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RB2 By Committee

Finding a Second Starting Running Back by Committee in a Standard League for 2016

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 (Ryan Mathews) 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 Duke Johnson RB38 Derrick Henry
RB26 Melvin Gordon RB39 Charles Sims
RB27 Giovani Bernard RB40 Isaiah Crowell
RB28 Ameer Abdullah RB41 LeGarrette Blount
RB29 Danny Woodhead RB42 Theo Riddick
RB30 Frank Gore RB43 Tevin Coleman
RB31 T.J. Yeldon RB44 Kenneth Dixon
RB32 DeAngelo Williams RB45 C.J. Prosise
RB33 Jay Ajayi RB46 Bilal Powell
RB34 Chris Ivory RB47 Karlos Williams
RB35 Justin Forsett RB48 Devontae Booker
RB36 Arian Foster RB49 Jordan Howard
RB37 Rashad Jennings RB50 James Starks

Table 1: Running Backs RB26-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 four rounds of your fantasy draft to pursue three 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 have an ADP that is 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 Duke Johnson Melvin Gordon 160.9
2 Duke Johnson Giovani Bernard 158.2
3 Duke Johnson Ameer Abdullah 156.8
4 Melvin Gordon Ameer Abdullah 155
5 Melvin Gordon Frank Gore 152.5
6 Melvin Gordon Isaiah Crowell 152
7 Melvin Gordon Giovani Bernard 151.7
8 Duke Johnson Frank Gore 151.7
9 Duke Johnson DeAngelo Williams 151.6
10 Melvin Gordon Arian Foster 150.4
11 Duke Johnson T.J. Yeldon 150.1
12 Melvin Gordon Jay Ajayi 150
13 Duke Johnson Danny Woodhead 149.8
14 Duke Johnson Arian Foster 149.7
15 Duke Johnson Theo Riddick 149.3
16 Duke Johnson Jay Ajayi 149.1
17 Duke Johnson Justin Forsett 148.9
18 Giovani Bernard Frank Gore 148.8
19 Melvin Gordon Rashad Jennings 148.8
20 Duke Johnson LeGarrette Blount 148.8
21 Duke Johnson Charles Sims 148.8
22 Melvin Gordon LeGarrette Blount 148.7
23 Duke Johnson Chris Ivory 148.7
24 Melvin Gordon T.J. Yeldon 148.5
25 Melvin Gordon DeAngelo Williams 148.5
26 Giovani Bernard Ameer Abdullah 148.1
27 Duke Johnson Bilal Powell 147.9
28 Duke Johnson Rashad Jennings 147.8
29 Melvin Gordon Chris Ivory 147.8
30 Melvin Gordon Theo Riddick 147.7
31 Duke Johnson Kenneth Dixon 147.7
32 Melvin Gordon Justin Forsett 147.3
33 Giovani Bernard Isaiah Crowell 147.3
34 Melvin Gordon Derrick Henry 146.6
35 Duke Johnson Devontae Booker 146.4
36 Melvin Gordon Kenneth Dixon 146.3
37 Duke Johnson Tevin Coleman 146.3
38 Melvin Gordon Charles Sims 145.9
39 Duke Johnson C.J. Prosise 145.9
40 Ameer Abdullah Isaiah Crowell 145.7
41 Melvin Gordon C.J. Prosise 145.3
42 Duke Johnson Karlos Williams 145.1
43 Ameer Abdullah Danny Woodhead 144.7
44 Ameer Abdullah Arian Foster 144.5
45 Ameer Abdullah Jay Ajayi 144.1
46 Melvin Gordon Karlos Williams 143.7
47 Frank Gore Arian Foster 143.2
48 Ameer Abdullah DeAngelo Williams 143
49 Ameer Abdullah T.J. Yeldon 143
50 Frank Gore Jay Ajayi 142.6
51 Giovani Bernard Rashad Jennings 142.3
52 Ameer Abdullah Rashad Jennings 142.1
53 Frank Gore DeAngelo Williams 141.8
54 Danny Woodhead Frank Gore 141.8
55 Duke Johnson Isaiah Crowell 141.6
56 Duke Johnson Derrick Henry 141.6
57 Duke Johnson n/a 141.6

