Running Back #2 By Committee (PPR)
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 (Ryan Grant) 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
Cedric Benson
RB37
Brandon Jacobs
RB26
Daniel Thomas
RB38
James Starks
RB27
Jonathan Stewart
RB39
Ryan Torain
RB28
Fred Jackson
RB40
Pierre Thomas
RB29
Marshawn Lynch
RB41
Michael Bush
RB30
Joseph Addai
RB42
LaDainian Tomlinson
RB31
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
RB43
Rashad Jennings
RB32
Ryan Williams
RB44
Roy Helu
RB33
C.J. Spiller
RB45
Darren Sproles
RB34
Chris Wells
RB46
Danny Woodhead
RB35
Reggie Bush
RB47
Tim Hightower
RB36
Mike Tolbert
RB48
Delone Carter

Table 1: Running Backs RB25-RB48 Based on PPR 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 (especially in PPR leagues) 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 - all the running backs on the list above have ADPs that are Round 6 or higher (later). It might even be possible to push this into a Round 6 and Round 7 RB pair. We will have to keep that goal in mind when we look at the results because it would not make sense to expect to get 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
Fred Jackson
Daniel Thomas
221.1
2
Fred Jackson
Marshawn Lynch
218.8
3
Fred Jackson
Reggie Bush
215.8
4
Daniel Thomas
Cedric Benson
210.8
5
Fred Jackson
Tim Hightower
208.2
6
Fred Jackson
Joseph Addai
207.8
7
Fred Jackson
LaDainian Tomlinson
205.9
8
Cedric Benson
Reggie Bush
205.4
9
Fred Jackson
Ryan Williams
204.0
10
Fred Jackson
Chris Wells
203.3
11
Cedric Benson
Marshawn Lynch
203.2
12
Fred Jackson
Jonathan Stewart
202.7
13
Fred Jackson
Mike Tolbert
202.1
14
Fred Jackson
Darren Sproles
200.7
15
Fred Jackson
Cedric Benson
200.3
16
Fred Jackson
Michael Bush
199.8
17
Fred Jackson
Delone Carter
199.7
18
Daniel Thomas
Joseph Addai
199.5
19
Fred Jackson
Rashad Jennings
198.8
20
Fred Jackson
Ryan Torain
198.7
21
Fred Jackson
Pierre Thomas
198.3
22
Fred Jackson
James Starks
197.5
23
Fred Jackson
Roy Helu
197.0
24
Marshawn Lynch
Joseph Addai
196.7
25
Fred Jackson
Brandon Jacobs
194.4
26
Reggie Bush
Joseph Addai
194.2
27
Daniel Thomas
Marshawn Lynch
193.1
28
Fred Jackson
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
193.1
29
Fred Jackson
C.J. Spiller
192.6
30
Fred Jackson
Danny Woodhead
192.6
31
Fred Jackson
None
192.6
32
Daniel Thomas
Brandon Jacobs
192.4
33
Daniel Thomas
Mike Tolbert
191.1
34
Cedric Benson
LaDainian Tomlinson
189.4
35
Cedric Benson
Joseph Addai
188.9
36
Marshawn Lynch
Tim Hightower
188.5
37
Marshawn Lynch
Brandon Jacobs
187.9
38
Marshawn Lynch
Reggie Bush
187.8
39
Cedric Benson
Tim Hightower
187.3
40
Cedric Benson
Jonathan Stewart
187.2
41
Cedric Benson
Ryan Williams
186.7
42
Daniel Thomas
C.J. Spiller
186.5
43
Cedric Benson
Mike Tolbert
186.4
44
Daniel Thomas
Tim Hightower
186.0
45
Cedric Benson
Chris Wells
185.9
46
Reggie Bush
Brandon Jacobs
184.5
47
Marshawn Lynch
C.J. Spiller
184.4
48
Daniel Thomas
Darren Sproles
184.3
49
Daniel Thomas
Jonathan Stewart
184.2
50
Daniel Thomas
Ryan Williams
184.2
51
Reggie Bush
Mike Tolbert
184.2
52
Daniel Thomas
Chris Wells
183.7
53
Cedric Benson
Darren Sproles
182.5
54
Daniel Thomas
LaDainian Tomlinson
182.2
55
Cedric Benson
Rashad Jennings
182.2
56
Joseph Addai
LaDainian Tomlinson
181.9
57
Daniel Thomas
Rashad Jennings
181.7
58
Daniel Thomas
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
181.2
59
Joseph Addai
Tim Hightower
180.5
60
Daniel Thomas
Delone Carter
180.2
61
Reggie Bush
C.J. Spiller
179.9
62
Daniel Thomas
Michael Bush
179.6
63
Daniel Thomas
Pierre Thomas
179.4
64
Joseph Addai
Mike Tolbert
179.3
65
Marshawn Lynch
LaDainian Tomlinson
179.2
66
Daniel Thomas
