Hello everyone, and welcome to the second post my mini-series on talking about each different position before the start of NFL Training Camps in a month and a half or so from now. Again, something to keep in mind, this is by no means a draft plan, or any sort of in-depth analysis about each position, as those articles will come out later in the summer during the camps themselves, but rather, a series of articles that can get the ball rolling towards the 2017 fantasy season.
I’ll be moving away from the structure of the”Players I Like and Players I Don’t Like”, and move towards an open discussion on my feelings about the position as a whole.
So enough chatter, let’s get right to it!
My Thoughts on How to Attack the Position on Draft Day
I’m not going to lie, I’m having a tough time portraying my thoughts on this position as a whole in 2017. Not only is it a bit complicated, but even writing it out in plain English proves to be a difficult task. But let’s try it anyways.
If you were to take a look at my past teams throughout the years, you’ll see teams marked by strength at the running back position (even in PPR leagues), with one elite and several mid-range receivers, and value selections at the QB and TE positions. But I’m not sure if that is the best strategy for this year, as much as it pains me to say it. Here’s why: we currently have 16 teams with either an open competition at running back or a foggy mess of a RBBC (NE, NYJ, BAL, CIN, DEN, KC, NYG, WAS, PHI, DET, GB, MIN, NO, TB, SF and SEA).
With almost half the league having question marks in their backfield that may not be solved until the start of the regular season (and with some teams, like Baltimore, could be solved after the first few weeks of the season), there are a whole bunch of value targets later in the draft that could pan out to be starting backs in the NFL later in the year. For example, both Broncos HC Vance Joseph and OC Mike McCoy have said that as of now, it’s going to be an open competition between C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and Jamaal Charles. So while Anderson’s ADP is clearly the highest among the three at 54th overall, we could see Booker (213th) or Charles (116th) get the gig by Week 4, or even the start of the season.
If there is a chance I could grab a back in the late rounds of my draft, or on the waiver wire after Week 3 that could turn into a starter in good environment, why would I go RB-heavy during the first couple of rounds, when I can’t say the same about the wide receiver position for 2017? There are few examples of WR competitions in the league currently.
However, just because I think there are a lot of later-round options that can turn in to starters, doesn’t mean I think you should punt completely on the position in the first few rounds at all, and lean towards the Zero-RB theory that dominated the fantasy world last year. The balanced team is always the best one, and if you can go through the first three-four rounds with at least one dominating running back, than that is preferred.
Those are my thoughts, so let’s talk about the players themselves.
Looking at current ADP data from FantasyPros, there are seven running backs within the first 12 picks, and they are, in order: David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy, Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, and Jordan Howard. Obviously Melvin Gordon is an interesting selection this early, but we shouldn’t have any issues with any one of these backs in the first or second round. If we can select one of these backs early enough, say Elliott, then on the 2-3, we have the options of going for a receiver such as Amari Cooper, Dez Bryant, Doug Baldwin, and Brandin Cooks, or another running back for the likes of Leonard Fournette, Isaiah Crowell, or Lamar Miller. However, if we were to have a later pick in the draft, say 10th overall, we could get our first runner in Devonta Freeman, and then on the 1-2 turn, have our pick of a wideout in Jordy Nelson, T.Y. Hilton, or Michael Thomas, or, our pick of another running back in Jordan Howard, DeMarco Murray or Todd Gurley. The kicker here, is that when the third round comes around, we’re looking at other options of Terrelle Pryor, Joe Mixon, or Christian McCaffrey.
Again, this is all based around FantasyPros and FFF ADP data, so it might not correspond correctly with your individual league, however, you I think the best approach to the first few rounds is this: if you are deciding between a running back or receiver, look at the future list of running backs and receivers that you’ll likely get your second round pick from. If you are disgusted looking at future RB’s, then you might want to go with Ezekiel Elliot. If you are disgusted with the list of future WR’s, then you might want to go with Antonio Brown. Balance is really important during the first selections, but you have to look at those backs that make you comfortable above all.
People Are Funny, So Let’s Talk About That
ADP data is always a fun and funny thing to talk about. The most important thing when predicting future success in the NFL is to not dwell on the past. Sounds simple enough, but it’s largely overlooked by the masses when you see how they are drafting. Let’s take a look at an example. I am going to apologize in advance for yelling.
FRANK GORE’S AVERAGE DRAFT POSITION IS 69TH OVERALL!!! (Sighs) I don’t get young people.
