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Mon Jul 12th 2021

Positional Philosophy: Running Backs

During the dead weeks in July before NFL training camps start on July 27th, I thought I would write about my dynasty philosophy for each position. Last week I wrote about my philosophy for quarterbacks. This week I share my positional philosophy with running backs.


Draft One Anchor Running Back In Start-up Drafts

  • In start-up drafts, I like to select at least one top-tier proven running back. In my most recent start-up drafts, I selected Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara in the first round, even in superflex leagues, though I traded up to get Kamara after drafting Dak Prescott first. I like the security of knowing I have one every-week starter at the running back position, even if it means getting a second-tier quarterback as a result. The gap in scoring between the first and second-class running backs is far more significant than the gap in scoring between first and second-class quarterbacks. Consistency at the RB-1 position is critical to me.

Stream the RB-2 Position

  • The RB-2 position, however, is less important to me, especially in PPR leagues. If I can have two studs at running back, I'll take it. I have Alvin Kamara and Nick Chubb in one league, Jonathan Taylor and Saquon Barkley in another, and Alvin Kamara and Austin Ekeler in another, but it's more common for me to have a bit of a weakness at the RB-2 position. In those cases, I am happy to stream the RB-2 position. In PPR leagues, I often start running backs that catch a lot of passes. In leagues where I only need to start one running back, I'll start one. If I'm strong at the RB-1 position, I do not worry about the RB-2 position much at all. I prefer to be stronger at wide receiver and tight end.

Pay Up To Buy Top-12 Running Backs

  • Top-tier running backs are hard to find unless you have one of the top four or five picks in a rookie draft. I acquired most of my top-12 running backs in start-up drafts or via trade because I rarely finish as one of the worst teams in the league, and I often trade first-round draft picks for proven players. As a result, I usually pay up for top-tier running backs. I traded two first-round picks for Alvin Kamara in one league. I traded a second and fourth-round pick in a start-up draft to draft Alvin Kamara in the first round. I traded Darren Waller to move up in the first round of a rookie draft to select Najee Harris. I traded A.J. Brown for Saquon Barkley in a dispersal draft this year in a league where I am loaded at wide receiver and just won the championship. The verdict is still out on the trades for Harris and Barkley, but I've not regretted my Kamara trades in the slightest. I'll pay up to get an RB-1.

Acquire My Handcuffs

  • Contrary to many dynasty managers, I believe in acquiring my own running back handcuffs. Running back is the most injury-prone position, and backups always contribute to fantasy teams during the season. I like having the security of knowing if my starter gets injured, I have a player to start with a fair amount of confidence in his place. Conversely, I hate the feeling when my every-week starter gets hurt, and I don't have another starting running back to fill his place on my roster. I have Latavius Murray on every roster with Alvin Kamara. I have Boston Scott and now Kerryon Johnson on many of my rosters with Miles Sanders. I have Jeff Wilson on leagues with Raheem Mostert. I added Mike Davis to my teams with Christian McCaffrey. Each of these backups started games on my teams last year.

Offer Teams Their Handcuffs

  • Many managers don't care to lock up backfields as I do, but some do. One of the things I often try to do is offer teams their handcuffs in trades. Often a team has the handcuff I want, and I have the one they want, so I will offer to trade those handcuffs. Other times I like a backup running back on another team's roster better than one I have on my roster. If my backup running back is a handcuff for one of their starters, I will offer that handcuff for the backup running back that I like better. These trades don't always work, but when I can find an owner who, like me, wants to lock up a backfield, I'll get a deal made.

Fewer Running Backs When More Flex Positions

  • Several of my leagues have many flex positions or only require managers to start one running back. I prefer wide receiver depth over running back depth in those leagues, and I start wide receivers in the flex position. In my Dynasty Diagnostic Champions League, we only have to start one running back. Christian McCaffrey will be my only weekly starter with Mike Davis mixed in when needed in that league. In my All Flex League, we do not have to start a running back at all. Alvin Kamara is my only every-week starter in that league, and I can mix in Raheem Mostert and Melvin Gordon when needed. In my Reality Sports Online league, we have to start two running backs, two receivers, and three flex positions. We usually start five receivers in that league, though now that we added Najee Harris in the rookie draft, we may play him in the flex position while Austin Ekeler and Alvin Kamara are our every-week starting running backs.

