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The FPC and the Running Back Position

The Footballguys Players Championship Analysis - Looking at the Running Back Position

Footballguys continues to advance the world of fantasy football. With several additions to their offerings last year, the much heralded Best Online Content Site for 2009 joined the world of High Stakes Fantasy contests and made an instant splash. Joe Bryant and David Dodds teamed with David Gerczak and Alex Kaganovsky of the Fantasy Football Players Championship (myffpc.com) to create the first annual Footballguys Players Championship contest in 2010 and by all measures it was a huge success. Now the FPC and FFPC are back again for their fourth season, ready to knock it out of the park once again in 2013.

By studying the rules of both the FFPC and the FPC along with some of the history and previous performances by FPC players, insights can be found that will help many players to not only compete well in both contests but also to be in a position to win their league and be in the running for a top prize in the championship round.

As the summer rolls on, I will continue analyzing many aspects of the Footballguys Players Championship and the Fantasy Football Players Championship. Through these articles I hope to provide extra help with fully understanding how to best build a top notch fantasy team within the contest. As someone who has competed against the best players in the world and in several contests much like the FPC and the FFPC, I fully understand how every possible advantage and extra edge can make all the difference in the world.

The Running Back Position

Under the microscope this time around is the position of running back. According the rules of the Footballguys Players Championship, the rosters are as follows:

Starting Roster

  • 1 QB
  • 2 RBs
  • 2 WRs
  • 1 TE
  • 1 K
  • 1 D/ST
  • 2 flex players (RB/WR/TE)

With the following relevant scoring system in place:

  • 4 points for passing TDs, 6 points for all other TDs
  • 0.05 point for every 1 yard passing
  • 0.1 point for every 1 yard rushing or receiving

So how do you analyze the impact of this scoring system to the current crop of potential fantasy running backs? We need to dig into some numbers.

First, let's take a look at both the projected scores for the Top 60 running backs this season and calculate some VBD numbers using the worst starter method (more on that in a minute). The results are in Table 1:

Rank Points VBD Rank Points VBD
1 279.3 121 31 135.3 -23
2 270.5 112 32 128.8 -30
3 263 104 33 128.3 -30
4 258.8 100 34 124.9 -34
5 255.1 97 35 121.9 -37
6 252.5 94 36 121.4 -37
7 248.8 90 37 119.4 -39
8 243.4 85 38 116.9 -42
9 225.6 67 39 112.2 -46
10 224.4 66 40 105.9 -53
11 219 60 41 101.5 -57
12 217.5 59 42 94.4 -64
13 211 52 43 89.9 -69
14 202.4 44 44 89.8 -69
15 202.1 44 45 89.1 -69
16 201.1 43 46 85.2 -73
17 200.7 42 47 84.8 -74
18 194.1 36 48 83.8 -75
19 179.7 21 49 82.5 -76
20 172.4 14 50 81 -78
21 172.3 14 51 79.6 -79
22 168.6 10 52 78.3 -80
23 158.6 0 53 75.9 -83
24 158.6 0 54 75.7 -83
25 140.4 -18 55 74.5 -84
26 140.1 -19 56 72.5 -86
27 137.8 -21 57 65.6 -93
28 137.5 -21 58 63.9 -95
29 136.7 -22 59 60.9 -98
30 136 -23 60 60.6 -98

Table 1: FPC Projected Fantasy Points For Top 60 Running Backs

First a comment on the worst starter method. Even though only 24 RBs are necessary as starters (the rules require 2 RBs per team), the Dual Flex rule can and should put more of them into play. However, unlike previous years, running back value falls off of a cliff after the first 24 backs – which means that some teams who miss the boat on tailbacks are going to be short on depth, and possibly have a gaping hole for their second starting tailback.  It appears that in 2013, the FPC flex spots are predicted to go towards wide receivers and possibly a TE2 – but if you can snag a RB3 with upside that gets a starter workload, your team will likely benefit greatly.

