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Fri Jul 19th 2019

Positional Philosophy: Running Backs

The Running Back Position

During this dead period before training camps begin and we get real news about players, I thought I'd write a few short articles that detail some of my strategies and philosophies at each of the offensive positions.  I hope that these articles will help you make decisions in the coming year that will balance out your rosters and put you in a better position to become a dynasty in your leagues.

I've already covered the quarterback position and tight end position. Here is my philosophy when it comes to the running back position.  There are exceptions to every rule, but these are the things I aim for in all of my leagues.  After listing them, I will share what my RB rooms look like on all of my teams.

I like to roster 8-10 RBs

  • I like my roster to be 25% to 30% filled with RBs.  It's the most injury-prone and short-lived position in dynasty, so I like to keep my roster stocked with back-ups in case of an injury on my team or another team.  I like to have my RBs to be the youngest guys on my team.  It's the only position that I prefer to have young players more than older players. On teams where I have stellar WRs, I'll roster a lot more RBs (see Good Times league below).  Whereas, on teams where I have stellar RBs, I'll have a fewer RBs, but not by much (see Freek league below).

I go WR heavy in start-up drafts and target rookie RBs

  • In start-up drafts, I almost always start by drafting at least two WRs, sometimes three.  I do this primarily because the shelf-life of WRs is much longer and because in the later rounds I can target a lot of rookies or second-year guys.  I did this in my most recent FFPC draft when I drafted Travis Kelce (TE premium league) and Julio Jones before picking Damien Williams (not a young guy, but a PPR value) and Miles Sanders.  I did the same last year in my Diehard start-up when I drafted Antonio Brown and Keenan Allen before drafting Nick Chubb and Kerryon Johnson.

I almost always draft an RB in the 1st round of rookie drafts

  • In rookie drafts, I pick RBs in the first round 85-90% of the time.  RBs are a much safer pick, in my opinion.  They get more chances to play early because there is not as much for RBs to do regarding learning the playbook (apart from pass protection) and gelling with the offense (like WRs need to do with QBs).  They break out sooner and so you know what you have and don't have have to hold onto them if they don't.  The only exception would be in the case of a weak RB class.  In leagues where I am super solid at RB, I am willing to draft a WR late in round #1, but if I had an early pick in round #1 I'd be looking to take an RB or sell the pick to get a late 1st and early 2nd round pick.

I put a lot of stock in draft capital in RBs

  • RBs who are drafted in rounds 1 and 2 are going to get every chance to play immediately.  If an NFL team is willing to invest in an RB, I am too.  I take special notice when a team trades up to get them in the first or second round too.  That's why I have Kerryon Johnson on so many of my teams.  I had him ranked higher than most any analyst in large part due to his draft capital (and trade-up capital).

I target "my guys" in the draft and trades

  • I feel like I evaluate RBs better than any other position.  I have a nice track record of picking the right guys and hitting on them.  I am not afraid to draft "my guy" early in a start-up draft or rookie draft.  I am also not afraid to offer the moon in a trade to get the RB that I want.  You can tell from the RBs on my team that I have a lot of similar players (top tier and mid-tier).  I drafted and/or traded for these RBs that I have ranked higher than most - Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Miles Sanders, Damien Williams, Matt Breida, and Jamaal Williams to name a few.

My RBs are very different in PPR leagues

  • My RB rosters look quite a bit different in my PPR leagues than they do in my standard and 1/2 PPR leagues.  The main reason is that I lean more on WRs in those leagues and am willing to have thinner rosters at RB.  The other reason is that I'm more willing to have the RB2 on my team be primarily a third-down back or receiving back.  For instance, I have James White as a starting/flex RB in both of my PPR leagues, though I usually start him and flex my WRs.

I like to have my handcuffs

  • I know some owners do not like to do this but I do.  I like to handcuff my RBs, especially in high scoring offenses and run-first offenses.  In my FFPC draft, I drafted Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde.  I also drafted Mark Ingram and with my last pick drafted Gus Edwards.  In two leagues where I have Kerryon Johnson, I traded this offseason for CJ Anderson.  Last year I traded for Jaylen Samuel largely because I had James Conner.  Run-first offenses like Detroit and Baltimore make me more willing to do this.  High scoring offenses like Kansas City and Pittsburg also make me more willing to do this.

I like to trade away handcuffs

  • As I said above, I often try to trade for a handcuff.  I do the opposite too.  On teams with less run-heavy offenses or not as high scoring offenses, I often try to trade away players to handcuff other teams' RBs.  I do this most often when I see a player on their team that I want and think my offering their handcuff may sweeten the offer for the player I want from their team.

I like to hold back-up RBs on good offenses

  • That said, I also love to sit on back-up RBs because their value can change in an instant when a starter goes down.  Their trade value goes way up in that moment as does their opportunity.  It's then I have to decide if I want to keep them or move them.  I like to roster players like Matt Breida and Jamaal Williams because their opportunity will be so great if the often-injured players in front of them (Coleman and Jones) go down with an injury.  I'm one of the few people who still believe in Carlos Hyde so I have in several leagues and I draft rookies late who come to backfields with injury -prone or unproven starters like Qadree Ollison in Atlanta and Bruce Anderson in Tampa Bay.

Here are my current rosters at RB

  • Keeper League (10-team, 30-man roster): Nick Chubb, Marlon Mack, Miles Sanders, Kareem Hunt, Matt Breida, Carlos Hyde, Jamaal Williams, Malcolm Brown, and Spencer Ware.
  • Diehard League (12-team, 27-man roster, 1/2 PPR): Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Damien Williams, Latavius Murray, Carlos Hyde, CJ Anderson, and Bruce Anderson.
  • Freek League (10-team, 30-man roster): Christian McCaffrey, James Conner, Kerryon Johnson, Jaylen Samuels, CJ Anderson, and Chris Thompson. ** We have not had our rookie draft yet.  I have two first-round picks.
  • Good Times League (10-team, 30-man roster): Miles Sanders, Damien Williams, Royce Freeman, Matt Breida, Damien Harris, Jamaal Williams, Justin Jackson, Qadree Ollison, and Bruce Anderson.
  • Reality Sports Online League (12-team, 24-man roster, PPR): Alvin Kamara, Todd Gurley, Phillip Lindsay, James White, Chris Thompson, D'Onta Foreman, and Qadree Ollison (and we'll likely pick up one more RB in our free agency auction in two weeks).
  • FFPC League (12-team, 20-man roster, PPR): Miles Sanders, Damien Williams, Mark Ingram, James White, Carlos Hyde, Jamaal Williams, and Gus Edwards.

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