Running Back #2 By Committee
By Jeff Pasquino
August 18th, 2011

Over the past few years, there have been two very popular articles written by our very own Chase Stuart that look at an interesting approach to building a fantasy team with late value picks. Based upon the theory of using both Strength of Schedule ("SOS") and taking two players as a combination to build one very good player, he has discussed both Team Defense by Committee ("TDBC") and Quarterback by Committee ("QBBC") as a general fantasy league strategy. In general I think that this is a wise move because very early on in fantasy drafts there are a ton of RB and WR prospects to go after to build a great team. While there are a few studs at QB and also a few choice defenses, I do not see a huge need in leagues to pursue either too hard in the beginning stages of a fantasy draft.

So with this in mind, I started to think about what else can be done with the committee approach. Tight end? Perhaps. Wide receiver? A possibility, but it might be better to look at third WR options than any other option. What about running back? Hmmm, that's really intriguing. What if you could grab two running backs later in the draft that could combine to perform on a RB2 - or even RB1 - level, based solely on their current projections and their schedule? Now we're talking. This really got my attention, so I went after this one first. Let's take a look at how I went about this and then we can digest and discuss the results.

The Ground(game) Rules

So how to begin? Defenses and quarterbacks are relatively easy to "committee" together. There's usually only one QB and certainly only one team defense per NFL club, so the approach is pretty simple as far as picking out which players / teams to try and pair up. When it comes to running backs, the line is not quite so easy to draw, but I needed some basis to pick which players it made sense to try and combine for a decent committee. I decided that I would use the following criteria to decide which players to start with for evaluating:

Criteria #1 - RB25 and Beyond

This seems pretty simple. If we want to have a duo that puts up RB2 numbers, that means we want RB24 or better production - else we would just draft RB24 (Felix Jones) or higher and forget the whole idea. So here is the list of players with which I started, based on their Average Draft Position (ADP):

ADP
Running Back
ADP
Running Back
RB25
Ryan Grant
RB37
C.J. Spiller
RB26
Daniel Thomas
RB38
James Starks
RB27
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
RB39
Pierre Thomas
RB28
Fred Jackson
RB40
Reggie Bush
RB29
Marshawn Lynch
RB41
Michael Bush
RB30
Joseph Addai
RB42
LaDainian Tomlinson
RB31
Jonathan Stewart
RB43
Roy Helu
RB32
Ryan Williams
RB44
Ronnie Brown
RB33
Chris Wells
RB45
Willis McGahee
RB34
Mike Tolbert
RB46
Danny Woodhead
RB35
Brandon Jacobs
RB47
Rashad Jennings
RB36
Ryan Torain
RB48
Thomas Jones

Table 1: Running Backs RB25-RB48 Based on ADP

Great, now we have 24 guys to pair up and see how they do. That makes 276 potential committees, so there had better be a decent one (or several, we hope) out of all of those couplets. Now, before I go over the method of how to pair them up and the results, we need one more rule:

Criteria #2 - No more than one RB from Round 5 and one from Round 6.

This could get tricky here, but understand the overall goal. The point of RB2BC is to "free up" the first 4 rounds of your fantasy draft to pursue 3 receivers or 2 WRs and a RB after grabbing a stud RB in Round 1. This also gives you the flexibility of grabbing two receivers and a stud QB or TE, depending on your personal preference, or even to get RB2 and have the "RB2BC" be your RB3. Flexibility is the name of the game here. We all want value in our drafts, and having the ability to grab two RBs in Rounds 5 and 6 to act as our RB2BC gives us that ability.

Here is the good news - almost all of the running backs on the list above have ADPs that are Round 6 or higher (later). Only Ryan Grant (ADP RB25, #60 overall) is a borderline Round 5 selection. We will have to keep that in mind when we look at the results because it would not make sense to expect to get Ryan Grant and a Round 6 RB or two Round 6 running backs in one of these combinations based on their ADP.

So what do we do now to figure out some RB pairs?

Criteria #3 - Use Footballguys' RB Strength of Schedule

This sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Just take the RB Strength of Schedule to figure out when certain players are more likely to score well. What I did is similar to what the Projections Dominator and Draft Dominator do for you - take the projected fantasy points and slice them up over 16 weeks based on the strength of schedule. I call this result the "distributed fantasy points" for each back.

