Is drafting a running back early necessary to build a winning fantasy football team? In standard or non-PPR scoring, drafting running backs early is a must. However, in PPR scoring it is possible. Using the fantasy pros mock draft simulator, I gave the fantasy draft strategy of waiting to take a running back.

I used a pretty common league set up for this mock draft. 12 teams, PPR scoring with a starting line up of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 normal FLEX, 1 D/ST, and 1 kicker with six bench players. Thanks to the draft position randomizer I ended up in the #11 spot.

1.11 (#11 Overall)- Michael Thomas, WR, Saints

Thomas finished as the WR6 last season and WR7 as a rookie. The number one wide receiver for Drew Brees has always been fantasy friendly. Thomas has 270 targets over the last two season and easily should top 140 targets this season while finishing as a top five wide receiver.

2.02 (#13 Overall)- Davante Adams, WR, Packers

Usually I would draft a running back here but under this strategy I doubled down on wide receiver. I debated whether to take Rob Gronkowski here since I knew he wouldn’t make it back to my next pick. However, I decided to take Adams as Aaron Rodgers’ number one wide receiver almost always finishes as a WR1. Furthermore, Adams has improved every year he’s been in the league.

3.11 (#35 Overall)- JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers

One of my favorite sleeper candidates this year is Smith-Schuster. Last season he finished with 79 targets in 14 games and the Steelers have 110 targets from last season that need a new home. While a large chunk of those will go to rookie James Washington, Smith-Schuster will see a serious uptick in targets. In the Steelers offense, there is plenty of fantasy points to go around and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Antonio Brown and Smith-Schuster finish as a WR1 this season.

4.02 (#38 Overall)- Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals

Finally in the fourth round at pick 38 overall I select a running back. After a disappointing rookie season, I expect Mixon to bounce back behind an improved offensive line. Last season Mixon finished as the RB27 based on fantasy points per game among running backs with 10 or more games played. Heading into year two, look for the Bengals to shape a large part of their offense around Mixon.

5.11 (#59 Overall)- Derrius Guice, RB, Redskins

Another player I feel is being slept on is Guice. While falling in the draft was painful for Guice, he landed in a great spot. The Redskins have one of the more underrated offensive lines in the league and there isn’t much competition on the roster for the feature back role. While Chris Thompson clearly has a grasp on the third down back role, Guice will still see enough touches to finish as a solid RB2.

6.02 (#62 Overall)- Robert Woods, WR, Rams

Enough with the running backs, let’s go back to drafting wide receivers. In a PPR league you want your FLEX spot to be filled with a wide receiver. Coming off his first season with the Rams, Woods averaged a career high 4.7 catches per game. While the Rams did replace Sammy Watkins with Brandin Cooks, Woods is viewed as the team’s top wide receiver and finished last season as the WR18 based on fantasy points per game.

7.11 (#83 Overall)- Ronald Jones, RB, Buccaneers

Jones landed in a great spot for fantasy owners as Doug Martin is now in Oakland and Peyton Barber averaged just 5.4 fantasy points per game. The Buccaneers are serious about running the ball this season as they signed Ryan Jensen in free agency in order to move Ali Marpet back to his natural position at guard. Jones should rarely see stacked boxes as the Buccaneers have plenty of weapons on the outside while still getting 15 to 20 touches per game.

8.02 (#86 Overall)- Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

Somehow, someway Watson lasted till pick 86th overall. In an one quarterback, no super FLEX league I rarely draft two quarterbacks if I draft one before the final four rounds. Last season Watson averaged 27.2 fantasy points per game as the starter. Had he played all 16 games, he would of finished as the top overall fantasy scorer. While I don’t expect Watson to average 27.2 FPPG again this season, some weeks he can win fantasy owners their game single handled. Most of all, Watson seems to be healthy.

9.11 (107 Overall)- Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions

In case it wasn’t obvious yet, I like rookie running backs. Johnson has some competition in Detroit as the team signed LeGarrette Blount in free agency and Theo Riddick is one of the better third down running backs in the league. However, the Lions traded up in the draft to select Johnson and view him as a three down running back. Johnson is definitely a swing for the fences, upside pick but when you don’t draft running backs early, this is exactly the kind of pick that can win your league.

