MFL10 RB-RB-RB Strategy April 26, 2016  |  Justin Edwards


Consistent running back production (see: touches) may be the most fickle and downright easy thing to whiff on during your draft and throughout your season. Everyone puts huge stock into grabbing up the 2nd-string rock toter off the waiver wire when the first string guy goes down in Week 6. That makes perfect sense, but what makes you put so much of your budget into a “what-if?” when you could load up on guys that should be a guarantee right off the bat? In Best Ball leagues we don’t have the luxury of a waiver wire so it leans towards sort of ridiculous to fill up multiple of your 20 precious roster spots hoping for another year of injuries to starting running backs.

Sinking your first three picks of the draft into three different RB1’s with the hope that two of them remain that way should be a pretty sure bet, right? If you’re using only 2015 as your benchmark then no, it’s probably not a sure bet

Only three running backs selected in the top-12 of their position ended up as an overall RB1 (Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, Matt Forte)

If you’re looking at the ever-changing landscape of the NFL then (also) no, it’s not a sure bet;

Wide receivers out-number running backs 13:2 in the top-15 highest scoring skill positions for 2015

As it’s becoming more apparent that the NFL is evolving into a high-scoring, deep-passing, QB-WR fantasy producing league maybe we should take that as a sign that those two positions (Quarterback and Wide Receiver) are getting deeper and deeper every year. With 20 or so viable QBs in the league and 75 WRs that could produce in any given week, what if we draft three potential RB1’s right off the bat and leave the rest of the league fighting for scraps? Isn’t that what we used to do? Maybe the contrarian play is being a dumb old school nitwit.

Welp, I like being called names so I’m taking a bite out of this theory and seeing whether or not I can pad my pocket by chasing after bellcows and reaching for running backs too excessively while everyone feasts on their delicious Antonio Browns’ and Julio Jones’ and ODBs’ (not OBJ, that’s boring.). If it works? I’ll be rolling in dat MFL10 $$$. If not? A lesson learned by you and I alike.

 

Results

As we start our drafts literal months away from depth charts being finalized we’re going to pay a much higher premium on players that we think might have a good chance at being in that “bell cow” position. Here are my backfield results through a small 7-draft sample size of RB-RB-RB:

 

Player Times Owned My Average Draft Position
Jamaal Charles ||| 1.12
Jeremy Langford ||| 3.057
Le’Veon Bell || 1.035
Todd Gurley || 1.05
Lamar Miller || 2.015
Doug Martin || 2.07
C.J. Anderson || 3.06
Carlos Hyde || 3.115
Adrian Peterson | 1.12
Thomas Rawls | 2.09
Latavius Murray | 3.01



 

You may not have taken them exactly where I did, and very probably wouldn’t have taken them all in succession but I can guarantee that everyone would like some sort of combination of these guys on their MFL teams.

-I like having Jeremy Langford on my teams but looking back I’m definitely reaching a little bit by taking him at the 2nd/3rd turn, he’s probably meant to be about a round later since we’re not too certain he’s going to be carrying the ball exclusively in Chicago. He had a couple great games in his rookie year but in the nine games he carried the ball 11+ times he averaged only 3.82 yards per carry and garnered a whole heck of a lot of his value based on 38 targets and 248 yards from the passing game. Over the entire season he accounted for 7 drops on 42 total targets. If the Draft comes and goes and the Bears don’t bolster their RB depth I’ll lean back towards Langford in the 3rd round. On the other hand, if Chicago adds another back to Langford/Ka’deem Carey, it will create enough annoyance to push me further back a couple of rounds.

-Do I really want to own an injury-prone 74 year old (29 year old) running back playing with two running backs who completely held their own in his absence last year? Well, apparently, yes. Jamaal Charles’ previous three seasons before last year’s torn right ACL were high-end RB1 numbers; 1,745 total yards with 6 total TDs (’12), 1,980 yards w/ 19 TDs (’13), 1,324 yards w/ 14 TDs (’14). These stats were all immediately following a missed season in 2011 with, you guessed or already knew it, a torn left ACL. With all of the rumors about teams possibly trading for the wily vet, it’s interesting to have a look at the Chiefs’ offense during those three years of 750 rushing attempts-3829 rushing yards and a 5.1 YPC.