After I had all 24 running backs with distributed fantasy points on a weekly basis, I just compared all of the possible RB pairs to find the best duos for RB2BC. So here we are - time for some results.

Rk
Running Back 1
Running Back 2
Value
1
Daniel Thomas
Fred Jackson
188.8
2
Fred Jackson
Marshawn Lynch
182.7
3
Ryan Grant
Fred Jackson
176.7
4
Ryan Grant
Daniel Thomas
173.5
5
Daniel Thomas
Brandon Jacobs
172.1
6
Daniel Thomas
Joseph Addai
171.8
7
Fred Jackson
Joseph Addai
171.4
8
Fred Jackson
Reggie Bush
170.9
9
Fred Jackson
Chris Wells
170.4
10
Fred Jackson
Jonathan Stewart
169.2
11
Daniel Thomas
Marshawn Lynch
168.0
12
Fred Jackson
Ryan Williams
167.2
13
Fred Jackson
Mike Tolbert
167.0
14
Fred Jackson
Thomas Jones
166.6
15
Daniel Thomas
Mike Tolbert
165.7
16
Fred Jackson
Michael Bush
165.4
17
Fred Jackson
LaDainian Tomlinson
165.4
18
Marshawn Lynch
Joseph Addai
164.6
19
Fred Jackson
Ryan Torain
164.3
20
Fred Jackson
Rashad Jennings
164.3
21
Fred Jackson
Willis McGahee
164.2
22
Daniel Thomas
Jonathan Stewart
164.1
23
Ryan Grant
Marshawn Lynch
163.5
24
Fred Jackson
Pierre Thomas
163.5
25
Marshawn Lynch
Brandon Jacobs
163.4
26
Fred Jackson
James Starks
163.3
27
Fred Jackson
Brandon Jacobs
163.0
28
Fred Jackson
Roy Helu
163.0
29
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Fred Jackson
162.8
30
Daniel Thomas
Chris Wells
162.7
31
Daniel Thomas
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
162.6
32
Felix Jones
None
161.5

Table 2: Running Back #2 Committee Pairs

As we can see from Table 2, we have some very good pairs to select from for RB2BC. There are just 31 pairs that are worth more than or equal to Felix Jones (161.5) by his lonesome, but that low number is because Footballguys projects Jones to be worth more than his ADP of RB24. That does not matter too much as we are still searching for the best combinations anyway. I have included Jones by himself as Pair #32 for comparison reasons. Let's also take a look at how often some of these guys show up on the table:

Running Back
Frq
Running Back
Frq
Running Back
Frq
Fred Jackson
20
Chris Wells
2
Rashad Jennings
1
Daniel Thomas
9
Jonathan Stewart
2
Reggie Bush
1
Marshawn Lynch
5
Mike Tolbert
2
Roy Helu
1
Brandon Jacobs
3
James Starks
1
Ryan Torain
1
Joseph Addai
3
LaDainian Tomlinson
1
Ryan Williams
1
Ryan Grant
3
Michael Bush
1
Thomas Jones
1
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
2
Pierre Thomas
1
Willis McGahee
1

Table 3: Running Back #2 Committee Pair Appearances by Player

As we can see from Table 3, three RBs show up on this list with a lot of regularity - Daniel Thomas, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. That tends to make sense as they are at or near the top of the ADP list in Table 1. These three backs should be involved in most of the best RB2BC pairs.