Danny Woodhead
179.1
67
Reggie Bush
Tim Hightower
178.8
68
Marshawn Lynch
Darren Sproles
178.8
69
Marshawn Lynch
Jonathan Stewart
178.6
70
Joseph Addai
Ryan Williams
178.5
71
Tim Hightower
Mike Tolbert
178.4
72
Cedric Benson
Michael Bush
178.4
73
Daniel Thomas
James Starks
178.3
74
Cedric Benson
Delone Carter
178.3
75
Joseph Addai
Chris Wells
177.7
76
Marshawn Lynch
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
177.6
77
Joseph Addai
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
177.3
78
Cedric Benson
Ryan Torain
177.3
79
Marshawn Lynch
Michael Bush
177.1
80
Marshawn Lynch
Mike Tolbert
177.1
81
Joseph Addai
Rashad Jennings
177.0
82
Tim Hightower
Ryan Williams
176.9
83
Cedric Benson
Pierre Thomas
176.9
84
Joseph Addai
Brandon Jacobs
176.7
85
Cedric Benson
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
176.3
86
Marshawn Lynch
Danny Woodhead
176.3
87
Marshawn Lynch
James Starks
176.3
88
Marshawn Lynch
Ryan Williams
176.2
89
Cedric Benson
James Starks
176.1
90
Reggie Bush
Ryan Williams
176.1
91
Joseph Addai
Jonathan Stewart
176.0
92
Reggie Bush
Jonathan Stewart
175.9
93
Marshawn Lynch
Pierre Thomas
175.8
94
Tim Hightower
Chris Wells
175.8
95
Marshawn Lynch
Delone Carter
175.7
96
Reggie Bush
Chris Wells
175.6
97
Cedric Benson
Roy Helu
175.6
98
Marshawn Lynch
Chris Wells
175.5
99
Reggie Bush
Darren Sproles
175.5
100
Marshawn Lynch
Rashad Jennings
175.3
101
Cedric Benson
Brandon Jacobs
175.2
102
Marshawn Lynch
Ryan Torain
174.1
103
Cedric Benson
C.J. Spiller
173.4
104
Cedric Benson
Danny Woodhead
173.3
105
Reggie Bush
LaDainian Tomlinson
173.2
106
Joseph Addai
Danny Woodhead
173.1
107
Reggie Bush
Rashad Jennings
172.9
108
Marshawn Lynch
Roy Helu
172.7
109
Daniel Thomas
Ryan Torain
172.6
110
Daniel Thomas
None
172.6
111
Daniel Thomas
Roy Helu
172.6
112
Daniel Thomas
Reggie Bush
172.6
113
Tim Hightower
Jonathan Stewart
172.3
114
Reggie Bush
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
172.2
115
Tim Hightower
LaDainian Tomlinson
171.4
116
Cedric Benson
None
171.2
117
Reggie Bush
Delone Carter
170.3
118
Brandon Jacobs
Mike Tolbert
170.2
119
Reggie Bush
Michael Bush
169.9
120
Reggie Bush
Danny Woodhead
169.7
121
Tim Hightower
C.J. Spiller
169.5
122
Reggie Bush
Pierre Thomas
169.5
123
Joseph Addai
C.J. Spiller
169.4
124
Marshawn Lynch
None
169.1
125
Tim Hightower
Brandon Jacobs
168.9
126
Joseph Addai
James Starks
168.7
127
Reggie Bush
James Starks
168.4
128
Ryan Williams
Brandon Jacobs
166.9
129
Tim Hightower
Darren Sproles
166.4
130
Joseph Addai
Michael Bush
165.7
131
Brandon Jacobs
Chris Wells
165.6
132
Joseph Addai
Ryan Torain
165.4
133
Mike Tolbert
LaDainian Tomlinson
164.6
134
Brandon Jacobs
LaDainian Tomlinson
164.6
135
Tim Hightower
Rashad Jennings
164.3
136
Joseph Addai
Roy Helu
164.0
137
Tim Hightower
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
163.9
138
Joseph Addai
Darren Sproles
163.7
139
LaDainian Tomlinson
C.J. Spiller
163.5
140
Mike Tolbert
Jonathan Stewart
162.9
141
Reggie Bush
Ryan Torain
162.7
142
Reggie Bush
None
162.7
143
Reggie Bush
Roy Helu
162.7
144
Brandon Jacobs
Jonathan Stewart
162.0
145
Ryan Williams
C.J. Spiller
161.5
146
Ryan Williams
Jonathan Stewart
161.1
147
Ryan Williams
Mike Tolbert
161.0
148
Ryan Williams
Darren Sproles
161.0
149
Joseph Addai
Delone Carter
160.7
150
Joseph Addai
Pierre Thomas
160.7
151
Joseph Addai
None
160.7
152
Tim Hightower
Danny Woodhead
160.2
153
Chris Wells
Mike Tolbert
160.1
154
Chris Wells
C.J. Spiller
160.1
155
Chris Wells
Jonathan Stewart
160.0
156
Tim Hightower
Delone Carter
160.0
157
Mike Tolbert
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
159.9
158
Ryan Grant
None
159.9

