Khaled Zaher - NextPlay Sports
The running back position in fantasy can make or break your season. In most leagues you have to start at least two running backs every week and can start a third in the flex. So a plan at running back should be on the top of concerns when heading into a draft. Let's begin.
Do: Know your league scoring system.
This is the most important rule in fantasy football regardless of position. Chris and I will probably mention this every chance we get. Knowing your scoring system becomes even more important when you are drafting running backs. Running backs in a standard scoring league are more valuable than in PPR leagues and pass catching running backs are more valuable in PPR leagues. To help show the importance in this I am going to use Danny Woodhead as an example. Danny Woodhead was the 20th RB in fantasy points per game and 10th RB in total season points in standard leagues. In PPR leagues he was the 10th RB in points per game and 3rd RB in total season points. The difference in scoring makes Danny a RB2/Flex play weekly for standard leagues into a sure fire RB1 weekly starter in PPR leagues. As you can see this slight difference in your scoring system can drastically changes how a player performs and viewed for a fantasy team.
Don’t: Draft Fewer than 5 Running backs.
Injuries, backfield splits and game situations make running back the most volatile position in fantasy football. By drafting at least 5 RBs you are protecting yourself to have a good enough stable of running backs on your roster so when bye weeks roll around or injuries hit your team that you will have players to start instead of a waiver wire hail mary like Mike Tolbert. Another benefit of drafting at least 5 RBs is you improve your chances of hitting on a player that could be better than your starter. If you drafted a player like Devonta Freeman later in your draft last year you ended up with the number one overall scoring back season long and won a lot of games.
Do: Draft a Stud RB1
There are only so many true workhorse backs in the NFL anymore, so if you have a chance at getting one of the few backs that can carry the work load for their team don’t hesitate to draft them. By picking an Adrian Peterson or Todd Gurley in the early first round it can solidify your RB1 spot for the majority of the season and allow you to take more gambles at the RB2 position and wide receivers. Adrian Peterson was 2nd points per game and total season points for the running back position last year after missing almost an entire year the year before. You can basically pencil in him to get 14 points a game and move on with your other roster decisions.
Don’t: Think this is your Fathers fantasy football
I know I just said to draft a stud running back but don’t overvalue the position and hear me out. About 10 years ago if you didn’t go running back in the 1st round and 2nd round people laughed at you. Now drafting a quarterback, stud wide receiver or Gronk in the 1st round isn’t crazy and is becoming the norm. So if you miss out on a stud workhorse running back don’t automatically think your season is over even before you have picked and don’t think you have to reach/overdraft a running back who is less talented or has a more questionable situation just because you think you have to get a running back.
Do: Draft running backs in two running back committees.
This could be included in the ‘Don’t think this is your Fathers fantasy football” section but I wanted to break this down more. Five or ten years ago drafting or hearing a running back you had was in a two back committee was terrible news, now if you can get a running back in a two running back committee you should be happy because the way the game in today’s NFL as evolved and that there are very few every down workhorse running backs in this NFL most teams have a two or three back committee. Getting a talented running back in a good offense that is in a two back committee is better than getting a below average talented running back that gets the majority of touches. I prefer to get the “pass catching back” in these types of committees, especially in PPR formats because I believe they have a high weekly floor for points and can give you a combo of rushing yardage plus receiving yardage but do not be afraid to have the “big/power back” player in these committees because these players can have huge weeks with TD production and cloak killing opportunities on winning teams.
Don’t: Think of fantasy as a yearly game.
Fantasy football isn’t a yearly game, it’s a weekly game. Most leagues are weekly matchups against another team in your league. Do not think you have to beat everyone in your league every week, you only have to beat the one team you are facing. Sounds pretty obvious but many people don’t make their fantasy decisions that way. The fantasy football committee is over emphasizing the importance of the final yearly overall points. This results in people thinking a player like Latavius Murray (11th RB total season points) was a better running back then Mark Ingram (15th RB total season points). Anyone who had either of these players would tell you Ingram was better. He averaged 12 points per game and was 8th overall in points per game much better than Murray who averaged just over 10 points per game and was 21st overall. Difference being Ingram was a RB1 when healthy for most the season and Murray was a fringe RB2/Flex play weekly.
Do: Draft Ezekiel Elliott in the 1st round
This isn’t the Dallas Cowboys homer in me talking when I say you should draft Ezekiel Elliott in the first round. It is easier for running backs to transition from college football to the NFL and we see it every year a rookie running back explodes on the scene to help fantasy teams win championships, just look last year at Todd Gurley. I think this is the best rookie running back to system fit we have seen in fantasy football in a decade. He is just a notch below Peterson and Gurley in rushing the ball talent but is a much better pass catcher than both of them. His pass blocking and pass catching ability will allow him to stay on the field even when arguably NFL’s worst defense gives up 30 points, which allows for a high floor for Elliott. I haven’t even mentioned the number one reason: the Cowboys own the best offensive line in the NFL, with 3 All-Pros in Smith, Frederick, and Martin and a 1st round talent in Collins. Elliott should be able to dominate the game and is the favorite for NFL rookie of the year. Darren McFadden had just over 1,000 yards rushing behind this offensive line. Yes the McFadden who looked like his career was over in Oakland the year before and he didn’t start for the Cowboys until week 9. I feel Elliott’s floor this year is at least McFadden production from the previous year that resulted in the 13th total season long point totals.
Don’t: Draft Demarco Murray
This is a hot take (more to come this year) and coming from a Cowboys fan you might ignore it thinking I am just bitter he left for more money with the Eagles a year ago but I actually am able to separate my fandom with my fantasy responses. Demarco had an amazing year in 2014 with the Cowboys for both real and fantasy football (1st overall running back in scoring). He had almost 400 rushing attempts that was 9th all-time and that wasn’t including 57 catches. The Cowboys ran him into the grown behind that best offensive line in football and it showed last year with the Eagles. The Eagles were a disaster last year and Demarco was never able to get into rhythm in Chip Kelly’s offense and he looked like he lost a step or two. Demarco was traded to the Titans this offseason and people have started to wonder if he could regain some of that magic from 2014. He won’t cost you a late 1st-early 2nd but instead a 4th-5th round pick right now. This might get people to think about taking him as their RB2 but I say don’t. The Titans offense isn’t very good, this includes the talent around him and offensive line and I don’t think he will get many scoring opportunities because of this. Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry won’t sit the bench and I expect them to at best for Murray have a 65-35 split between the two backs. That doesn’t include Dexter McCluster touches who will come in on passing downs. Demarco will have a decent game a couple times but you shouldn’t trust him this year for your fantasy teams.