In the first installment of this series I talked about the importance of looking for value early (top 5 rounds) in drafts instead of chasing needs. To reiterate, it’s not necessarily about going WR or RB heavy early if the value is there to draft a more balanced team, but I want to emphasize how you can be successful prioritizing value early even if it leads to an unbalanced roster through the early rounds.
All things being equal value-wise, a WR-heavy start is my draft preference. I am not opposed to going RB-heavy either because of the scarcity of the position, but I prefer the reduced injury risk of WRs. Per Josh Hermsmeyer of Rotoviz, over a 7 year sample RBs with a top-24 ADP were 200%+ more likely to miss extended time due to injury than top-24 ADP WRs. But its not only about injury risk, when you are drafting a RB that highly you are not drafting them to be part of a committee, you are drafting them as a feature back. If the backfield turns into a committee mid-season you have likely already lost draft value on the player. Even if an early-round WR gets passed on the depth chart they will still be a valuable starter because teams use more WRs than RBs. Also due to the increased injury risk of RBs it is easier to find a season-changing player on the waiver wire at RB than WR.
Going WR heavy provides you a weekly advantage with at least two of your WR1, WR2, and Flex positions and since you are so strong at the position it allows you to only roster 4-5 WRs and allocate more roster space to RBs. The weekly advantage at these starting spots should mitigate the weakness at RB, but through smart drafting and waiver wire play you can turn your team into a powerhouse.
When building a committee at RB it is important to build a balanced group. You need to have guys with a reliable floor to start the year as well as players with high-upside that have season-changing potential. As the year goes on and some of the later upside RBs start to emerge (or not) you can drop your underperforming RBs to take more shots at RBs with upside.
I am going to highlight my target RBs going after the 5th round of 12-man std-scoring leagues breaking them down by players with high floors and players with high ceilings to help you find a good committee of RBs to target if you end up doing a WR heavy draft early on.
High Floor RBs You Can Start Week 1
Paul Perkins: Perkins should be the starting RB in New York week 1 and without much competition he should keep his role all season barring injury. Perkins has the potential to end the season as a high-end RB2. I love his value at his ADP.
Tevin Coleman: As the complimentary RB to Devonta Freeman, Coleman has established a reliable role in the Falcon’s offense. Although there are some disappointing weeks, Coleman can put up RB1 numbers in other weeks. If Freeman gets injured Coleman has season-changing upside.
Frank Gore: Old-man Gore doesn't seem to care too much about Father Time. The Colt’s drafted Marlon Mack, but he is more of a complimentary back than feature 2-down thumper. I expect Gore to maintain a strong role, at least early in the season. There has been a lot of offseason buzz about Robert Turbin being more involved so keep a close eye on that.
Danny Woodhead: With Kenneth Dixon’s injury Woodhead’s value will only rise. He will be the passing down back and will likely be decently involved in the rushing game. Especially if Flacco misses time expect the Ravens to use Woodhead a lot out of the backfield to take pressure off of their back up QB.
Terrence West: Also gets a big boost with Dixon’s injury. Woodhead has a more secure role, but West should get the first crack at being the 1st and 2nd down RB. Although he has had a disappointing career so far in the NFL, West ran for 2,509 yards and 41 TDs his final year at Townsend so there’s talent there.
Matt Forte/Bilal Powell: I put Matt Forte and Bilal Powell together because they are both going to be sharing touches in some capacity. At this point of their careers I think Bilal Powell is the better player, but the Jets may want to run Forte into the ground before he leaves the team. Both RBs are powerful inside runners with great pass-catching skills. If one of them gets injured the other could have season-changing upside. All things being equal I would rather take a shot on Powell, but I am fine taking whichever player has a later ADP come draft day.
Jacquizz Rodgers: Jacquizz is an under appreciated player. He seems to be the favorite to handle lead RB-duties while Martin is suspended and there have been reports coming out of Buc’s camp that Martin isn't guaranteed the job when he comes back. Jacquizz is a prime WR-heavy later round target because you know you will get reliable production the first 3 weeks of the season and he has a chance to be continue that role beyond that. You get 3 weeks of solid production from a 10th round pick and even if he cant hold onto the job you can cut him and free a roster space for someone with more upside.
