2018 Fantasy Football Running Back Heavy Draft Strategy

by Ryan Turner
2018 Fantasy Football Running Back Heavy Draft Strategy

Scarcity is the name of the running back game in 2018 and she’s a cruel mistress.  When Derrius Guice went down on the field during the first preseason game against the New England Patriots, it was as if millions of fantasy owners cried out in terror, and suddenly silenced. Preseason claimed its first victim and it’s just the beginning.

Those that draft early in July or August know the feeling well. That sinking sensation which accompanies the loss of a potential stud in your roster. No amount of waiver wire scouring can fill that void. Most team owners simply grit their teeth and hope for the best.

With Guice out, Jay Gruden stated they would not sign a veteran running back to the Redskins roster and instead roll with what they have. It’s a bad move for Washington and an even worse one for Guice owners, who will have trouble replacing that level of potential production. Entering the season, fantasy experts projected Guice rushing for at least 1000 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Guice injury represents a basic economic concept that continues to shape the fantasy landscape: supply and demand. With so few guaranteed running back workhorses, the case for drafting running back heavy continues.

2018 Fantasy Football Running Back Heavy Draft Strategy

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Positional Scarcity for Running Backs

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In 2018, the running back position remains the most coveted of all in fantasy for two reasons. The first is positional scarcity. Without diving into the swampy details of this concept, the takeaway, when applied to fantasy football, is that a running back’s production is the hardest to replace on a seasonal basis.

For example, on a week-by-week level, it’s certainly possible to have Latavius Murray match the output of Dalvin Cook. However, it’s unlikely that Murray can maintain that same level of production for the rest of the season. That’s why the more assets that go off the board in a draft, the harder it is to reap the same potential amount of points as the player before. The resulting percentage of players left on the board that can possibly match that output is what determines scarcity.

The second reason running backs are so highly desirable is due to their guaranteed workload. Excluding the few teams that go RBBC (I’m looking at you Green Bay), running backs have guaranteed touches and by extension, points per game. As opposed to wide receivers, who compete with several other teammates on the field for targets.

Thus, production from the running back position is unique, and the reason why seven of the top ten players in FantasyPros’ standard draft rankings are running backs.

Keep your eye on the prize

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With positional scarcity and guaranteed workload in mind, a question arises: if the position is so important, then shouldn't stud running backs pack the championship teams? What percentage of championship winning fantasy teams had stud running backs?

The short answer is a lot. Looking at 2017’s nfl.com’s championship rosters, 47.1% had Todd Gurley, 26.9% had Le’Veon Bell and another 20.5% had Kareem Hunt. This is not to say owners overlooked wide receivers in the first two rounds. Over 20% of winning teams owned Julio Jones (20.2% to be exact), but it does show how drafting a top running back can radically alter the championship landscape.

2018 is the year of WR abundance

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It's also important to note that the wide receiver buffet has more options than a Golden Corral this year. Value is available at any point in the draft. People constantly overlook third round option Larry Fitzgerald. Fifth round target-hogging Chris Hogan has Tom Brady and eighth round Marquise Goodwin looks to resume last year’s chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo. The number of quality receivers with high floors and solid upside this year is astronomical.

Other names not as sexy include Michael Crabtree, DeVante Parker and Allen Hurns - all guys currently listed at the top of their respective depth charts. You may not find these veterans in the clearance section of Walmart, but they’re a steal nonetheless, especially if their ADP’s remain the same going into the first week of the season.

This abundance of wide receivers should give you the peace of mind needed when drafting RB-RB in the first two rounds. In fact, you could theoretically go RB-RB-TE and get Zach Ertz in the third, while taking the aforementioned Larry Fitzgerald or Demaryius Thomas as your first wide receiver in the fourth. Imagine taking David Johnson in the first, Dalvin Cook in the second and a top tight end in the third, that’s a mouth-watering combination that could easily guarantee a championship in the right league.

Draft strategy should be flexible

Above all else, every draft strategy is league-specific. It's possible that others in your league might have the same idea and take all of the best running backs off the board early. So, if you're the ninth pick out of ten, you might be forced to pick a wide receiver to start with. That's okay. There are worse combinations than Antonio Brown in the first and Julio Jones in the second. Frankly, that could be the makings of a terrifying team.

Regardless of strategy however, every league has endless variables involved during a draft. Your buddy that had too much to drink could spill his beer all over your notes, ruining your entire master plan. Some guy throwing darts at the draft board could have a better squad than someone who spent months researching, but that's fantasy football in a nutshell, isn't it?

Visit the F6P Fantasy Football Draft Kit Page for more advice to prepare for the 2018 season.

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