Running Back #2 By Committee (PPR)
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 (Roy Helu) 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
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
RB37
DeAngelo Williams
RB26
Chris Wells
RB38
Michael Bush
RB27
Jonathan Stewart
RB39
David Wilson
RB28
Willis McGahee
RB40
Ryan Williams
RB29
Jahvid Best
RB41
Mikel Leshoure
RB30
C.J. Spiller
RB42
Toby Gerhart
RB31
James Starks
RB43
Ronnie Hillman
RB32
Donald Brown
RB44
LeGarrette Blount
RB33
Peyton Hillis
RB45
Pierre Thomas
RB34
Ben Tate
RB46
Felix Jones
RB35
Stevan Ridley
RB47
Jacquizz Rodgers
RB36
Mark Ingram
RB48
Daniel Thomas

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.

Rnk
Running Back 1
Running Back 2
Value
1
C.J. Spiller
Willis McGahee
193.3
2
Donald Brown
Willis McGahee
190.2
3
C.J. Spiller
Jonathan Stewart
186.8
4
Willis McGahee
Jonathan Stewart
186.4
5
Willis McGahee
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
185.0
6
C.J. Spiller
Donald Brown
184.4
7
Willis McGahee
Pierre Thomas
184.3
8
Willis McGahee
Mark Ingram
182.4
9
Willis McGahee
James Starks
181.6
10
Donald Brown
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
180.4
11
C.J. Spiller
James Starks
179.7
12
C.J. Spiller
Ronnie Hillman
179.3
13
Donald Brown
Jonathan Stewart
179.1
14
C.J. Spiller
DeAngelo Williams
178.4
15
C.J. Spiller
Pierre Thomas
178.2
16
C.J. Spiller
Toby Gerhart
178.0
17
C.J. Spiller
Michael Bush
177.8
18
Willis McGahee
DeAngelo Williams
177.5
19
Willis McGahee
Chris Wells
177.2
20
Donald Brown
Pierre Thomas
177.1
21
C.J. Spiller
Mark Ingram
176.9
22
Jonathan Stewart
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
176.3
23
C.J. Spiller
Stevan Ridley
175.8
24
Donald Brown
Mark Ingram
175.7
25
C.J. Spiller
Jahvid Best
175.7
26
C.J. Spiller
Chris Wells
175.1
27
Donald Brown
James Starks
174.7
28
C.J. Spiller
Peyton Hillis
174.5
29
C.J. Spiller
Shane Vereen
174.1
30
C.J. Spiller
Felix Jones
173.8
31
Willis McGahee
Ryan Williams
173.6
32
Willis McGahee
Jahvid Best
173.5
33
Willis McGahee
Michael Bush
173.5
34
C.J. Spiller
Kevin Smith
173.5
35
C.J. Spiller
Mikel Leshoure
173.3
36
C.J. Spiller
Ryan Williams
173.2
37
Donald Brown
Ronnie Hillman
173.1
38
Donald Brown
Stevan Ridley
172.9
39
C.J. Spiller
Jacquizz Rodgers
172.8
40
Donald Brown
Chris Wells
172.5
41
Willis McGahee
Felix Jones
172.4
42
Donald Brown
Toby Gerhart
172.2
43
Donald Brown
Jahvid Best
172.0
44
C.J. Spiller
Tim Hightower
172.0
45
Donald Brown
DeAngelo Williams
171.7
46
Donald Brown
Shane Vereen
171.2
47
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
James Starks
171.0
48
Willis McGahee
Stevan Ridley
171.0
49
Donald Brown
Tim Hightower
170.8
50
Jonathan Stewart
James Starks
170.7
51
Donald Brown
Michael Bush
170.5
52
Willis McGahee
Ronnie Hillman
170.3
53
Donald Brown
Ryan Williams
170.3
54
Donald Brown
Jacquizz Rodgers
170.2
55
Willis McGahee
Toby Gerhart
169.9
56
Jonathan Stewart
Chris Wells
169.9
57
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Ronnie Hillman
169.9
58
Donald Brown
Peyton Hillis
169.9
59
Donald Brown
Ben Tate
169.9
60
C.J. Spiller
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
169.8
61
Willis McGahee
Ben Tate
169.7
62
Willis McGahee
Tim Hightower
169.6
63
Willis McGahee
Kevin Smith
169.5
64
Donald Brown
Kevin Smith
169.5
65
Donald Brown
Mikel Leshoure
169.3
66
Willis McGahee
Mikel Leshoure
169.1
67
Donald Brown
Felix Jones
169.0
68
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Pierre Thomas
168.9
69
Willis McGahee
Shane Vereen
168.6
70
Jonathan Stewart
Ronnie Hillman
168.6
71
Jonathan Stewart
Jahvid Best
168.3
72
Jonathan Stewart
Toby Gerhart
168.3
73
Jonathan Stewart
Ryan Williams
168.2
74
Jonathan Stewart
Stevan Ridley
168.1
75
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Toby Gerhart
167.9
76
Jonathan Stewart
Peyton Hillis
167.8
77
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Mark Ingram
167.5
78
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
DeAngelo Williams
167.5
79
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Michael Bush
167.4
80
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Jahvid Best
166.8
81
Jonathan Stewart
Pierre Thomas
166.4
82
Willis McGahee
Peyton Hillis
166.1
83
C.J. Spiller
Ben Tate
166.0
84
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Stevan Ridley
166.0
85
C.J. Spiller
n/a
166.0
86
Jonathan Stewart
Kevin Smith
165.6
87
Jonathan Stewart
Mikel Leshoure
165.4
88
Jonathan Stewart
Shane Vereen
165.4
89
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Chris Wells
164.7
90
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Peyton Hillis
164.7
91
Jonathan Stewart
Jacquizz Rodgers
164.4
92
Jonathan Stewart
Ben Tate
164.3
93
Jonathan Stewart
Mark Ingram
164.2
94
Jonathan Stewart
Felix Jones
164.2
95
Jonathan Stewart
Tim Hightower
164.0
96
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Shane Vereen
164.0
97
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Felix Jones
163.7
98
James Starks
Pierre Thomas
163.6
99
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Kevin Smith
163.4
100
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Mikel Leshoure
163.2
101
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Ryan Williams
163.1
102
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Jacquizz Rodgers
162.7
103
Pierre Thomas
Ronnie Hillman
162.6
104
Donald Brown
n/a
162.3
105
Willis McGahee
Jacquizz Rodgers
162.2
106
Willis McGahee
n/a
162.1
107
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Tim Hightower
161.9
108
James Starks
DeAngelo Williams
161.2
109
Pierre Thomas
Chris Wells
161.2
110
James Starks
Mark Ingram
161.1
111
James Starks
Ronnie Hillman
161.0
112
Isaac Redman
n/a
161.0

