Running Back #2 By Committee
By Jeff Pasquino
August 13th, 2012

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 (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) 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
Chris Wells
RB37
Mark Ingram
RB26
Isaac Redman
RB38
Michael Bush
RB27
Willis McGahee
RB39
Toby Gerhart
RB28
Jonathan Stewart
RB40
David Wilson
RB29
Jahvid Best
RB41
Mikel Leshoure
RB30
C.J. Spiller
RB42
Ryan Williams
RB31
James Starks
RB43
LeGarrette Blount
RB32
Stevan Ridley
RB44
Felix Jones
RB33
Ben Tate
RB45
Daniel Thomas
RB34
Peyton Hillis
RB46
Ronnie Hillman
RB35
Donald Brown
RB47
Rashard Mendenhall
RB36
DeAngelo Williams
RB48
Pierre Thomas

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 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.

Rnk
Running Back 1
Running Back 2
Value
1
Willis McGahee
Donald Brown
167.0
2
Willis McGahee
Isaac Redman
162.7
3
Willis McGahee
C.J. Spiller
161.8
4
Willis McGahee
Mark Ingram
161.0
5
Willis McGahee
Chris Wells
160.5
6
Willis McGahee
Jonathan Stewart
159.8
7
Willis McGahee
James Starks
159.0
8
Willis McGahee
DeAngelo Williams
158.7
9
Willis McGahee
Pierre Thomas
158.1
10
Willis McGahee
Roy Helu
157.4
11
Willis McGahee
Stevan Ridley
154.8
12
Willis McGahee
Michael Bush
154.4
13
Willis McGahee
Ryan Williams
153.8
14
Willis McGahee
Felix Jones
153.1
15
Willis McGahee
Ben Tate
152.6
16
Willis McGahee
Jahvid Best
152.5
17
Willis McGahee
Toby Gerhart
152.1
18
Willis McGahee
Shane Vereen
151.7
19
Willis McGahee
Kevin Smith
151.5
20
Willis McGahee
Mikel Leshoure
151.4
21
Willis McGahee
David Wilson
151.3
22
Willis McGahee
Ronnie Hillman
149.4
23
Donald Brown
Chris Wells
149.0
24
Willis McGahee
Peyton Hillis
148.3
25
Donald Brown
Roy Helu
147.9
26
Donald Brown
C.J. Spiller
147.4
27
Donald Brown
Mark Ingram
147.4
28
Donald Brown
Stevan Ridley
147.1
29
Isaac Redman
Mark Ingram
146.5
30
Isaac Redman
Jonathan Stewart
146.3
31
Donald Brown
Jonathan Stewart
146.1
32
Willis McGahee
n/a
146.0
33
Isaac Redman
Stevan Ridley
145.9
34
Isaac Redman
C.J. Spiller
145.4
35
Donald Brown
James Starks
145.3
36
Isaac Redman
DeAngelo Williams
145.2
37
Donald Brown
DeAngelo Williams
145.0
38
Donald Brown
Pierre Thomas
144.4
39
Isaac Redman
Roy Helu
144.2
40
Donald Brown
Isaac Redman
144.1
41
Isaac Redman
Chris Wells
143.9
42
Donald Brown
Shane Vereen
143.7
43
Donald Brown
Toby Gerhart
143.4
44
Isaac Redman
James Starks
143.2
45
Isaac Redman
Toby Gerhart
143.0
46
Chris Wells
Stevan Ridley
142.9
47
Donald Brown
Ronnie Hillman
142.7
48
Isaac Redman
Pierre Thomas
142.7
49
Chris Wells
Jonathan Stewart
142.6
50
Donald Brown
Michael Bush
142.5
51
Donald Brown
Ben Tate
142.5
52
Donald Brown
Jahvid Best
142.3
53
Isaac Redman
Shane Vereen
142.3
54
Donald Brown
Ryan Williams
142.1
55
Jonathan Stewart
C.J. Spiller
142.1
56
Donald Brown
Peyton Hillis
142.1
57
Donald Brown
David Wilson
141.9
58
Donald Brown
Kevin Smith
141.7
59
Donald Brown
Mikel Leshoure
141.7
60
Isaac Redman
Michael Bush
141.4
61
Isaac Redman
Ronnie Hillman
141.4
62
Isaac Redman
Ben Tate
141.1
63
Chris Wells
DeAngelo Williams
141.1
64
Donald Brown
Felix Jones
140.9
65
Isaac Redman
Jahvid Best
140.9
66
Isaac Redman
Peyton Hillis
140.5
67
Isaac Redman
David Wilson
140.5
68
C.J. Spiller
DeAngelo Williams
140.3
69
Isaac Redman
Ryan Williams
140.3
70
Isaac Redman
Mikel Leshoure
140.3
71
Isaac Redman
Kevin Smith
140.3
72
Chris Wells
Mark Ingram
139.8
73
Chris Wells
Ronnie Hillman
139.5
74
Isaac Redman
Felix Jones
139.5
75
Chris Wells
C.J. Spiller
139.0
76
C.J. Spiller
Stevan Ridley
138.4
77
Jonathan Stewart
Stevan Ridley
137.8
78
C.J. Spiller
James Starks
137.2
79
Jonathan Stewart
Roy Helu
137.2
80
C.J. Spiller
Mark Ingram
137.1
81
Mark Ingram
Stevan Ridley
137.0
82
James Starks
Stevan Ridley
136.6
83
Chris Wells
Shane Vereen
136.4
84
Jonathan Stewart
James Starks
136.4
85
C.J. Spiller
Roy Helu
135.8
86
Donald Brown
n/a
135.8
87
C.J. Spiller
Ronnie Hillman
135.4
88
DeAngelo Williams
Stevan Ridley
135.1
89
Chris Wells
Michael Bush
134.7
90
DeAngelo Williams
James Starks
134.6
91
DeAngelo Williams
Roy Helu
134.6
92
Chris Wells
Pierre Thomas
134.5
93
Isaac Redman
n/a
134.4