The VBD does not do much for a complete analysis without some context of other positions. Looking at the Draft Dominator, we can run a mock draft to get a feel for when the various running backs are slated to come off of the draft board. Table 2 gives some more insight as to when the mock draft says to take a RB:

Rank Points VBD DD ADP Rank Points VBD DD ADP
1 279.3 121 2 31 135.3 -23 79
2 270.5 112 3 32 128.8 -30 80
3 263 104 10 33 128.3 -30 81
4 258.8 100 11 34 124.9 -34 82
5 255.1 97 14 35 121.9 -37 84
6 252.5 94 16 36 121.4 -37 89
7 248.8 90 17 37 119.4 -39 90
8 243.4 85 23 38 116.9 -42 91
9 225.6 67 27 39 112.2 -46 101
10 224.4 66 28 40 105.9 -53 103
11 219 60 29 41 101.5 -57 104
12 217.5 59 30 42 94.4 -64 108
13 211 52 33 43 89.9 -69 122
14 202.4 44 36 44 89.8 -69 126
15 202.1 44 37 45 89.1 -69 127
16 201.1 43 38 46 85.2 -73 132
17 200.7 42 39 47 84.8 -74 134
18 194.1 36 40 48 83.8 -75 135
19 179.7 21 45 49 82.5 -76 138
20 172.4 14 47 50 81 -78 141
21 172.3 14 48 51 79.6 -79 147
22 168.6 10 49 52 78.3 -80 148
23 158.6 0 53 53 75.9 -83 149
24 158.6 0 54 54 75.7 -83 152
25 140.4 -18 69 55 74.5 -84 154
26 140.1 -19 72 56 72.5 -86 161
27 137.8 -21 73 57 65.6 -93 175
28 137.5 -21 75 58 63.9 -95 182
29 136.7 -22 77 59 60.9 -98 183
30 136 -23 78 60 60.6 -98 188

Table 2: Draft Dominator FPC Mock - ADP For Top 60 Running Backs

Based on the results, the first round would only appear to contain four running backs, as would Round 2.  Things would start to pick up in Round 3 as six more teams add a tailback, bringing the total to 14 RBs in the first three rounds.  A big run on the running back position would then be expected with 8 of the next 14 selections being a tailback.  Overall, 22 running backs would be expected to go in the Top 50 selections – meaning most teams have their two starters by the start of Round 5.  More mini-runs would happen over Rounds 5, 6 and 7 until most teams have three running backs on their roster.  The position would continue to be picked over, but just slightly, over the next 60-75 picks until most squads wind up being four-deep at RB by the end of Round 12, if not deeper.

This is great for a mock draft, but how about some real life comparisons? With the help of Clayton Gray here at Footballguys, he has pulled together some great ADP data based on early FPC drafts and created current ADP data for all of the top players. We can use this information to compare against the Draft Dominator mock results. Here are both ADPs compared side-by-side and their relative differences:

Rank FPC ADP DD ADP ADP Diff Rank FPC ADP DD ADP ADP Diff
1 1 2 -1 31 84 79 5
2 2 3 -1 32 87 80 7
3 3 10 -7 33 90 81 9
4 5 11 -6 34 95 82 13
5 7 14 -7 35 98 84 14
6 8 16 -8 36 101 89 12
7 9 17 -8 37 103 90 13
8 11 23 -12 38 105 91 14
9 13 27 -14 39 109 101 8
10 15 28 -13 40 112 103 9
11 16 29 -13 41 114 104 10
12 20 30 -10 42 115 108 7
13 22 33 -11 43 118 122 -4
14 25 36 -11 44 120 126 -6
15 28 37 -9 45 122 127 -5
16 29 38 -9 46 124 132 -8
17 32 39 -7 47 128 134 -6
18 35 40 -5 48 129 135 -6
19 40 45 -5 49 130 138 -8
20 45 47 -2 50 134 141 -7
21 48 48 0 51 137 147 -10
22 53 49 4 52 140 148 -8
23 58 53 5 53 143 149 -6
24 62 54 8 54 146 152 -6
25 64 69 -5 55 148 154 -6
26 66 72 -6 56 152 161 -9
27 69 73 -4 57 155 175 -20
28 70 75 -5 58 158 182 -24
29 73 77 -4 59 163 183 -20
30 79 78 1 60 165 188 -23