10.02 (#110 Overall)- Trey Burton, TE, Bears

For several years Burton was stuck behind Zach Ertz in Philadelphia. Now as the starter in Chicago he is going to fill the Travis Kelce role in Matt Nagy’s offense. In two games without Ertz last season, Burton had seven catches for 112 yards, three touchdowns and 29.2 Fantasy points. If I don’t draft one of the big three tight ends early, Burton is my favorite mid round target.

11.11 (#131 Overall)- Corey Clement, RB, Eagles

Currently Jay Ajayi’s ADP is 3.05 as the RB18, while Clement’s current ADP is 10.05 as the RB46. Starting in week nine when Ajayi arrived in Philadelphia, he averaged 8.5 fantasy points per game compared to 7.5 for Clement. Over a full 16 game season Ajayi would have finished the season as the RB36 with 135.8 fantasy points, while Clement would have finished as the RB40 with 120.4 fantasy points. With the huge gap in their ADPs Clement is one of my favorite sleepers while Ajayi is on my “do not draft” list as both players will have a role in this running back by committee backfield.

12.02 (#134 Overall)- Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys

While many people view Allen Hurns as a sleeper this year, I think the better value is Gallup. Hurns has struggled to stay healthy in his career, playing in all 16 games just once in his career. Gallup had 176 catches and 21 touchdowns during his two seasons at Colorado State and is the best athlete among the Cowboys’ wide receivers. I don’t expect him to finish the season as a WR1 or even WR2, but he could finish as a high end WR3 or FLEX option.

13.11 (#155 Overall)- Nyheim Hines, RB, Colts

Who will be the starting running back for the Colts? Who knows. But no matter who the starter is, they are likely to split the workload. However, reportedly the Colts gave plans to move Hines all over the field and use him in many ways. This late in the draft and as my last running back selected, Hines has huge upside with minimal risk.

14.02 (#158 Overall)- Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions

This late in the draft it’s obviously all about drafting players with upside. Golladay struggled with injuries as a rookie but he showed flashes last season and again in mini camp this year. With Eric Ebron now in Indianapolis and no real replacement on the roster, Golladay should see the majority of Ebron’s targets from last season. Marvin Jones could keep Golladay as an after thought, but then again Golladay could take Jones’ starting spot. Golladay is worth the risk here at pick 158 overall.

15.11 (#179 Overall)- Rams D/ST

Last season the Rams finished as the D/ST3, averaging 10.1 fantasy points per game. Then this offseason they added several great defensive players including Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh. The Rams had 18 interceptions last season, tied for sixth best in the league, while they easily could finish first this season. It should surprise no one to see the Rams finish as the top scoring D/ST this season.

16.02 (#182 Overall)- Justin Tucker, K, Ravens

After finishing as the second best fantasy kicker in 2016, Tucker slipped to K5 last season. However, he is one of my favorite fantasy kickers. Tucker made 92% of his kicks last season and 100% of his PATs. If your fantasy league gives more points for farther away field goals, Tucker should be the kicker you targets as he made five of seven field goals from 50 plus yards away last season.

Final Roster Breakdown

  • One Quarterback
  • Six Running Backs
  • Six Wide Receivers
  • One Tight End
  • One D/ST
  • One Kicker
  • 16 Total Selections

I almost always select a running back within my first two picks so this strategy was an interesting one to try out. Of the six running backs I selected, four of them are rookies and the other two are second year players. However, I have no problem selecting rookie runners.

Last season four rookie running backs (Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette) finished the season as a RB1 in PPR scoring; hopefully that happens similarly this season.

In conclusion, I don’t recommend using this strategy when drafting but if you do, make sure to load up on depth and high upside running backs. As always, happy hunting fantasy friends!

About The Author Mike Fanelli

Mike is a former journalism major who spent all four years in high school working for the school newspaper. At 26 years old, he is happy to write for Breaking Football as it gives him a platform to get his fantasy football takes and sports opinions out there.