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RB2 By Committee

Finding a Second Starting Running Back by Committee for 2013

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 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 Player ADP Player
RB25 Ryan Mathews RB38 Ben Tate
RB26 Chris Ivory RB39 DeAngelo Williams
RB27 Eddie Lacy RB40 Bryce Brown
RB28 Rashard Mendenhall RB41 Fred Jackson
RB29 Ahmad Bradshaw RB42 Mikel Leshoure
RB30 Giovani Bernard RB43 Bernard Pierce
RB31 Shane Vereen RB44 Ronnie Hillman
RB32 BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB45 Isaiah Pead
RB33 Andre Brown RB46 Johnathan Franklin
RB34 Jonathan Stewart RB47 Danny Woodhead
RB35 Mark Ingram RB48 Zac Stacy
RB36 Daryl Richardson RB49 Pierre Thomas
RB37 Vick Ballard RB50 Jacquizz Rodgers

Table 1: Running Backs RB25-RB50 Based on ADP

Great, now we have 26 guys to pair up and see how they do. That makes 325 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 except for Ryan Mathews, Chris Ivory and Eddie Lacy 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 26 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.

Rank Running Back 1 Running Back 2 Value
1 Chris Ivory Eddie Lacy 167.8
2 Ryan Mathews Eddie Lacy 165.4
3 Eddie Lacy Shane Vereen 163.7
4 Eddie Lacy Rashard Mendenhall 161.7
5 Chris Ivory Ahmad Bradshaw 160.3
6 Chris Ivory Ryan Mathews 160.0
7 Ryan Mathews Rashard Mendenhall 157.8
8 Rashard Mendenhall Ahmad Bradshaw 157.7
9 Eddie Lacy Andre Brown 156.7
10 Shane Vereen Ahmad Bradshaw 155.7
11 Eddie Lacy Ahmad Bradshaw 155.6
12 Eddie Lacy Mark Ingram 155.3
13 Ryan Mathews Shane Vereen 155.1
14 Rashard Mendenhall Shane Vereen 154.6
15 Ryan Mathews Mark Ingram 154.4
16 Eddie Lacy BenJarvus Green-Ellis 154.3
17 Eddie Lacy Giovani Bernard 154.2
18 Chris Ivory Rashard Mendenhall 154.0
19 Chris Ivory Shane Vereen 153.4
20 Chris Ivory Giovani Bernard 153.1
21 Chris Ivory BenJarvus Green-Ellis 153.1
22 Chris Ivory Mark Ingram 152.6
23 Ryan Mathews Andre Brown 152.2
24 Eddie Lacy Vick Ballard 151.9
25 Chris Ivory Andre Brown 151.7
26 Eddie Lacy Isaiah Pead 151.6
27 Chris Ivory DeAngelo Williams 150.7
28 Eddie Lacy Danny Woodhead 150.6
29 Ryan Mathews Ahmad Bradshaw 150.3
30 Ryan Mathews Giovani Bernard 150.3
31 Ryan Mathews BenJarvus Green-Ellis 150.3
32 Eddie Lacy Fred Jackson 150.2
33 Ahmad Bradshaw Mark Ingram 150.2
34 Eddie Lacy Bernard Pierce 150.2
35 Ryan Mathews DeAngelo Williams 150.0
36 Eddie Lacy DeAngelo Williams 149.9
37 Ryan Mathews Isaiah Pead 149.9
38 Eddie Lacy Ronnie Hillman 149.8
39 Chris Ivory Isaiah Pead 149.8
40 Eddie Lacy Ben Tate 149.6
41 Ryan Mathews Fred Jackson 149.5
42 Eddie Lacy Daryl Richardson 149.3
43 Eddie Lacy Pierre Thomas 148.9
44 Eddie Lacy Jacquizz Rodgers 148.7
45 Rashard Mendenhall DeAngelo Williams 148.7
46 Chris Ivory Daryl Richardson 148.7
47 Chris Ivory Pierre Thomas 148.6
48 Ahmad Bradshaw DeAngelo Williams 148.6
49 Chris Ivory Ronnie Hillman 148.6
50 Chris Ivory Vick Ballard 148.3
51 Rashard Mendenhall BenJarvus Green-Ellis 148.2
52 Chris Ivory Ben Tate 148.2
53 Rashard Mendenhall Giovani Bernard 148.1
54 Chris Ivory Bernard Pierce 148.1
55 Chris Ivory Bryce Brown 147.8
56 Ahmad Bradshaw Isaiah Pead 147.2
57 Ryan Mathews Daryl Richardson 147.2
58 Ryan Mathews Pierre Thomas 147.2
59 Ahmad Bradshaw Andre Brown 147.1
60 Chris Ivory Fred Jackson 147.0
61 Eddie Lacy Bryce Brown 146.9
62 Chris Ivory Danny Woodhead 146.8
63 Shane Vereen Mark Ingram 146.8
64 Chris Ivory Jonathan Stewart 146.5
65 Chris Ivory Jacquizz Rodgers 146.5
66 Chris Ivory Mikel Leshoure 146.5
67 Ahmad Bradshaw BenJarvus Green-Ellis 146.4
68 Eddie Lacy Mikel Leshoure 146.3
69 Ahmad Bradshaw Giovani Bernard 146.2
70 Ryan Mathews Jacquizz Rodgers 145.5
71 Rashard Mendenhall Mark Ingram 145.5
72 Shane Vereen Andre Brown 145.5
73 Ryan Mathews Bryce Brown 145.2
74 Ryan Mathews Mikel Leshoure 145.1
75 Ryan Mathews Jonathan Stewart 145.0
76 Ryan Mathews Ronnie Hillman 144.8
77 Eddie Lacy Ryan Williams 144.7
78 Ryan Mathews Ryan Williams 144.3
79 Ahmad Bradshaw Fred Jackson 144.3
80 Eddie Lacy Jonathan Stewart 144.1
81 Shane Vereen DeAngelo Williams 143.6
82 Shane Vereen BenJarvus Green-Ellis 143.2
83 Shane Vereen Giovani Bernard 143.1
84 Ahmad Bradshaw Daryl Richardson 143.0
85 Shane Vereen Isaiah Pead 142.6
86 Chris Ivory n/a 142.1

