Before we get to the running backs and their ADP numbers, let’s just make sure that everyone is up to date with what this article series is about. In the introductory piece, we discussed that the purpose of this series is to track the ADP trends of each player and each position so that when it comes time for you to actually head to your war room and draft your fantasy football team, you have a firm grasp of where players are going and how that affects your overall draft strategy. It’s as simple as that. We’ll cover the risers and fallers throughout the summer with detailed explanations as to why we are seeing particular movement and how you can use that knowledge to your advantage during your draft. We started our individual position coverage with the quarterbacks in the previous installment, so let’s start talking about the running backs.
While those who are inclined to draft someone like Aaron Rodgers or Calvin Johnson in the first round might disagree with me, I am of the belief that without a pair of high-quality running backs, your chances of winning your fantasy league drop significantly. If those who touch the ball the most are the ones, most likely, to score the most points in fantasy, then having at least one guy who consistently touches the ball 30 times per game is paramount. Having two makes you an early front-runner for your league championship. And if one or both of those guys are active in the passing game as well, well then you’ve got gold there, Jerry! Pure gold!
This has been the general consensus for some time and even in the wake of more and more running back committee situations popping up, it still holds true today. We may see a bit of fluctuation here and there, but overall, your running backs are probably going to be the most important cog in your fantasy machine. Let’s get a look at the early ADP numbers and get into some more detail.
|1||Adrian Peterson||MIN||1.00||Arian Foster||HOU||1.09||0.09|
|2||Arian Foster||HOU||2.00||LeSean McCoy||PHI||2.18||0.18|
|3||Doug Martin||TB||3.00||Ray Rice||BAL||3.04||0.04|
|4||Marshawn Lynch||SEA||4.00||Maurice Jones-Drew||JAC||4.29||0.29|
|5||Trent Richardson||CLE||6.00||Ryan Mathews||SD||5.28||-0.72|
|6||C.J. Spiller||BUF||7.00||Trent Richardson||CLE||6.90||-0.10|
|7||Jamaal Charles||KC||8.00||Chris Johnson||TEN||7.72||-0.28|
|8||Alfred Morris||WAS||9.00||DeMarco Murray||DAL||10.36||1.36|
|9||Ray Rice||BAL||12.00||Marshawn Lynch||SEA||11.62||-0.38|
|10||Steven Jackson||ATL||18.33||Adrian Peterson||MIN||12.67||-5.66|
|11||LeSean McCoy||PHI||19.00||Darren McFadden||OAK||13.72||-5.28|
|12||Maurice Jones-Drew||JAC||21.00||Jamaal Charles||KC||15.68||-5.32|
|13||Stevan Ridley||NE||25.00||Matt Forte||CHI||16.64||-8.36|
|14||Montee Ball||DEN||25.33||Michael Turner||ATL||18.86||-6.47|
|15||Matt Forte||CHI||27.00||Doug Martin||TB||22.35||-4.65|
|16||Chris Johnson||TEN||27.33||Frank Gore||SF||23.97||-3.36|
|17||Frank Gore||SF||30.67||Ahmad Bradshaw||NYG||26.74||-3.93|
|18||Lamar Miller||MIA||38.67||Steven Jackson||STL||26.82||-11.85|
|19||David Wilson||NYG||40.00||Fred Jackson||BUF||29.86||-10.14|
|20||DeMarco Murray||DAL||42.67||Chris Wells||ARI||31.74||-10.93|
So the most noticeable thing to me, as we compare the opening ADP for this year with a super-early look from last season, is that inside the first 10 picks of a draft, the running backs continue to dominate, but once you go beyond that, the demand, while still great, is a bit less this season. From the tenth running back off the board through the 20th, the differential is anywhere from a half to a full round’s worth of picks.
Well, it’s obviously a combination of things. For one thing there’s an obvious quality difference between the front half of the top 20 and the back half. Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin are all full-time backs who neither share carries nor lose a bunch of work near the endzone. In looking at the back half, you’ve got a 30-year old Frank Gore who loses touchdown carries to his quarterback, Montee Ball who may or may not be the primary in a crowded Denver backfield and a very disappointing Chris Johnson who now has Shonn Greene to fend off for carries. Given the overall lack of depth at the position, these guys still have serious value, but people now seem to be leaning towards an elite wide receiver, a top five quarterback or even a top tight end rather than use their third or fourth round pick on an imperfect back.
Draft position is going to be an important factor when you’re looking at the running backs. For me, a top five or six pick should be, without question, a running back. The top five running backs listed here should all be considered elite, with Peterson and Arian Foster maybe even being a step above the other three. Passing up one of them to grab someone like Rodgers or Megatron can, of course, be argued, but when you have to sit back and watch another 15 picks come off the board before you get another opportunity means that your chances of landing a strong running back tandem are greatly reduced and are thus at a disadvantage in your league. Can you find a potentially game-breaking running back past the first few rounds? Sure. But I certainly wouldn’t bank on it unless you know you’re playing in a league of fools.
Drafting seventh through twelfth will present you with a slew of other options. For me, I’m taking a running back with my first round pick. I won’t even need to think about it. Jamaal Charles, Alfred Morris and even Steven Jackson are, to me, potential game-breakers who will solidify your team at a thin position. Can Julio Jones outscore Jackson in a given week? Yes. Can he post more 30-plus point games than Jackson? Sure. But he’s also more likely to post a zero in the points column because Matt Ryan looked for Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez all day. Meanwhile Jackson still saw 20-oddd touches and possibly even found the endzone.
Things will be much more defined over the coming months and the overall picture will be much clearer. Take this info for what it is – a good starting point. Once camps open and we see how teams are using their personnel, we’ll have a much better idea as to who is worth the high draft pick and who isn’t.
Can Stevan Ridley improve on last year’s breakout campaign? Danny Woodhead is gone, but Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden are still in town. The Patriots also brought in Leon Washington who often figures into the passing game.
Fred Jackson is still a part of the Bills, but will his role be reduced enough to make C.J. Spiller a legitimate number one back? Often used as a great flex option due to his work in the passing game, Spiller definitely has the talent to run out in space. The real issue is whether or not he can spend an entire season pounding in between the tackles as well.
Injuries derailed LeSean McCoy’s season last year. Now the question is – since Bryce Brown did such a good job filling in for Shady, will the Eagles lighten his workload to keep him fresh? And what’s up with Felix Jones in camp now? Should the Eagles look to split carries amongst two or even three of them, the fantasy value obviously takes a mammoth hit.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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By Erik Siegrist, 6/22/2013 6:57 PM
What those lists tell me, Howard, is that it's very risky to spend your first round pick on a running back. Last year you could have taken a stud WR or QB in round one and still gotten a Peterson, Martin or Charles coming back in round two, and grabbed Spiller, Ridley and/or Morris even later than that. I don't see stability in those lists, I see a whole lot of volatility compared to the elite QBs or (presumably) WRs.
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By Laudog, 7/18/2013 1:27 PM
Erik, I disagree. You can get two stud RBs and can still swing an Andrew Luck or Eli Manning. However, if you go with Rogers early, it's possible you will be stuck with a committee back if you wait til late 2nd or third round. Many times those backs are complete wild cards that see sporadic production....which does not bode well come playoff time where consistency gets the crown. Also, I'd make the argument that Charles will be a top 3 back this year. He will see more receptions on a Reid offense that will likely find the end zone far more frequently than last year. Other than Peterson, there are few other backs in the league who make up about 60% of their teams offense.
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