest that you’ll be playing ahead of the field if you can snag one the top guys at RB. Touching back one last time on the quarterback depth, last year you could find in the 5th to 8th rounds the likes of Kaepernick, Stafford, Luck, Wilson, and Romo. In the 9th round and on guys like Dalton, Cutler, Palmer, Smith, and even Phillip Rivers can be found at a bargain.
Maybe the most important factor in all this is the overall declining health in running backs. This leads, in a lot of ways, to the running back by committee approach we touched on earlier. We all know how physical the game is and how fickle the RB position can be throughout the year. Of the top 25 running backs on average selected in last years fantasy drafts, 16 of them suffered injuries last season causing them to miss time and in a lot of cases lingering all year causing dropped production across the board for the player. Nothing derails a fantasy season faster that a torn ACL to your lead running back especially when your not prepared for it. I don’t have to tell any of you how unkind the waiver wire can be in week 7 when it comes to trying to find running back replacements. Just when you think you have enough RBs… wait lets just be honest, YOU NEVER HAVE ENOUGH RUNNING BACKS!!! Yes it’s a good idea to pepper your draft with RBs later in the draft, but we all know if they’re even on your roster late in the year and your depending on them, it’s at least safe to say that you’ve been doing lots of praying to the fantasy gods. Health of running backs these days makes it of the utmost importance to make sure you have enough of them that are productive on your roster. If you are somehow fortunate to have a plethora of running backs on your team you know that they are the "Benjamin Franklin" of trade currency in fantasy. You can get top talent at other positions at the expense of the desperateness of other owners.
Look I’m not saying abandon the idea of a top notch QB or WR altogether early in the draft. I just want you to remember two things when it comes to your fantasy football draft this year. 1) You can’t have enough RBs… draft them early and often. Going RB-RB-RB to start your draft isn’t a bad idea at all, but you at least need to make 2 of the first 3, and 3 of the first 5 running backs. Late in the year coming down the stretch, you will become once again, all to familiar with unpredictable monster that is the fantasy RB either for better or for worse.