Theo Riddick: Theo Riddick is another prime WR-heavy late-round target. He averaged over 10 pts per game last year in standard scoring leagues. I know Ameer Abdullah is back and will take touches away from Riddick, but as good as Abdullah is Riddick is still a better receiver out of the backfield, though Abdullah is no slouch. Regardless, Riddick provides an excellent floor for a RB you can get in the 10th round.
Duke Johnson: I love Isaiah Crowell, but all the hype around him has led people to forget about Duke Johnson. He’s currently going in the 13th round of 12-man leagues and has a good floor and a higher ceiling than people are giving him credit for. Isaiah Crowell is the early-down interior bruiser, no doubt about that, but Duke is the guy that comes on the field at the end of games in hurry-up when the Browns are losing, which seems to be pretty frequent. They are also so starved for passing options after losing Pryor that the Browns are talking about having Duke Johnson play slot WR too. I am going to be targeting Duke Johnson everywhere I can in redraft leagues.
High-ceiling RBs That Could Help You Win Your League
Derrick Henry: A highly-touted 2nd year RB that was efficient with his carries. Look for him to take over a higher percentage of the carry split with Demarco and if Murray gets injured Henry has RB1 upside.
Samaje Perine: A talented back from Oklahoma that shared duties with Joe Mixon. Perine is a powerful back that could take the job from Rob Kelley by mid-season.
Jamaal Charles: Who knows if he still has it, but 80% of Jamaal Charles is still a lot of upside this late in the draft.
Thomas Rawls: Granted the Seahawks brought in Eddie Lacy this offseason, but Thomas Rawls has shown how productive he can be if he stays healthy. Rawls and Lacy will compete for early down carries and I honestly have no idea who will win the battle, but if Thomas Rawls does, or Lacy gets injured, Rawls will be an insane value at the 108th player in ADP.
C.J. Prosise: Prosise is an even better value than Rawls in my opinion. I think Prosise will be the passing down back for the Seahawks and will occasionally get mixed in on early downs. He showed last year how productive he could be with limited touches and I expect him to become more involved in the offense this year. He's currently the 126th player being drafted.
James White: I typically try to avoid the Patriots backfield, but I think James White is the real deal. Tom Brady has been talking him up in the offseason for at least 3 years, well before he started getting snaps in games. He also just got a 3 year extension making him the highest paid back on the Patriots roster. After the Super Bowl there’s no denying how effective he can be. Currently going 132nd.
Joe Williams: Kyle Shanahan knows his RBs. He also convinced John Lynch to draft him even though he wasn't on his draft board. If you have any questions about how good of a player Joe Williams could be flip on his college highlights. Or look at his game logs, including a 332 yd, 4 TD game versus UCLA.
Jonathan Williams: We’ve seen how productive the #2 RB in Buffalo can be behind McCoy. They lost OC Anthony Lynn which will probably decrease the amount of running Buffalo does, but I still expect Williams to be involved and has huge upside if McCoy gets injured.
James Connor: Think of how productive DeAngelo Williams was when Leveon Bell was suspended or injured. That is James Connor this year.
Alvin Kamara: Kamara has been drawing praise from Adrian Peterson early in camp. It is a crowded backfield, but the saints obviously like Kamara after trading a 2018 2nd round pick to move up and draft him. I think he’ll likely get most of the passing down work with an opportunity to get more involved. If Ingram or Peterson get injured he could be a quality starter for your team.
D’Onte Foreman: Maybe gets some goal line carries, but is mainly a Lamar Miller injury handcuff.
Waiver Wire Guys to Keep an Eye On: Robert Turbin, Donnel Pumphrey, Jeremy McNIchols, Aaron Jones, DeAngelo Henderson, Kenyan Drake, Brian Hill, Matt Breida, Malcom Brown, Peyton Barber
Check back next week for Part III, RB-Heavy draft.
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