Putting It All Together

Now that we have 31 possible pairs that are better than Felix Jones, what exactly does that mean? Should Felix Jones be the basis of our comparison? Of course not. Remember our goal - find a pair of running backs that can combine for RB2 (or better) fantasy production. To figure that out we need a better metric, so here are the projections for RB12 through RB25:

Rk
Running Back
FPs
12
Frank Gore
191.2
13
Matt Forte
190.7
14
Ahmad Bradshaw
182.0
15
Michael Turner
180.0
16
Jahvid Best
176.3
17
Mark Ingram
173.8
18
Shonn Greene
171.4
19
LeGarrette Blount
168.8
20
Felix Jones
161.5
21
Fred Jackson
159.1
22
Ryan Mathews
156.7
23
Daniel Thomas
152.9
24
DeAngelo Williams
151.4
25
Knowshon Moreno
150.8

Table 4: Projected Fantasy Points for RBs 12-25

Again in Table 4 we see that Felix Jones is projected above RB24 status (RB20, 161.5 points). Looking harder at Table 4 I also see something that catches my eye. Shonn Greene (RB18) projects to have 171.4 fantasy points this season. Looking at our possible pairs, we have seven duos that meet or beat Greene's projected fantasy points. This tells us that choosing the correct pair can give us the result we wanted - RB2 production on the cheap.

Now, to look for the best bargains available, let's take one more final look at these pairs, focusing on those that project to be comparable to RB19 (LeGarrette Blount, 168.8 points):

Rk
Running Back 1
Running Back 2
Value
ADP1
ADP2
1
Daniel Thomas
Fred Jackson
188.8
26
28
2
Fred Jackson
Marshawn Lynch
182.7
28
29
3
Ryan Grant
Fred Jackson
176.7
25
28
4
Ryan Grant
Daniel Thomas
173.5
25
26
5
Daniel Thomas
Brandon Jacobs
172.1
26
35
6
Daniel Thomas
Joseph Addai
171.8
26
30
7
Fred Jackson
Joseph Addai
171.4
28
30
8
Fred Jackson
Reggie Bush
170.9
28
40
9
Fred Jackson
Chris Wells
170.4
28
33
10
Fred Jackson
Jonathan Stewart
169.2
28
31
11
Daniel Thomas
Marshawn Lynch
168.0
26
29

Table 5: Top 11 RB2BC Options for 2011

Lastly, we should focus on the best of the bargain bin - pairs of running backs that include no more than one RB with ADP of RB27, and possibly both backs with ADP of 30 or higher. The trick to RB2BC will be timing, as it is quite possible that 4-6 RBs on the list will be selected in Round 6 and the next two or three are unlikely to escape Round 7. That makes it tough to project when and where to draft these guys as they are likely to go in a RB3 run in Rounds 6 and 7. Throw out waiting too long on this RB2BC approach unless you have picks that are very close at the beginning or end of a Round (such as 6.11 and 7.02). Only then can you be certain to get a great duo if you want for Rounds 6 and 7, but I would not take the risk. That is why the recommendation for RB2BC for 2011 is Daniel Thomas and Fred Jackson. Take Thomas in Round 5 and then come right back and take Fred Jackson in Round 6 to pair together for your RB2 committee. Even though you are drafting them both slightly ahead of the round their ADP suggests, the value you get of a top end RB2 is well worth that investment.

A backup plan is always nice to have, so if you are unable to secure Fred Jackson after taking Daniel Thomas, do not panic. Simply wait until Round 7 and then take Brandon Jacobs (ADP 90 overall). That gives you a solid RB2BC and gives you an extra value pick to use in Round 6.

Note that there is more than one way to use this strategy. For thoroughness, Table 5 should be your guide on Fantasy Draft Day if you attempt to use RB2BC. Take the top back available from the list in Round 6 and grab the next best back to pair with him and keep on going.

Here is a final summary of the combined schedules for Daniel Thomas and Fred Jackson, and when the committee approach suggests starting each one:

Wk
Suggested Starter
Opponent
1
Fred Jackson
at Kansas City
2
Fred Jackson
Oakland
3
Daniel Thomas
at Cleveland
4
Fred Jackson
at Cincinnati
5
Fred Jackson
Philadelphia
6
Fred Jackson
at New York Giants
7
Daniel Thomas
Denver
8
Fred Jackson
Washington
9
Daniel Thomas
at Kansas City
10
Fred Jackson
at Dallas
11
Daniel Thomas
Buffalo
12
Daniel Thomas
at Dallas
13
Daniel Thomas
Oakland
14
Daniel Thomas
Philadelphia
15
Daniel Thomas
at Buffalo
16
Fred Jackson
Denver

Table 6: Suggested RB2BC Schedule Plan

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.

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