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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 2017.

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 50 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
1 353.7 192 26 158.7 -3
2 302.2 140 27 153 -9
3 260.4 99 28 150.9 -11
4 250.6 89 29 147.9 -14
5 242.8 81 30 147.7 -14
6 241.8 80 31 146.8 -15
7 224.2 62 32 139.5 -22
8 220.3 59 33 139 -23
9 210.6 49 34 134.7 -27
10 204.4 43 35 131.1 -31
11 202.1 40 36 126.8 -35
12 200.6 39 37 125.5 -36
13 197.8 36 38 120.3 -42
14 183.6 22 39 119.5 -42
15 182.3 20 40 117.9 -44
16 176.5 15 41 116.3 -46
17 173.8 12 42 115.9 -46
18 173 11 43 113.8 -48
19 172 10 44 112.5 -49
20 168.6 7 45 111.3 -51
21 167.8 6 46 111 -51
22 167.3 6 47 108.6 -53
23 164 2 48 108.6 -53
24 163.1 1 49 103 -59
25 161.8 0 50 102.5 -59

Table 1: FPC Projected Fantasy Points For Top 50 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 RB31 projected to be just 24 points (or 1-2 points per game) lower than RB19.  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 2017, 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 25 RBs, 45 WRs and 14 TEs.  That means most of the flex spots in the league (21 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.

Also note that I stopped with just 50 running backs, but I expect several more to be drafted.  The reasoning is that after about Round 15 (Pick 180), many of the teams select kickers and defenses, so ADP pretty much goes out the window.  Just know that several more skill players are going to be selected in the final five rounds, so do not be shy to grab one you really want.

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
1 353.7 192 1 26 158.7 -3 129
2 302.2 140 3 27 153 -9 141
3 260.4 99 8 28 150.9 -11 143
4 250.6 89 11 29 147.9 -14 155
5 242.8 81 15 30 147.7 -14 156
6 241.8 80 17 31 146.8 -15 159
7 224.2 62 23 32 139.5 -22 175
8 220.3 59 26 33 139 -23 177
9 210.6 49 34 34 134.7 -27 186
10 204.4 43 38 35 131.1 -31 190
11 202.1 40 39 36 126.8 -35 200
12 200.6 39 42 37 125.5 -36 203
13 197.8 36 44 38 120.3 -42 210
14 183.6 22 55 39 119.5 -42 214
15 182.3 20 60 40 117.9 -44 216
16 176.5 15 69 41 116.3 -46 217
17 173.8 12 75 42 115.9 -46 218
18 173 11 76 43 113.8 -48 220
19 172 10 79 44 112.5 -49 223
20 168.6 7 87 45 111.3 -51 224
21 167.8 6 90 46 111 -51 225
22 167.3 6 91 47 108.6 -53 227
23 164 2 103 48 108.6 -53 228
24 163.1 1 107 49 103 -59 234
25 161.8 0 116 50 102.5 -59 235

Table 2: Draft Dominator FPC Mock - ADP For Top 50 Running Backs

Based on the results, the first round would only appear to contain only four running backs, with three more going in Round 2.  Things progress in Round 3 as two more teams add a tailback, bringing the total to nine RBs in the first three rounds.   Some attention goes towards the position in Round 4 with four more backs going off the board, but it wanes quickly until Rounds 7 and 8 where six are selected, pushing the total to 22, or almost two per team. Running backs trickle off the list through Round 12, with a good group going in Round 13, but only 30 backs are projected to be selected after the close of Round 13.  That screams at how little value there is in drafting a ton of running backs, at least according to the Draft Dominator.  The NFL's commitment to using two or three backs in committee approaches has spread the relative value of running backs so thin that after the Top 20 backs are selected, the value is minimal at best.   

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 1 1 0 26 68 129 -61
2 2 3 -1 27 82 141 -59
3 4 8 -4 28 57 143 -86
4 13 11 2 29 74 155 -81
5 11 15 -4 30 80 156 -76
6 9 17 -8 31 66 159 -93
7 21 23 -2 32 123 175 -52
8 17 26 -9 33 98 177 -79
9 22 34 -12 34 87 186 -99
10 30 38 -8 35 134 190 -56
11 21 39 -18 36 73 200 -127
12 46 42 4 37 61 203 -142
13 32 44 -12 38 105 210 -105
14 42 55 -13 39 126 214 -88
15 52 60 -8 40 99 216 -117
16 63 69 -6 41 162 217 -55
17 74 75 -1 42 83 218 -135
18 52 76 -24 43 129 220 -91
19 89 79 10 44 164 223 -59
20 122 87 35 45 126 224 -98
21 67 90 -23 46 115 225 -110
22 80 91 -11 47 125 227 -102
23 87 103 -16 48 131 228 -97
24 50 107 -57 49 187 234 -47
25 96 116 -20 50 189 235 -46

Table 3: Draft Dominator FPC Mock vs. 2017 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 3, and even through the next 12-24 picks.  It is almost as if it is a race to collect the Top 12 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 just one running back, with just a handful of teams owning two. The fantasy value of running backs has really dropped with most NFL teams using the running back by committee approach. 
  • After teams exhaust the Top 20 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 running back never really seems to hit at any point beyond the Top 10.  While many will look for upside potential in RB2 and RB3 choices, the lack of clear starters and the thought of waiver wire replacements affording similar value greatly depresses the value of drafting the position.   

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 startersreasonably 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 Le'Veon Bell it would be foolish not to lock up his full potential with a cheap insurance policy in James Conner.  Should you not have Jonathan Williams, the pain of losing LeSean McCoy 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.