Frank Gore should not be drafted this late into the 7th round. He should not be drafted behind players such as Eddie Lacy, C.J. Anderson, Doug Martin and Tevin Coleman. Frank Gore is a starting running back in the National Football League and is being taken behind people who might not start Week 1 of the regular season. So why is he being taken so late? Are people afraid of his age? Sure, he’s 34 years old, but he’s running behind an offensive line that should be fully healthy heading into 2017, not to mention a with a healthy Andrew Luck under center that should take away from opposing defenses throwing everything they have at the run. A big reason why I love Gore is that we’re paying a 7th-round price on a bell-cow running back that hasn’t finished outside of the Top-20 in PPR since 2005.
Another interesting piece of ADP data comes in the form of Eddie Lacy, who’s currently being drafted around the 5th round at 58th overall. What’s interesting about his price point is the fact that we don’t currently know what the backfield situation is in Seattle. We are fairly confident at this point that C.J. Prosise will probably lead the trio on passing downs, but it’s anyone guess if Thomas Rawls or Eddie Lacy will come out on top, and a RBBC, or even a close split in carries, is likely. And Seattle isn’t the only place. C.J. Anderson’s ADP is around 61st overall compared to Jamaal Charles’ 107th and Devontae Booker’s 187th, although Vance Joseph said it’s an open competition. The point is, I’d be very hesistant to draft a runner early enough to where it’s a risky pick because it isn’t a lock that they’ll be the lead dog come Week 1. Even Christian McCaffrey’s ADP of 31 is a bit risky considering the fact that Jonathan Stewart (108th overall, not bad of a price tag) might be leading the team in carries for the first few weeks of the regular season.
I won’t only focus on the negative here, so let’s talk about some running backs that I actually want to have on my team. In PPR leagues, which is the format that I mostly play in, I’m a big fan of the mid-to-late-round receiving backs such as Danny Woodhead (ADP: 70th), Theo Riddick (ADP: 83rd), Bilal Powell (ADP: 64th), C.J. Prosise (ADP: 97th) and even James White (ADP: 110th), especially because the risk of all of these backs are low considering how late they are all being drafted.
Other runners I’m high on heading into 2017 are:
- LeSean McCoy: Talked about him a bunch on the Razzblitz podcast a few weeks ago, but without Gillislee in the picture, he should be a true bellcow behind a solid offensive line.
- Jay Ajayi: Should continue to receive a nice workload both on the ground and on passing downs according to their OC, and the Dolphins O-Line should be healthy heading into 2017, with the pieces coming back that played during his multiple 200-yard games.
- Isaiah Crowell: Not sexy at all, but should quietly receive a nice workload behind one of the games best O-Lines. The only worry is that Cleveand will abandon the run if they find themselves trailing big, but that didn’t stop them last year, and their defense is much better after the draft.
- Paul Perkins: Should be the lead dog in New York if he can beat out Orleans Darkwa, and will have the benefits of being a young runner, behind a solid line, without the attention of opposing DC’s.
- Jacquizz Rodgers: The reason why I like Rodgers is because if your strategy for the first few rounds is to get as many wideouts as possible, here is a cheap late round pick on a running back who we definitely know will be the starter for the first few weeks before Doug Martin gets back.
And before I let you go, here are some backs that I’m not so high on heading into 2017:
- Marshawn Lynch: I really want to like Beast Mode, but I just can’t do it; he’s been out of football for an entire year, and is 31 years old as a power runner. There is too much risk involved for me even if the offensive line in Oakland is brilliant.
- Carlos Hyde: Seems like everyone in San Francisco wants him out of the picture (See: Hype train for Joe Williams).
- Ty Montgomery: ADP at 44th overall seems a bit too high for me consider the fact that Green Bay has brought in a crap ton of rookies to work into this year’s running back mix, and if it’s an open competition like it’s shaping out to be this year, I’m not spending a 4th round pick on one of those backs.
- Dalvin Cook/Latavius Murray: Listen, Minnesota’s O-Line is BAD, and yes, there is no where else but up, but I don’t want a rookie unless they’re in a great environment. And Minnesota is not that.
Alright guys, thanks for keeping me company as we start to unpack this year’s running backs. Stay tuned for the next article in the series where I’ll talk about wideouts in a similar style to this one, and also stay tuned for Razzball’s Division Previews as Matt and I will be breaking down each division for 2017 so you can get the ultimate edge this season. First up, we’ll have the NFC South. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to leave one below.
You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @razzball_zach.