Back-end Roster Churn During The Offseason

  • I churn the back end of my roster with running backs in leagues with an open waiver wire during the offseason. I pick up back-of-the-roster running backs in response to what NFL teams do during free agency and the draft. I churn my roster during training camps, too, as depth charts become more clear. Last season, I added Mike Davis to several teams when it became clear that he was ahead of Reggie Bonnafon to back up Christian McCaffrey. That paid off in spades. This year, I added Mike Boone when he signed with Denver, following their new GM, George Patton from the Vikings. Boone's seemed likely to be the primary backup behind Melvin Gordon before the Broncos drafted Javonte Williams. Even so, the addition of Boone and Williams allows Denver to drop or trade Gordon this offseason, so I am still holding onto Boone to see what happens in Denver. I also added Qadree Ollison in several leagues this offseason after Atlanta did not add a running back in the NFL draft since he appears to be the primary backup behind Mike Davis. Back-end roster churn doesn't pay off often, but it awesome when it does, like last year with Mike Davis.

Follow The Money

  • More than any other position, I pay attention to contracts with running backs. I place far more confidence in running backs that have several years left on their contract than those in the last or second to last year of their contract. Only elite running backs get a second contract with their teams after their rookie contract and hold their dynasty value as a result. Second-tier running backs usually move on to other teams and lose dynasty value. I also like to pick up backup running backs on teams if the starter is in the last year of his contract. Contracts matter, especially at the running back position, where dynasty value has the shortest shelf life.

Trust Talent Over Situation

  • Last week, I wrote about how I factor the offensive scheme and surrounding talent affect how I value quarterbacks. I don't do the same at the running back position. I was not afraid to draft Najee Harris because Pittsburg's offensive line played so poorly last year. I was happy to draft Christian McCaffrey even though Cam Newton vultures touchdowns and had not been effective throwing passes to running backs in his career. I traded to get Miles Sanders in one more league this offseason, even though Philadelphia has a new coaching staff and a new running quarterback. I have Damian Harris and Raheem Mostert in several leagues, even though New England and San Francisco coaches rotate running backs more than most. I believe talented running backs can thrive in any system and situation, so it does not matter too much to me what team they play for.

Won't Diversify My Portfolio

  • I'm in eight dynasty leagues, and I have many the same running backs rostered in each league. I believe in the players I drafted or acquired in trades, so I am not afraid to live or die with them in every league. I have Miles Sanders in four leagues, Alvin Kamara in three leagues, and Christian McCaffrey and Nick Chubb in two leagues. I have two of my favorite handcuffs, Latavius Murray and Salvon Ahmed, in five and four leagues, respectively. I don't believe in diversifying my portfolio. If I like a player, I will draft him or trade for him no matter the number of leagues I already have him on my roster. 

Running Backs On My Rosters

  • Dynasty Diagnostic Champions League (12-team, Half PPR): Christian McCaffrey, Mike Davis, Nyheim Hines, Phillip Lindsay, Marlon Mack, James White, Salvon Ahmed, Matt Breida, Frank Gore, and Eno Benjamin.
  • All-Flex League (14-team, Half PPR): Alvin Kamara, Raheem Mostert, Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray, Jeff Wilson, Javian Hawkins, Kylin Hill, Adrian Peterson, Jordan Howard, and Brian Hill.
  • FFPC (12-team, PPR): Miles Sanders, Gus Edwards, Latavius Murray, Darrell Henderson, Kerryon Johnson, Boston Scott, and Joshua Kelley.
  • Reality Sports Online (12-team, PPR): Alvin Kamara, Austin Ekeler, Najee Harris, Latavius Murray, and Gerrid Doaks.
  • Diehards (12-team, Half PPR): Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb, Latavius Murray, Salvon Ahmed, Kerryon Johnson, Darrynton Evans, Gerrid Doaks, Mike Boone, and Qadree Ollison.
  • Freeks (10-team, Half PPR): Christian McCaffrey, Miles Sanders, Mike Davis, Melvin Gordon, Damien Harris, Salvon Ahmed, Kerryon Johnson, Devontae Booker, Mike Boone, and Qadree Ollison.
  • Good Times (10-team, Half PPR): Jonathan Taylor, Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders, Damien Harris, Latavius Murray, Devin Singletary, Salvon Ahmed, Benny Snell, Joshua Kelley, Darrynton Evans, and Qadree Ollison.
  • Keeper (10-team, Half PPR): Nick Chubb, Miles Sanders, Kareem Hunt, Nyheim Hines, Chase Edmonds, Phillip Lindsay, Tarik Cohen, Samaje Perine, Javian Hawkins, Eno Benjamin, and Mike Boone.

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