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Fantasy 101: Not Drafting RB Early A Mistake

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Even in a down year, Rice was a Top 10 RB. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
Even in a down year, Rice was a Top 10 RB. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Over the past two years, it has become increasingly acceptable – and even encouraged – to draft a quarterback early. Heck, selecting Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham in the first two rounds was just as popular last year. Then you had those who double-downed with both strategies. If you used either strategy, or even went with the combo method, you know firsthand just how much that hurt your chances.

Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but I avoided both strategies – always have and always will. You will never see me go any other direction but running back first… unless it’s PPR and Calvin Johnson is sitting there in the second half of the first round. The reason is simple: you sacrifice overall value and your running back depth from day one.

I could go on endlessly about Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck finishing in the Top 10 at QB to prove the “wait on QBs” effectiveness. But, all of my arguments would be meaningless with the stats to support it. So instead, we’re going to look at the numbers, as they can’t over or under-emphasize their point… numbers are numbers.

Let’s examine the 2012 season. To compare how each strategy would have worked for your team, we’ll put together four teams and examine the results from the fifth spot (mid pick and where the QB and TE pick dilemma starts). With each team, I used myfantasyleague.com’s ADP from 2012 and took the best available player on the board. Running back was always the first tiebreak, then the position need – assuming for 1 QB, 2 RB, 3WR, 1 TE and 1 Flex.

Team QB: Tom Brady (ADP: 5), DeMarco Murray (17), Roddy White (25), Michael Turner (38), Steve Smith (45), Eric Decker (56), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (66), Tony Gonzalez (79)

Team TE: Chris Johnson (8), Rob Gronkowski (16), Roddy White (25), Michael Turner (38), Steve Smith (45), Eric Decker (56), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (66), Ben Roethlisberger (78)

Team QB/TE: Tom Brady (5), Rob Gronkowski (16), Ryan Mathews (28), Mike Wallace (39), Steve Smith (45), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (66), Shonn Greene (68), Kenny Britt (84)

Team RB: Chris Johnson (8), Adrian Peterson (17), Roddy White (25), Mike Wallace (39), Reggie Bush (52), Eric Decker (56), Robert Griffin (71), Tony Gonzalez (79)

And no, I did not set this up intentionally with the thought of Adrian Peterson being on Team RB. Since that might cause some arguments against the comparison, I’ll even use Marshawn Lynch instead whose ADP was 22.

Team QB fantasy point total: Brady 340, Murray 111, White 177, Turner 157, Smith 142, Decker 184, Green-Ellis 152, Gonzalez 141 = 1,404

Team TE fantasy point total: Johnson 176, Gronkowski 143, White 177, Turner 157, Smith 142, Decker 184, Green-Ellis 152, Roethlisberger 224 = 1,355

Team QB/TE fantasy point total: Brady 340, Gronkowski 143, Mathews 98, Wallace 130, Smith 142, Green-Ellis 152, Greene 167, Britt 83 = 1,255

Team RB fantasy point total: Johnson 176, Lynch 247 (AP 307), White 177, Wallace 130, Bush 172, Decker 184, Griffin 319, Gonzalez 141 = 1,546 (1,706 with AP)

Breaking it down to weekly averages, Team QB would check in at 87.8, Team TE 84.7, Team QB/TE 78.4 and Team RB 96.6 (106.6 with AP). Even using Lynch for Team RB as discussed, the next closest weekly average is 8.8 FP lower. In standard leagues, that’s the equivalent of a season’s worth of Darren Sproles (a Top 70 player).

For arguments sake – because I know you’re thinking it – let’s say you were Team RB and didn’t grab Griffin. Instead, you had Tony Romo, who came off the board right around the same time. Well, Romo scored 279 FP meaning Team RB finished with 1,506 FP, still over 100 points ahead of Team QB.

As I said, we could go on and on about value at QB. You can see it first hand, as there are many slipping deep into mock drafts for 2013 already: Matt Ryan Round 6, Eli Manning in Round 7, Matthew Stafford Round 8 and Tony Romo Round 11. Yes, the 11th round for Romo! Mind you, the guy is one of four QBs to finish in the Top 10 five times in the last six seasons. The other three? Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Nice company huh?

There it is. You have a bevy of analysts and arguments against drafting QBs early, but now you have the numbers too. Running backs are still the most important position to grab in drafts; any other strategy just equals throwing fantasy points away.