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 two backs that are projected to score at least 140 points on their own - Duke Johnson and Melvin Gordon - a point total comparable to the projected fantasy totals for several other RB2s this coming season.  It should come as no surprise that these two backs could form part of the best RB2BC option or even combine for that status as a pair, but we should dig deeper and look at all the possibilities, especially if one of these two backs get drafted early.  ADPs tend to get very fluid as preseason wears on, and we need to make certain we have the very best pairings in case our draft plans go awry.  So digging in, there are 57 pairs that are worth more than or equal to Johnson by his lonesome.  Let's also take a look at how often some of these guys show up on the table:

Running Back Frequency Running Back Frequency
Duke Johnson 23 C.J. Prosise 2
Melvin Gordon 19 Charles Sims 2
Ameer Abdullah 10 Chris Ivory 2
Frank Gore 7 Derrick Henry 2
Giovani Bernard 6 Justin Forsett 2
Arian Foster 4 Karlos Williams 2
DeAngelo Williams 4 Kenneth Dixon 2
Isaiah Crowell 4 LeGarrette Blount 2
Jay Ajayi 4 Theo Riddick 2
Rashad Jennings 4 Bilal Powell 1
Danny Woodhead 3 Devontae Booker 1
T.J. Yeldon 3 Tevin Coleman 1

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

As we can see from Table 3, three running backs show up on this list with a lot of regularity – Johnson, Gordon and Ameer Abdullah - while seven more appear at least four times.  That tells that this tier of RB24-36 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 57 possible pairs that are better than Duke Johnson, what exactly does that mean? Should Johnson 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 RB1 through RB24:

ADP RB Rank Player Team FPs
3 1 Todd Gurley LA/8 225.4
7 2 David Johnson Ari/9 209.1
14 3 Lamar Miller Hou/9 203.5
8 4 Ezekiel Elliott Dal/7 199.3
6 5 Adrian Peterson Min/6 191.5
17 6 Jamaal Charles KC/5 189.2
25 7 Mark Ingram NO/5 185.2
15 8 Devonta Freeman Atl/11 184.8
21 9 Doug Martin TB/6 173.9
36 10 C.J. Anderson Den/11 171.7
28 11 LeSean McCoy Buf/10 171.4
35 12 Matt Forte NYJ/11 166.3
11 13 LeVeon Bell Pit/8 166.2
23 14 Eddie Lacy GB/4 165.9
34 15 Thomas Rawls Sea/5 163.2
38 16 Carlos Hyde SF/8 159.5
42 17 Latavius Murray Oak/10 159
50 18 Jeremy Hill Cin/9 148.1
64 19 Duke Johnson Cle/13 141.3
59 20 Jonathan Stewart Car/7 141.1
66 21 Melvin Gordon SD/11 140.6
60 22 Ryan Mathews Phi/4 140.4
53 23 Matt Jones Was/9 140.3
48 24 Dion Lewis NE/9 138.9
49 25 DeMarco Murray Ten/13 138.4
55 26 Jeremy Langford Chi/9 137.2
73 27 Ameer Abdullah Det/10 133.7
70 28 Giovani Bernard Cin/9 132.3

Table 4: Projected Fantasy Points for RBs 1-28

Based on Table 4, we see some things that catch the eye.  First, the projections and the ADP do not line up well at all. There is a total jumble from RB12-28 (which is why I extended the list beyond RB24), with running backs projected to be drafted in Rounds 5 and 6 projected to be anywhere from RB18 (Jeremy Hill, ADP 50 overall) to RB28 (Gio Bernard, ADP 70).  Several fith and sixth round ADP running backs are projected to outscore two backs (DeMarco Murray, Dion Lewis)at the bottom of the Top 25 RBs on the ADP list.   Next, it jumps out that only 17 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 5-8 points for a bye week lineup fill-in that someone who owned of these players would use.  Looking at our possible RB2BC pairs, we have three pairs that meet or beat 156.1 fantasy points, which would put those duos comparable to projected RB18 (Jeremy Hill, 148.1 points + 6 points for a bye) or RB23 (Andre Ellington + 6).  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 at least 146.9 total points, comparable to projected RB24 (Dion Lewis) and his 138.9 points plus eight more for a high end bye week filler RB:

