2015 Fantasy Football: Running Back Primer


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With the 2015 NFL season less than 3 months away, it’s time to start doing prep work for your fantasy football draft. Over the next few weeks I will be breaking down every position with a primer, rankings, sleepers, busts, and rookies.

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Passing offenses are taking over the NFL, teams threw the ball on a record 56.6% of offensive plays last season. Less rushes mean less fantasy potential for running backs and a potential changing of the fantasy guard. Running backs have been the most important fantasy assets since the beginning of fantasy football, but the proliferation of passing offenses and empty backfield alignments don’t bode well for future RB value.

Running Back Sleepers

In the early days of fantasy football, running backs were the heart of squads and generally the first and second picks for most teams. Now with passing offenses becoming the rage and PPR leagues growing like crazy, the standard RB-RB draft strategy is no longer a sure thing. There is even a growing draft concept called “Zero RB”. That was unheard of as recently as three seasons ago.

Running Back Busts

The “Zero RB” strategy is actually tempting enough to deserve it’s own post which I will be getting to in the next day or two. In summary, the fail rate of early round RBs is around 50% while top WRs fail at around just 25%. Its hard to field a competitive team if you miss on your top 2 picks, which makes the less risky WR picks more attractive. Plus with more leagues moving to a PPR format and NFL teams passing more than ever, WRs are putting up similar fantasy stats as RBs.

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Running Back Rankings (Part 1)

If you aren’t gutsy enough to go with the Zero RB strategy, there are still plenty of solid, reliable RBs. The high fail rate is troubling as is the fact that only 6 of the top 20 fantasy point totals came from RBs last season. I still don’t think RB/RB is a losing strategy, but based on the roughly 50% failure rate you will probably miss on one of your two early picks.

Running Back Rankings (Part 2)

Another option is to find a middle ground between the two contrasting strategies and go with the RB/WR approach. Take the RB you have the most confidence in, even if he is projected to go a few spots lower than your pick (Matt Forte for me) and take a top WR with your 2nd pick.

Running Back Rookies

A sea change like the Zero RB strategy will take a while before it’s widely implemented across the majority of leagues. Many owners will stick to the standard RB/RB strategy that was been successful since the dawn of fantasy football. More progressive leagues will adopt the Zero RB strategy first, while many leagues will have a mix of both. My advice is to figure out the strategy that the majority of your league is going and do the opposite.

Best Running Back Handcuffs

If there is a run on WRs in the first round, than take advantage of it by going RB/RB knowing you will get a first round caliber RB in the 2nd. If most of your league is going old-school RB/RB, give the Zero RB strategy a shot and secure two top WRs early. If there is no dominant approach in your league, take the middle ground and go RB/WR. Any of those strategies are good enough to win if you pick the right players and take advantage of the inefficiencies created by your league-mates draft strategies.

Next: Who are the RB Sleepers in Fantasy 2015?

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