The running back position is more important than ever in Fantasy Football, with so few players showing consistency. Where’s the depth and how do you find it? Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate in part one of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.
Continuing our delve into the early 2014 fantasy football rankings, running backs are next.
As seasoned fantasy players know, running backs often dominate the early rounds of drafts. This year is no different. However, what is odd is how shallow the position appears to be.
Just looking at running backs alone, there are less than 12 guys I would feel comfortable with having as my number one back. This is certainly a problem if you play in a 12-team or deeper league. Of course, you could survive with two or three, second tier guys at the position, but that type of depth is not available either.
In a basic, 10-team league, 20 running backs are started guaranteed. A number of people would attempt to start one as a flex player as well. That means, any given week, 25-30 backs will be started. And that is for a very shallow, 10-team league, not even considering who has RBs on their bench.
You want to hear who ESPN has ranked as the 26-30 backs for this season?
26) Shane Vereen – more of a slot receiver than a back at all
27) Joique Bell – a backup
28) Stevan Ridley – lost his job last season
29) Bishop Sankey – a rookie taken in the second round
30) Pierre Thomas – can’t even beat out Mark Ingram for carries
Let’s just say I’m not totally comfortable with the depth I’m seeing here.
The running back position is quite possibly the most important position in fantasy football and I would go as far to say that you need four solid backs on your team to win. Unlike a decade ago where running backs were your top fantasy scorers week after week and consistently won leagues, that honor now falls to the quarterbacks. However, in today’s fantasy environment the running back is no less important. They still top my list of draft worries / needs, but for quite the opposite reason. There is so little depth at the position that drafting backs will make or break your season. But the ability to rely on any given player for points is nearly impossible outside the top five, so where is the depth and how do you find it?
I say every successful fantasy team needs four running backs because every player needs a backup. Just like how the actual NFL teams are going with a backfield by committee, or just trading off series with their runners, your fantasy team has to do the same thing. Injuries and weak production can turn Zac Stacy of the Rams (ranked 9th by ESPN) from a first round pick into a guy no one wants off waivers. I don’t trust any of the men ranked 25 to 30 on ESPN’s list, but we have to find the depth somewhere.
We’ll talk the top ten on Sunday, but I’m looking at the backups of those men for bench depth (my 3rd and 4th running backs). The reason those ten guys are highly ranked has a bit to do with their abilities and a heck of a lot to do with their team’s offensive makeup. Unfortunately for today’s running back, your team’s quarterback and coaching style will determine your value. Yes Eddie Lacy shined for the Packers last season, but that team will have a successful running back on its roster no matter what their name is. The same goes for Kansas City. They are built to run the ball and will do so successfully. I’ll also throw my New York Jets into this conversation as well. Sure they picked up Chris Johnson, who falls in at #11 on ESPN’s ranking, but I’d much rather grab Chris Ivory who ranks #34 on the list.
What separates Johnson at #11 from Ivory at #34? Little to nothing. They are likely to split carries throughout the season. Darren McFadden is another player, ranked all the way down at #44, who seems to always succeed at putting up fantasy points in Oakland. My main takeaway from the running back rankings is simple; don’t trust the rankings outside of the top five. Trust any consistency you can find and trust a team. Give me the Patriots’ running back over Miami’s please and thank you. New England seems to change its starting back every season, but they’re always worth owning.