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. Rather than use Roy Helu as our baseline, I decided to go with Isaac Redman for a few reasons. First, Helu is projected for below average RB2 fantasy points (145.9), so using him as a baseline would make for too many pairs and also give us a false sense of security of getting high RB2 production. I decided to go with the RB23 in Redman as he is more assured of his role and has a solid projected number (161). There are 111 pairs that are worth more than or equal to Isaac Redman (161), 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 #112 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
C.J. Spiller
24
Jacquizz Rodgers
5
Donald Brown
24
Jahvid Best
5
Willis McGahee
24
Kevin Smith
5
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
22
Mikel Leshoure
5
Jonathan Stewart
21
Peyton Hillis
5
James Starks
9
Ryan Williams
5
Pierre Thomas
8
Shane Vereen
5
Ronnie Hillman
7
Stevan Ridley
5
Chris Wells
6
Tim Hightower
5
Mark Ingram
6
Toby Gerhart
5
DeAngelo Williams
5
Ben Tate
4
Felix Jones
5
Michael Bush
4

Table 3: PPR 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 – Jonathan Stewart, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 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 111 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
215.2
13
Darren Sproles
210.8
14
Ahmad Bradshaw
208.3
15
Doug Martin
208.2
16
Fred Jackson
202.8
17
Reggie Bush
198.7
18
Frank Gore
194.0
19
Marshawn Lynch
193.0
20
Adrian Peterson
183.4
21
Michael Turner
177.0
22
Shonn Greene
176.7
23
C.J. Spiller
165.9
24
Donald Brown
162.3
25
Willis McGahee
162.2

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

Based on Table 4, we see something that catches our eye. Michael Turner (RB21) projects to have about 177 fantasy points this season. Looking at our possible pairs, we have 22 duos that meet or beat 177 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 RB21 (Michael Turner, 177 points):

Rnk
Running Back 1
Running Back 2
Value
ADP1
ADP2
1
C.J. Spiller
Willis McGahee
193.3
30
28
2
Donald Brown
Willis McGahee
190.2
32
28
3
C.J. Spiller
Jonathan Stewart
186.8
30
27
4
Willis McGahee
Jonathan Stewart
186.4
28
27
5
Willis McGahee
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
185.0
28
25
6
C.J. Spiller
Donald Brown
184.4
30
32
7
Willis McGahee
Pierre Thomas
184.3
28
45
8
Willis McGahee
Mark Ingram
182.4
28
36
9
Willis McGahee
James Starks
181.6
28
31
10
Donald Brown
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
180.4
32
25
11
C.J. Spiller
James Starks
179.7
30
31
12
C.J. Spiller
Ronnie Hillman
179.3
30
43
13
Donald Brown
Jonathan Stewart
179.1
32
27
14
C.J. Spiller
DeAngelo Williams
178.4
30
37
15
C.J. Spiller
Pierre Thomas
178.2
30
45
16
C.J. Spiller
Toby Gerhart
178.0
30
42
17
C.J. Spiller
Michael Bush
177.8
30
38
18
Willis McGahee
DeAngelo Williams
177.5
28
37
19
Willis McGahee
Chris Wells
177.2
28
26
20
Donald Brown
Pierre Thomas
177.1
32
45
21
Willis McGahee
Chris Wells
177.2
30
36
22
Donald Brown
Pierre Thomas
177.1
27
25

Table 5: Top 22 PPR 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 C.J. Spiller and Willis McGahee. Take McGahee in Round 5 and Spiller 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 C.J. Spiller and Willis McGahee, and when the committee approach suggests starting each one:

Week
Suggested RB
Opponent
1
Willis McGahee
Pittsburgh
2
C.J. Spiller
Kansas City
3
C.J. Spiller
at Cleveland
4
Willis McGahee
Oakland
5
Willis McGahee
at New England
6
Willis McGahee
at San Diego
7
C.J. Spiller
Tennessee
8
Willis McGahee
New Orleans
9
Willis McGahee
at Cincinnati
10
Willis McGahee
at Carolina
11
C.J. Spiller
Miami
12
C.J. Spiller
at Indianapolis
13
Willis McGahee
Tampa Bay
14
C.J. Spiller
St. Louis
15
C.J. Spiller
Seattle
16
C.J. Spiller
at Miami

Table 6: Suggested PPR RB2BC Schedule Plan

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

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