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.   There are 85 pairs that are worth more than or equal to Chris Ivory by his lonesome, and 35 pairs that exceed 150 projected fantasy points. 

Let's also take a look at how often some of these guys show up on the table:

Running Back Frq Running Back Frq
Eddie Lacy 24 Fred Jackson 4
Chris Ivory 23 Bryce Brown 3
Ryan Mathews 20 Jacquizz Rodgers 3
Ahmad Bradshaw 13 Jonathan Stewart 3
Shane Vereen 11 Mikel Leshoure 3
Rashard Mendenhall 9 Pierre Thomas 3
BenJarvus Green-Ellis 6 Ronnie Hillman 3
DeAngelo Williams 6 Ben Tate 2
Giovani Bernard 6 Bernard Pierce 2
Mark Ingram 6 Danny Woodhead 2
Andre Brown 5 Ryan Williams 2
Isaiah Pead 5 Vick Ballard 2
Daryl Richardson 4    

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

As we can see from Table 3, three RBs show up on this list with a lot of regularity – Eddie Lacy, Chris Ivory and Ryan Mathews  Three more backs (Shane Vereen, Ahmad Bradshaw and Rashard Mendenhall) also appear at least nine times, so this gives a strong indication as to which six backs to target for our RB2BC for this season.   

Putting It All Together

Now that we have 85 possible pairs that are better than Chris Ivory, what exactly does that mean? Should Ivory 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 RB24:

Rank Player FPs
12 Steven Jackson 200.0
13 Chris Johnson 195.0
14 Maurice Jones-Drew 186.2
15 Frank Gore 181.5
16 Stevan Ridley 182.0
17 DeMarco Murray 175.4
18 Reggie Bush 174.9
19 David Wilson 169.4
20 Lamar Miller 167.0
21 Darren McFadden 162.9
22 LeVeon Bell 159.3
23 Darren Sproles 147.9
24 Montee Ball 147.5

Table 4: Projected Fantasy Points for RBs 12-24

Based on Table 4, we see some things that catch the eye.  It jumps out that only 22 running backs are projected to score over 150 points.  Now, to be fair, these running backs in Table 4 have a giant “zero” on their bye week, while our RB2BC duos never have a week off.  To compensate for that, we should add in 4-7 points for a bye week lineup fill-in that someone who owned of these players would use.  Even with an extra 4-7 points, however, still only 22 running backs would be over 155 projected points (Darren Sproles and Montee Ball all fall short of 155 even if you throw another seven points on their projections for a bye week filler).  Looking at our possible pairs, we have 13 pairs that meet or beat 155 fantasy points, and the top two pairs exceed LeVeon Bell by five points above his projection. 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 RB23 (Darren Sproles, 147.9 points + 5 for a bye-week fill-in):

