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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 another season, ready to knock it out of the park once again in 2016.

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
1 257.6 94 31 160 -4
2 256.8 93 32 152.1 -12
3 247.8 84 33 144.9 -19
4 238.6 75 34 142.9 -21
5 236.8 73 35 142.2 -22
6 228.9 65 36 141.4 -23
7 225.3 61 37 140.5 -24
8 223.9 60 38 138.2 -26
9 215.6 52 39 133.6 -30
10 209.6 46 40 131.1 -33
11 206.4 42 41 124.8 -39
12 204.4 40 42 124.3 -40
13 202.4 38 43 122.1 -42
14 200.3 36 44 115.8 -48
15 194 30 45 114.7 -49
16 193.4 29 46 112 -52
17 189.1 25 47 107.2 -57
18 185.1 21 48 107 -57
19 178.5 15 49 106.8 -57
20 174.4 10 50 100.8 -63
21 173.3 9 51 99.9 -64
22 170.3 6 52 96.3 -68
23 169.9 6 53 93.1 -71
24 167.4 3 54 90.2 -74
25 167.3 3 55 88.7 -75
26 165.7 2 56 87.7 -76
27 165.3 1 57 84.6 -79
28 164 0 58 82.9 -81
29 161.7 -2 59 80.8 -83
30 161.1 -3 60 80.8 -83

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. Like last year, running back value tapers off for RB20-RB31, with RB30 projected to be just 24 points (or 1-2 points per game) lower than RB18.  That means that after the RB1s are gone and a few RB2s, the vaue really evens out for the next tiers of running backs.  It appears that in 2016, the FPC flex spots are predicted to go towards wide receivers most of the time, just like last season.  Looking at the Draft Dominator, the breakdown of players projected to score 162 or more points is 28 RBs, 42 WRs and 14 TEs.  That means most of the flex spots in the league (18 of 24) will be wide receivers most of the time.  If you can snag a RB3 with upside that gets a starter workload, your team will likely benefit greatly - but most teams are going to play it safe and get 3-4 WRs in a hurry.

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
1 257.6 94 7 31 160 -4 76
2 256.8 93 8 32 152.1 -12 77
3 247.8 84 10 33 144.9 -19 91
4 238.6 75 15 34 142.9 -21 92
5 236.8 73 16 35 142.2 -22 96
6 228.9 65 18 36 141.4 -23 97
7 225.3 61 22 37 140.5 -24 98
8 223.9 60 27 38 138.2 -26 100
9 215.6 52 35 39 133.6 -30 104
10 209.6 46 36 40 131.1 -33 109
11 206.4 42 37 41 124.8 -39 111
12 204.4 40 40 42 124.3 -40 116
13 202.4 38 41 43 122.1 -42 117
14 200.3 36 43 44 115.8 -48 119
15 194 30 44 45 114.7 -49 121
16 193.4 29 45 46 112 -52 123
17 189.1 25 46 47 107.2 -57 124
18 185.1 21 47 48 107 -57 134
19 178.5 15 54 49 106.8 -57 136
20 174.4 10 57 50 100.8 -63 138
21 173.3 9 58 51 99.9 -64 144
22 170.3 6 59 52 96.3 -68 155
23 169.9 6 61 53 93.1 -71 159
24 167.4 3 62 54 90.2 -74 167
25 167.3 3 66 55 88.7 -75 168
26 165.7 2 67 56 87.7 -76 176
27 165.3 1 71 57 84.6 -79 179
28 164 0 72 58 82.9 -81 180
29 161.7 -2 73 59 80.8 -83 184
30 161.1 -3 74 60 80.8 -83 185

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

Based on the results, the first round would only appear to contain only three running backs, with four more going in Round 2.  Things progress in Round 3 as three more teams add a tailback, bringing the total to 10 RBs in the first three rounds.   A run on the position continues from the end of Round 3 through Round 4 with the Top 18 running backs all selected by Pick 48.  Another run appears to be ready to break out from the middle of Round 5 that lasts until Round 7 where the Top 32 backs are all snapped up.  At this point, most teams have their starters and flex position covered, with about two-thirds of the teams having at least three tailbacks.  The Draft Dominator would continue to predict that teams would just pick and choose a few backs in Rounds 8 and 9 until the final push for depth hits in Rounds 10 and 11 with 47 tailbacks going off the board by Pick 124 in Round 11.  Over 60 are chosen in the Top 200 selections, demonstrating how valuable the position is for fantasy football and the FPC.

Now that we have the Draft Dominator's outlook, let's get some real life comparisons involved now.  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 4 7 -3 31 83 76 7
2 7 8 -1 32 88 77 11
3 9 10 -1 33 91 91 0
4 11 15 -4 34 94 92 2
5 13 16 -3 35 97 96 1
6 17 18 -1 36 100 97 3
7 20 22 -2 37 102 98 4
8 23 27 -4 38 104 100 4
9 29 35 -6 39 105 104 1
10 32 36 -4 40 107 109 -2
11 36 37 -1 41 117 111 6
12 39 40 -1 42 121 116 5
13 43 41 2 43 127 117 10
14 44 43 1 44 129 119 10
15 45 44 1 45 129 121 8
16 48 45 3 46 130 123 7
17 51 46 5 47 135 124 11
18 54 47 7 48 142 134 8
19 57 54 3 49 144 136 8
20 61 57 4 50 148 138 10
21 62 58 4 51 149 144 5
22 63 59 4 52 150 155 -5
23 65 61 4 53 154 159 -5
24 66 62 4 54 155 167 -12
25 68 66 2 55 157 168 -11
26 70 67 3 56 159 176 -17
27 77 71 6 57 160 179 -19
28 80 72 8 58 163 180 -17
29 81 73 8 59 165 184 -19
30 83 74 9 60 167 185 -18

Table 3: Draft Dominator FPC Mock vs. 2016 FPC Data - Comparison of ADPs

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

  • The NFL may be much more of a passing league, but when it comes to the few elite tailbacks, they go right at the top of the draft. Snapping up a Top 5 running back can set teams ahead at the position, affording them more picks to go after wide receivers and tight ends in the later rounds.
  • Even after the first three backs are gone, running backs are still a focus for drafters through the end of Round 2, and even through the next 12-24 picks.  It is almost as if it is a race to collect the Top 15 or so tailbacks, as the rest of the next few tiers are about equal to each other.
  • After the first five rounds are over, most teams have at least two running backs, and some have their third.  Running backs may not be projected to be so important (as the Draft Dominator shows), but the perceived value lies in getting as many of the Top 20 as possible before the depth runs out.
  • After teams exhaust the Top 16 running back list, value slides about a half to a full round for RB2s. 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 the even rounds (Round 4, Round 6, Round 8) at the end of tiers.  The Round 6 run is all about RB2s with upside (RB20-26) and then again in Round 8 right about when RB33 goes off of the draft board. At each point, 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 pretty good that some teams will use at least one rusher as one of two flex spots each week, especially if one of their backup running backs elevates to theh role of a starter for their team.   

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 Adrian Peterson it would be foolish not to lock up his full potential with his very capable understudy in Jerick McKinnon.  Should you not have James Starks, the pain of losing Eddie Lacy will be hard to digest and overcome. With 20 roster spots, plan on having one handcuff on the squad.  Additionally, taking two backs to cover a full backfield can help in several ways.  First, if one of the players in the duo elevates to the feature back, you are both set for a starter and have his handcuff.  If injury strikes to either one, you also get a clear starter as well.  This is where a solid pairing of David Johnson and Chris Johnson could pay off in a big way.

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.