Kansas City Offense

 Year Yards/G Yards Rank Points/G Points Rank
2012 319.3 24th 13.2 32nd
2013 337.3 21st 26.9 6th
2014 318.8 25th 22.1 16th

 

Of the two categories KC’s offense was only above average once over his three great recent seasons, which sort of helps me come to terms that he could produce no matter his surrounding talent. By Football Outsider’s Adjusted Line Yards formula KC’s offensive line was ranked as 19th, 2nd and 7th in run blocking from 2012-’14. You can see his total yards fluctuate with the outstanding 2013 season from his O-Line but it’s not as if he didn’t produce with the bad 2012 season. Sure, it’s scary to own the guy when Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware juuuust signed two-year extensions but Best Ball leagues are all about high-risk, high-reward moves and I’m paying RB1 draft capital for a guy who could legitimately finish in the top-5 if healthy.

-You may notice a stark non-inclusion of one Ezekial Elliot here. That’s because I still haven’t convinced myself that drafting a rookie in the first three rounds is ever a good idea, and especially so when I don’t know where he’ll end up in the NFL Draft.

-Another former Buckeye in Carlos Hyde is coming off the board as the RB15 as one of the more cemented-in no.1 RBs on a depth chart. Coming off foot surgery that all but ruined his 2015, he comes back into a role that could turn out even better than the one 2015 had to offer. With new head coach Chip Kelly on the sideline, Hyde will be running in the same zone-read scheme that Urban Meyer was running when Carlos racked up 208-1,521-15 numbers as a Senior at OSU. Chip has leaned heavily on the run since joining the NFL as the Eagles finished 4th, 7th, and 11th in rushing attempts over the last three years under his command. I’ll continue to use Carlos Hyde to wrap up the end of my RB-RB-RB any chance I get.

 

How it is affecting the WRs I end up with

So those running backs are all fine and dandy but what about the 2nd most important skill position?  After missing out on all of those studs, how do my teams look when littered with all of these WR2’s?

 

Player Times Owned My Average Draft Position
Willie Snead |||| 7.015
Emmanuel Sanders ||| 5.047
Randall Cobb || 4.01
Donte Moncrief || 4.10
Michael Crabtree || 6.01
John Brown || 6.03
Dorial Green-Beckham || 6.08
Stefon Diggs || 7.08
Nelson Algholor || 9.10
Josh Doctson || 10.03
Jarvis Landry | 4.02
Jordan Matthews | 4.09
DeVante Parker | 4.12
Golden Tate | 5.04
Michael Floyd | 5.11
Allen Hurns | 6.01
Tavon Austin | 7.12
Corey Coleman | 9.01
Phillip Dorsett | 10.07
Jamison Crowder | 10.09
Will Fuller | 11.12
Kamar Aiken | 12.01

*Accounting for my first five WRs off the board



I typically came out of a draft with a decently solid core of receivers but was most assuredly missing a top-tier threat on all of my rosters which made me reach a little bit for guys that could become a WR1 on their team (Snead, Manny Sanders) or spend a little higher than I’d like on a relatvely unknown commidity like a rookie (Doctson, Fuller, Coleman). The very least amount of wideouts I had on a team was 7 and often tried to squeeze in an 8th if I had the chance.

-Golden Tate is being thrust into a similar situation as the one Randall Cobb was in last season. After Jordy Nelson went down and missed the entirety of 2015, Cobb was forced to the top of the depth chart and didn’t produce all that well in a disappointing Green Bay offense. His yards per target dropped from 10.1 in 2014 all the way down to 6.4 in ’15 while his Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (a Football Outsiders’ metric that quantifies a WR’s performance) ranked him 4th in 2014 (out of 87) but dropped all the way to 53rd in ’15 (out of 87). The return of Jordy should place Cobb back in his rightful spot a no.2 slot-type guy that can get himself open while Nelson is being double-teamed. For Tate the silver lining of losing one of the best receivers of all-time from your team is an entire offseason with a new offensive coordinator in Jim Bob Cooter who will look for inventive ways to get the ball in his shifty skill players’ hands. With Megatron out of the way and not much besides Marvin Jones standing in between Tate and the ball this is a ‘Golden’ opportunity to sniff 150 targets again.

– Donte Moncrief’s 7 game 2015 season with a hobbled Andrew Luck produced a 32/351/5 statline on 54 targets. The 9 other games with Whitehurst/Hasselbeck/Freeman/Lindley amounted to 32/382/1 on 51 targets. Pretty similar numbers, except the fact that it took the two extra games to score 4 less times. As long as Donte gets in all 16 games and Luck is back to full health, he should make for a perfect boom-or-bust Best Ball play.