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. Rather than just stop with the first player that was a good pick all by himself (Willis McGahee), I decided to extend the list all the way to Isaac Redman as he is a solid starter as well. There are 89 pairs (and three players) that are worth more than or equal to Isaac Redman (134.4) by his lonesome. It is interesting to note that three players (C.J. Spiller, Donald Brown and Willis McGahee) all project to be better by themselves than Redman, so that's a strong indication of the running backs to target. I have included Redman by himself as Pair #93 for comparison reasons. Let's also take a look at how often some of these guys show up on the table:

Running Back
Frequency
Running Back
Frequency
Donald Brown
24
Michael Bush
4
Isaac Redman
24
Pierre Thomas
4
Willis McGahee
24
Shane Vereen
4
Chris Wells
12
Ben Tate
3
C.J. Spiller
11
David Wilson
3
Stevan Ridley
9
Felix Jones
3
DeAngelo Williams
8
Jahvid Best
3
Jonathan Stewart
8
Kevin Smith
3
James Starks
7
Mikel Leshoure
3
Mark Ingram
6
Peyton Hillis
3
Roy Helu
6
Ryan Williams
3
Ronnie Hillman
5
Toby Gerhart
3

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

As we can see from Table 3, five RBs show up on this list with a lot of regularity Isaac Redman, Chris Wells, Willis McGahee, Donald Brown and C.J. Spiller. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, three of these backs are worth more on their own than Isaac Redman himself. That tells that 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 92 possible pairs that are better than Isaac Redman, what exactly does that mean? Should Redman 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:

Rnk
Running Back
FPs
12
Steven Jackson
174.5
13
Ahmad Bradshaw
170.3
14
Marshawn Lynch
168.6
15
Frank Gore
167.9
16
Doug Martin
167.5
17
Fred Jackson
166.0
18
Michael Turner
162.9
19
Adrian Peterson
162.2
20
Shonn Greene
154.6
21
Reggie Bush
151.2
22
Darren Sproles
146.3
23
Willis McGahee
145.9
24
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
140.8
25
Donald Brown
135.9

