I’m putting my own personal fantasy football draft strategy on the line. Running backs are the thinnest position from top to bottom in fantasy football, which naturally should put them near the top of fantasy drafts. That’s even more true when you factor in how deep quarterback is and how all the tight ends are basically the same after Jimmy Graham.
Taking running backs early isn’t a question. It needs to be done. How many you take early, who you take and when you take them, however, is what is open for debate. To give fantasy owners a better ideas of what kind of rosters they’re looking at with or without elite rushers, I’ve decided to lean on the trusty Mock Simulator from the fellas at Fantasy Pros to show you the various destinations your roster could land in, depending on your perspective on running back value.
Using a 12-team, standard league, I’ll pick from the 6th spot each time (to keep things versatile and random) with five different strategies to start the first three picks. The roster will also be standard with 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, 1FLEX, 1K and 1DEF and 6 BENCH. I won’t draft a defense or kicker until the final two rounds, because no one ever should:
- Strategy 1: QB, RB, WR (for the Peyton Manning lovers)
- Strategy 2: RB, RB, WR (My personal favorite)
- Strategy 3: WR, RB, WR (for the Calvin Johnson lovers)
- Strategy 4: TE, WR, RB (for the Jimmy Graham lovers)
- Strategy 5: RB, RB, RB (for the mega running back lovers)
More strategies can be done, but these are probably the more popular ones (aside from pure random drafting with zero strategy, of course). Here is how those drafts played out:
QB: Peyton Manning (1), Eli Manning (13)
RB: Le’Veon Bell (2), Toby Gerhart (4), Danny Woodhead (8), David Wilson (11)
WR: Randall Cobb (3), Torrey Smith (5), Reggie Wayne (9), Mike Evans (10)
TE: Jordan Reed (7)
FLEX: Stevan Ridley (6), Martellus Bennett (12)
K: Mason Crosby (15)
DEF: New England Patriots (14)
Summary: The Draft Analyzer rated this team 8 out of 12 teams. Manning is nice to have, but he doesn’t cure everything. By taking him early, I bypass a second elite running back or wide receiver. With the value/depth at quarterback so rich, taking the plunge for a passer early just isn’t necessary – especially in the first round. This is not a suggested draft strategy.
QB: Colin Kaepernick (7), Johnny Manziel (12)
RB: Marshawn Lynch (1), Doug Martin (2), Trent Richardson (6), Darren McFadden (8)
WR: Vincent Jackson (3), Victor Cruz (4), Marques Colston (9), Dwayne Bowe (11),
TE: Martellus Bennett (10), Antonio Gates (13)
FLEX: Shane Vereen (5)
K: Blair Walsh (15)
DEF: New Orleans Saints (14)
Summary: The Draft Analyzer rated this as the 4th best team, putting me in the fantasy playoffs. That makes sense, since I was able to land at least one top-10 producer at every offensive position. I’m with you on risks like T-Rich and Run DMC and I know Colston, Bowe and Gates are aging. However, the first two still have upside and the other three have roles and are solid depth. This is my personal favorite strategy, as it encourages the best depth and balance across your fantasy roster.
QB: Matt Ryan (8), Russell Wison (10)
RB: Giovani Bernard (2), Toby Gerhart (4), Danny Woodhed (9), Andre Williams (12), Latavius Murray (13)
WR: Calvin Johnson (1), Randall Cobb (3), Eric Decker (7), Hakeem Nicks (11)
TE: Jordan Cameron (5)
FLEX: Joique Bell (6)
K: Matt Bryant (15)
DEF: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14)
Summary: This team got 5th place in the Analyzer, giving it a spot in the playoffs in most standard 12-team leagues. This is probably the second best strategy after RB, RB to start drafts. It certainly never hurts to get Megatron, while I still got Gio and focused on loading up on running backs beyond him. I’m not enamored with Decker or Nicks, but they’re both great value in drafts. Hopefully I just would never need them short of bye weeks, anyways. I think Gerhart is going to be a stud, Cameron already is and Matt Ryan is in for a huge bounce back year.
QB: Tony Romo (8), Philip Rivers (11)
RB: Andre Ellington (3), Rashad Jennings (5), DeAngelo Williams (7), Dexter McCluster (13)
WR: Brandon Marshall (2), Roddy White (4), Eric Decker (9), Terrance Williams (10), James Jones (12)
TE: Jimmy Graham (1)
FLEX: Trent Richardson (6)
K: Robbie Gould (15)
DEF: Cleveland Browns (14)
Summary: You just had to have Graham, didn’t you? If you want him, he’s trending into the first round, which I think is ridiculous. He’ll have to score 16 touchdowns again to meet that value. Getting him early clearly keeps you from landing locked in studs elsewhere, and puts you back a few steps at running back, as you can see. I actually love Ellington and I’m cool with my starting receivers, but I don’t like the rest of my running backs at all (except for T-Rich as a Flex isn’t bad). The good news is that QB is insanely deep and I got two potential top-10 passers here. The bad news is going after Graham early leads to a trickle down effect that has this roster rankings 8 out of 12 in the Draft Analyzer.
QB: Tom Brady (8), Johnny Manziel (12)
RB: Montee Ball (1), Doug Martin (2), Stevan Ridley (6), David Wilson (11)
WR: Wes Welker (4), Roddy White (5), Mike Wallace (7), Terrance Williams (10), Kelvin Benjamin (13)
TE: Greg Olsen (9)
FLEX: C.J. Spiller (3)
K: Matt Bryant (15)
DEF: Baltimore Ravens (14)
Summary: This strategy is bold, to say the least, as it clearly devalues both wide receiver or tight end. However, if you get the right backs and think you can nail some sleepers elsewhere, it’s not terrible. I prefer to mix another position with two backs, but I can’t say I’d be mad to have these three backs when I’m done drafting. In fact, I’m completely okay with this as a backup strategy to the RB, RB method to start, as long as you focus on building out the rest of your roster after you get those three backs. Even with that RB, RB, RB start, I was still able to get Brady and two solid starting wide receivers. Spiller in the Flex is always scary, while Olsen is a quality tight end and Ridley as the 4th back is flat out ridiculous. I love the depth and balance here and I wasn’t shocked to see the Analyzer give it a 3rd place rating out of 12 teams.
So, which strategy is the best? I still like RB, RB, WR the best, but am warming up to three straight running backs, as well. This is all pertaining to 12-team leagues, of course, and you should always factor in other things like PPR, different roster set-ups, etc. Have a better strategy or love one of these? Let us hear it in the comments below!
*Photo Credit – Joe Bielawa via Wiki Commons