Table 2: PPR 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 157 pairs that are worth more than or equal to Ryan Grant (159.9) by his lonesome. I have included Grant by himself as Pair #158 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
Cedric Benson
24
Brandon Jacobs
12
Rashad Jennings
7
Daniel Thomas
24
Ryan Williams
12
Danny Woodhead
7
Fred Jackson
24
Jonathan Stewart
11
Delone Carter
7
Marshawn Lynch
24
Chris Wells
11
James Starks
6
Reggie Bush
24
LaDainian Tomlinson
10
Michael Bush
6
Joseph Addai
24
C.J. Spiller
10
Roy Helu
6
Tim Hightower
18
Darren Sproles
8
Ryan Torain
6
Mike Tolbert
13
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
8
Pierre Thomas
6

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

As we can see from Table 3, six RBs show up on this list with a lot of regularity - Cedric Benson, Daniel Thomas, Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Bush and Joseph Addai. In fact, all six backs are worth more on their own than Ryan Grant himself. That tells us two things. First, Ryan Grant is likely overvalued, since there are six backs projected to score more than ADP RB24. Second, the ground around this tier of RB23-28 is pretty up in the air as far as who will do the best. All the more reason to get a favorable pair when it comes to strength of schedule.

Putting It All Together

Now that we have 157 possible pairs that are better than Ryan Grant, what exactly does that mean? Should Ryan Grant 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, using PPR:

Rk
Running Back
FPs
12
Maurice Jones-Drew
237.9
13
Rashard Mendenhall
227.7
14
Jahvid Best
226.9
15
Ahmad Bradshaw
222.6
16
Felix Jones
202.0
17
Mark Ingram
198.8
18
Fred Jackson
192.7
19
Knowshon Moreno
188.8
20
Michael Turner
188.6
21
Ryan Mathews
186.4
22
Shonn Greene
184.2
23
LeGarrette Blount
178.2
24
DeAngelo Williams
175.8
25
Daniel Thomas
172.7

Table 4: Projected PPR Fantasy Points for RBs 12-25

Based on Table 4, we see something that catches our eye. Felix Jones (RB16) projects to have about 200 fantasy points this season. Looking at our possible pairs, we have 15 duos that meet or beat 200 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 RB15 (Felix Jones, 202 points):

Rk
Running Back 1
Running Back 2
Value
ADP1
ADP2
1
Fred Jackson
Daniel Thomas
221.1
28
26
2
Fred Jackson
Marshawn Lynch
218.8
28
29
3
Fred Jackson
Reggie Bush
215.8
28
35
4
Daniel Thomas
Cedric Benson
210.8
26
25
5
Fred Jackson
Tim Hightower
208.2
28
47
6
Fred Jackson
Joseph Addai
207.8
28
30
7
Fred Jackson
LaDainian Tomlinson
205.9
28
42
8
Cedric Benson
Reggie Bush
205.4
25
35
9
Fred Jackson
Ryan Williams
204
28
32
10
Fred Jackson
Chris Wells
203.3
28
34
11
Cedric Benson
Marshawn Lynch
203.2
25
29
12
Fred Jackson
Jonathan Stewart
202.7
28
27
13
Fred Jackson
Mike Tolbert
202.1
28
36
14
Fred Jackson
Darren Sproles
200.7
28
45
15
Fred Jackson
Cedric Benson
200.3
28
25

Table 5: Top 15 PPR 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 three (RB30-32) 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 Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Take Jackson in Round 5 and Lynch 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.

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 Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, and when the committee approach suggests starting each one:

Wk
Suggested Starter
Opponent
1
Fred Jackson
at Kansas City
2
Fred Jackson
Oakland
3
Marshawn Lynch
Arizona
4
Fred Jackson
at Cincinnati
5
Fred Jackson
Philadelphia
6
Fred Jackson
at New York Giants
7
Marshawn Lynch
at Cleveland
8
Fred Jackson
Washington
9
Marshawn Lynch
at Dallas
10
Fred Jackson
at Dallas
11
Marshawn Lynch
at St. Louis
12
Marshawn Lynch
Washington
13
Fred Jackson
Tennessee
14
Marshawn Lynch
St. Louis
15
Marshawn Lynch
at Chicago
16
Fred Jackson
Denver

Table 6: Suggested PPR RB2BC Schedule Plan

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

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