Table 4: Projected Fantasy Points for RBs 12-25

Based on Table 4, we see something that catches our eye. Shonn Greene (RB20) projects to have about 154.6 fantasy points this season. Looking at our possible pairs, we have 10 duos that meet or beat 157 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 better than or comparable to RB23 (Willis McGahee, 146 points):

Rnk
Running Back 1
Running Back 2
Value
ADP1
ADP2
1
Willis McGahee
Donald Brown
167.0
27
35
2
Willis McGahee
Isaac Redman
162.7
27
26
3
Willis McGahee
C.J. Spiller
161.8
27
30
4
Willis McGahee
Mark Ingram
161.0
27
37
5
Willis McGahee
Chris Wells
160.5
27
25
6
Willis McGahee
Jonathan Stewart
159.8
27
28
7
Willis McGahee
James Starks
159.0
27
31
8
Willis McGahee
DeAngelo Williams
158.7
27
36
9
Willis McGahee
Pierre Thomas
158.1
27
48
10
Willis McGahee
Roy Helu
157.4
27
24
11
Willis McGahee
Stevan Ridley
154.8
27
32
12
Willis McGahee
Michael Bush
154.4
27
38
13
Willis McGahee
Ryan Williams
153.8
27
42
14
Willis McGahee
Felix Jones
153.1
27
44
15
Willis McGahee
Ben Tate
152.6
27
33
16
Willis McGahee
Jahvid Best
152.5
27
29
17
Willis McGahee
Toby Gerhart
152.1
27
39
18
Willis McGahee
Shane Vereen
151.7
27
51
19
Willis McGahee
Kevin Smith
151.5
27
49
20
Willis McGahee
Mikel Leshoure
151.4
27
41
21
Willis McGahee
David Wilson
151.3
27
40
22
Willis McGahee
Ronnie Hillman
149.4
27
46
23
Donald Brown
Chris Wells
149.0
35
25
24
Willis McGahee
Peyton Hillis
148.3
27
34
25
Donald Brown
Roy Helu
147.9
35
24
26
Donald Brown
C.J. Spiller
147.4
35
30
27
Donald Brown
Mark Ingram
147.4
35
37
28
Donald Brown
Stevan Ridley
147.1
35
32
29
Isaac Redman
Mark Ingram
146.5
26
37
30
Isaac Redman
Jonathan Stewart
146.3
26
28
31
Donald Brown
Jonathan Stewart
146.1
35
28
32
Willis McGahee
n/a
146.0
27
n/a

Table 5: Top 31 RB2BC Options for 2012

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 3-4 RBs on the list will be selected in Round 6 and the next 4-5 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 2012 is Willis McGahee and Mark Ingram. Take McGahee in Round 6 (or Round 5 if you have a later Round 6 pick) and Ingram in Round 7 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 this table is dominated by one running back Willis McGahee. He is the key to picking up the best value here for your RB2BC. Grab him first and then take the next best running back you like. I chose Mark Ingram because of his pedigree and the ridiculously good offense in New Orleans.

Keep in mind 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 Mark Ingram and Willis McGahee, and when the committee approach suggests starting each one:

Week
Suggested RB
Opponent
1
Willis McGahee
Pittsburgh
2
Willis McGahee
at Atlanta
3
Willis McGahee
Houston
4
Willis McGahee
Oakland
5
Willis McGahee
at New England
6
Willis McGahee
at San Diego
7
Mark Ingram
at Tampa Bay
8
Willis McGahee
New Orleans
9
Willis McGahee
at Cincinnati
10
Willis McGahee
at Carolina
11
Willis McGahee
San Diego
12
Willis McGahee
at Kansas City
13
Willis McGahee
Tampa Bay
14
Mark Ingram
at NY Giants
15
Mark Ingram
Tampa Bay
16
Mark Ingram
at Dallas

Table 6: Suggested RB2BC Schedule Plan

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

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