-Speaking of boom-bust; enter John Brown. In a crowded, very talented crew of receivers in Arizona, John still managed 1,000+ yards and 7 TDs on 101 targets, his 6 plays of 40+ yards were tied for 3rd most in the NFL. He did all of this while racking up less than 50 yards in 7 of his 15 contests. An absolute pain in the ass to roster in your re-draft leagues but a perfect compliment to your MFL10 teams; a guy that can single-handedly help you win a week every now and then.

 

How it is affecting the QBs I end up with

Not much at all. With Newton/Luck/Rodgers/Wilson going in rounds 4-6, I can safely wait until rounds 8-9 for Roethlisberger/Brady/Brees or rounds 10-12 for the Palmer/Carr/Mariota group. My favorite route is to wait until the double digit rounds for a QB regardless of what my early round picks are.

 

How it is affecting the TEs I end up with

Now that I’ve spent so much capital on only two positions, I’m likely going to miss out on the consensus top-3 or even top-5 tight ends very regularly. This will mean that most of my rosters using the RB-RB-RB theory will have to end up using three roster spots on tight ends.

 

Player Times Owned My Average Draft Position
Julius Thomas || 9.03
Will Tye || 15.095
Greg Olsen | 6.01
Travis Kelce | 7.06
Dwayne Allen | 9.04
Eric Ebron | 9.06
Antonio Gates | 10.01
Zach Miller | 11.11
Clive Walford | 12.01
Martellus Bennett | 12.09
Ben Watson | 16.01
Richard Rodgers | 16.02

 

As you might be able to tell my strategy here was all over the place. Typically what it came down to was my perceived value. If there wasn’t enough value in the running backs or wide receivers available to justify my pick I went ahead and examined the tight end position. I grabbed a third TE in the later parts of the draft more often than not, often meaning I couldn’t pick a third QB or third defense.

-Whether or not Blake Bortles has some touchdown regression in that arm (jumping from 11 TDs in ’14 to 35 TDs in ’15 is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser) the fact remains that the Jaguars offense is much improved over the years prior. Orange Julius had some stinkers last season and Chris Ivory is destined to score where TJ Yeldon was unable to but the ARob-Hurns tandem lining up with him is beginning to look like a tag team comparable to the DT-Emmanuel Sanders offense in which Julius scored 24 touchdowns between 2013-’14.

 

That’s about the sum of it, guys and girls. I’ll absolutely be using this strategy along with many others for the rest of my Spring/Summer MFL10’s. I’ve liked the way my rosters have shaped up but it’s definitely difficult to play with the handicap of the first 18 WRs coming off the board before you get your first pass-catcher. The back end, 1.09-1.12 produced my preferred roster construction, but it was tough to apply this strategy without getting Bell or Gurley. Tell me what you think on the tweet machine or in the comments below, and thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more Best Ball analysis and experiments over the next few months.

2 Responses

  1. Geoff R says:

    Great article Justin. The game theory angle makes sense to me, especially with WRs climbing up MFL ADP charts every day and fewer RBs that aren’t in timeshares than ever before.

    I am currently implementing this strategy in an MFL10 draft, and went

    Gurley RD 1
    Charles RD 2
    McCoy RD 3
    Baldwin RD 4

    to start off. I’m happy with that, but my specific questions would be:

    1- How soon would you take another RB?
    2- If I take another good RB (looking at Duke Johnson JR in RD 5), would you be comfortable rolling with just 4 RBs total and going for more QB/WR/TE depth? Or do you need at least 5 total RBs with this strategy?

    Thanks, cheers

    • Justin Edwards says:

      Thanks for the read, Geoff! This is still one of my favorite strategies and I’ll be re-visiting it in another article in the not-so-distant future.
      Onto your questions:
      1.) I’m usually not taking another RB until the double digit rounds and it sort’ve matters what kind of tiers are available for my fourth or fifth running back. I’m typically looking for a backup who has the chance to take over the job yet has some stand alone value. Guys like James Starks, Buck Allen and Karlos Williams come to mind.
      2.) I like going with 5 total RBs pretty much exclusively to protect myself from Bye Weeks and injury threats but I do see where you’re coming from. It’d be nice to roll with 4 and plug some security into another position. You also have to think that you can only start a maximum of 3 RBs in a given week so sinking that much equity into the position so early is going to box out your wide receivers quite a bit, I like to use those rounds 4 – 9 to hoard pass catchers when I use this strategy.
      Again, thanks for the read!

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