Rank Running Back 1 Running Back 2 Value ADP1 ADP2
1 Chris Ivory Eddie Lacy 167.8 26 27
2 Ryan Mathews Eddie Lacy 165.4 25 27
3 Eddie Lacy Shane Vereen 163.7 27 31
4 Eddie Lacy Rashard Mendenhall 161.7 27 28
5 Chris Ivory Ahmad Bradshaw 160.3 26 29
6 Chris Ivory Ryan Mathews 160 26 25
7 Ryan Mathews Rashard Mendenhall 157.8 25 28
8 Rashard Mendenhall Ahmad Bradshaw 157.7 28 29
9 Eddie Lacy Andre Brown 156.7 27 33
10 Shane Vereen Ahmad Bradshaw 155.7 31 29
11 Eddie Lacy Ahmad Bradshaw 155.6 27 29
12 Eddie Lacy Mark Ingram 155.3 27 35
13 Ryan Mathews Shane Vereen 155.1 25 31
14 Rashard Mendenhall Shane Vereen 154.6 28 31
15 Ryan Mathews Mark Ingram 154.4 25 35
16 Eddie Lacy BenJarvus Green-Ellis 154.3 27 32
17 Eddie Lacy Giovani Bernard 154.2 27 30
18 Chris Ivory Rashard Mendenhall 154 26 28
19 Chris Ivory Shane Vereen 153.4 26 31
20 Chris Ivory Giovani Bernard 153.1 26 30
21 Chris Ivory BenJarvus Green-Ellis 153.1 26 32

Table 5: Top 21 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 2013 is Eddie Lacy and Shane Vereen.  Take Lacy in Round 5 (ADP of 60) and Vereen (ADP of 75) in Round 6 to pair together for your RB2 committee.  Lacy is starting to pull away as the top tailback for the Packers, and he should be the top tailback on early downs and goal line situations in Green Bay.  If you want to draft some insurance or are concerned for Lacy’s role, Johnathan Franklin should be available later in your draft (current ADP of 118, so Round 9 or 10).  Vereen represents great value to the Patriots, who will be looking at him as a playmaker both out of the backfield and also split out wide as a receiver.  New England has lost a lot of offensive weapons since last year, and Vereen will play a big role filling in those gaps.

I will go one step further this year, which is to provide some backup plans if Lacy goes early.  Take Lacy in the fifth, but if he is gone, go ahead and draft Chris Ivory (ADP of 55).  If both are gone, take Ahmad Bradshaw (ADP of 69), which may seem too early, but Bradshaw and a few backs that should be available in Round 6 (Rashard Mendenhall (ADP of 68) or Shane Vereen (ADP of 75)) to finish your RB2BC pair.  Both combinations (Bradshaw/Mendenhall, Bradshaw/Vereen) are Top 10 options, so all will not be lost.

As you may have guessed, 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. If all else fails in Round 5, 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 Eddie Lacy and Shane Vereen, and when the committee approach suggests starting each one:

Wk Suggested RB Opponent
1 Shane Vereen at Buffalo
2 Shane Vereen New York Jets
3 Shane Vereen Tampa Bay
4 Shane Vereen at Atlanta
5 Shane Vereen at Cincinnati
6 Eddie Lacy at Baltimore
7 Eddie Lacy Cleveland
8 Eddie Lacy at Minnesota
9 Eddie Lacy Chicago
10 Eddie Lacy Philadelphia
11 Eddie Lacy at New York Giants
12 Eddie Lacy Minnesota
13 Eddie Lacy at Detroit
14 Eddie Lacy Atlanta
15 Eddie Lacy at Dallas
16 Shane Vereen at Baltimore

Table 6: Suggested RB2BC Schedule Plan

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


More from Jeff Pasquino:

Quality Starts - Running Back - July 23
Quality Starts: Running Back (PPR Scoring) - July 23
NFC Running Back Handcuff Grades - July 22
AFC Running Back Handcuff Grades - July 18
Running Back Handcuff Grades - July 17
Quality Starts: Quarterbacks - July 15
Points Per Deception: A Look at PPR Scoring - June 26
High Stakes Contest Profile: The FFPC - June 24
Survivor Pool Strategy - June 23
Defending Reality: Team Defense Scoring - June 6