Table 3: Draft Dominator FPC Mock vs. 2013 FPC Data - Comparison of ADPs

Several key facts can be pulled from Table 3 about running backs and FPC scoring:

  • The NFL is now much more of a passing league – which is reflected right out of the gate.  Rather than a top pick going to the top projected running back, RB1 is slated to go second rather than first.  That may not happen in every FPC draft, but with Calvin Johnson’s monster 2012 season, he could go first overall and ahead of Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster.
  • The Top 2 running backs are still the Top 2, mock or no mock. They are the clear class of the class according to everyone's outlook right now.  Peterson and Foster should not be available after Pick 3.
  • After the first tier is over, more than half of FPC teams will look in a different direction than RB with their first round selection. Running backs are still important, but the perceived value lies in becoming more dominant at other positions.
  • Unlike previous years, top running backs will go faster in FPC drafts than the Draft Dominator predicts.  Why?  There are very few feature tailbacks and more and more running back by committee (RBBC) backfields.  Remember the earlier point about a steep drop-off in value after RB24?  There will be a push to get two stud running backs early for many teams, adding value (and earlier selections) for top tailbacks.
  • After teams exhaust the Top 24 running back list, value slides about a half to a full round for RB3s. The phenomenon of RBBC coupled with studs at QB, WR and TE push the value of RB down the chart.
  • A run on RBs is expected in Rounds 6-7 right about when RB25 goes off of the draft board. Teams will start to realize that there are few clear starting backs left, and teams with at least two will have an advantage - and those with three could be dominant.

Parting Thoughts

Every fantasy league and its rulebook are a little different. For the FPC and the FFPC, the configuration of the scoring and the rosters really emphasize the running back position. The Dual Flex rule allows teams that have four dominant rushers to all count each week, which is a huge advantage. That sounds great, but the likelihood of one squad cornering the market on feature rushers is very unlikely. That means teams have to address RB as much as they can but still get depth at WR and TE to cover a likely shortfall of stud running backs. Odds are high that many teams will use at least one rusher as one of two flex spots each week, but if the injury bug hits or a projected starter winds up as the second back in a committee, other options have to be used to field a competitive roster.

So what is the right answer? Grab your starters and a third RB reasonably early then look for value throughout the draft. Should luck and fate shine upon you (and the right mix of injuries both miss your roster and hit one of the guys in front of your backups) then you could get the ultimate roster of four starting running backs. Odds are against that, however, but to push towards the ultimate prize of the FPC it will likely be for a team with studs across their lineup in December. When in doubt, take a running back.

That leads us to a final point on your team's running backs - do not be shy about grabbing the backup (or "handcuff") to the first RB you draft. With a top pick invested in a guy like Arian Foster it would be foolish not to lock up Foster's full potential with his very capable understudy in Ben Tate. Should you not have Tate, the pain of losing Foster will be hard to digest and overcome. With 20 roster spots, plan on having one handcuff on the squad.

It takes a little time to get your mind wrapped around a new contest with a new set of rules, but the time spent is often well worth it if the goal is to field a competitive team. Giving a little bit of effort to get a greater understanding of the twists and turns to the rulebook can give turn a good fantasy player into a great one and a great player into a dominant force. Knowledge is power - so be as powerful as you can!

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


More from Jeff Pasquino:

For The Win: Week 1 - September 1
I Will Survive: Managing Survivor Leagues - August 25
WR3 By Committee - PPR: Update - August 22
WR3 By Committee: Update - August 22
Perfect Draft: 10 Teams - August 20
Perfect Draft: 12 Teams - August 20
Perfect Draft: 14 Teams - August 20
Perfect FPC Draft - August 20
Average Auction Values - August 19
RB2 By Committee - PPR: Update - August 18