Rank Running Back 1 Running Back 2 Value ADP1 ADP2
1 Duke Johnson Melvin Gordon 160.9 25 26
2 Duke Johnson Giovani Bernard 158.2 25 27
3 Duke Johnson Ameer Abdullah 156.8 25 28
4 Melvin Gordon Ameer Abdullah 155 26 28
5 Melvin Gordon Frank Gore 152.5 26 30
6 Melvin Gordon Isaiah Crowell 152 26 40
7 Melvin Gordon Giovani Bernard 151.7 26 27
8 Duke Johnson Frank Gore 151.7 25 30
9 Duke Johnson DeAngelo Williams 151.6 25 32
10 Melvin Gordon Arian Foster 150.4 26 36
11 Duke Johnson T.J. Yeldon 150.1 25 31
12 Melvin Gordon Jay Ajayi 150 26 33
13 Duke Johnson Danny Woodhead 149.8 25 29
14 Duke Johnson Arian Foster 149.7 25 36
15 Duke Johnson Theo Riddick 149.3 25 42
16 Duke Johnson Jay Ajayi 149.1 25 33
17 Duke Johnson Justin Forsett 148.9 25 35
18 Giovani Bernard Frank Gore 148.8 27 30
19 Melvin Gordon Rashad Jennings 148.8 26 37
20 Duke Johnson LeGarrette Blount 148.8 25 41
21 Duke Johnson Charles Sims 148.8 25 39
22 Melvin Gordon LeGarrette Blount 148.7 26 41
23 Duke Johnson Chris Ivory 148.7 25 34
24 Melvin Gordon T.J. Yeldon 148.5 26 31
25 Melvin Gordon DeAngelo Williams 148.5 26 32
26 Giovani Bernard Ameer Abdullah 148.1 27 28
27 Duke Johnson Bilal Powell 147.9 25 46
28 Duke Johnson Rashad Jennings 147.8 25 37
29 Melvin Gordon Chris Ivory 147.8 26 34
30 Melvin Gordon Theo Riddick 147.7 26 42
31 Duke Johnson Kenneth Dixon 147.7 25 44
32 Melvin Gordon Justin Forsett 147.3 26 35
33 Giovani Bernard Isaiah Crowell 147.3 27 40

Table 5: Top 33 RB2BC Options for 2016

The plan for 2016 looks a lot like last year, with a number of possible backs available to form the RB2BC duo for this season.  All of the top options have question marks or are in a shared backfield, which is becoming quite the norm in the NFL these days.  So who do you pick?  For me, it all comes down to the running backs that I believe will be on the field the most for their respective teams, and that points towards dual threat backs that can run and catch well and are likely to be playing if their team is ahead or behind.  Duke Johnson gets my first pick for this year's RB2BC, not because of his frequency on the charts, but because he can run and catch well, and the coaching staff in Cleveland have said that they are going to be a run first team and that they are working on ways to use Johnson more.  He has even been lining up at wide receiver, so I trust that he will get his share of touches each week.  The other back for me is Giovani Bernard.  I highlighted him as the top back in the RB2BC PPR version of this article, and the Bengals will be using him each week with a few less veteran receivers lining up for them this season with Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones gone to other teams.  The added bonus of targeting a committee of Johnson and Bernard in a non-PPR league is that most other fantasy owners will move these guys down their list due to PPR value, so savvy drafters will easily grab them in Rounds 5 and 6 while other owners take shakier options.  For all the reasons I stated above, I recommend Duke Johnson and Giovani Bernard as the RB2BC for 2016.    Take Johnson in Round 5 (ADP of 64) follwed by Giovani Bernard (ADP of 70) in Round 6.  If Bernard gets snapped up because you have a late Round 6 pick, fall back to Ameer Abdullah or another back you like from Table 5.  DeAngelo Williams might be a smart option given that he will start for four weeks with LeVeon Bell suspended.  Looking closer at the weekly projections, Williams is projected to outpace Johnson only on Cleveland's bye week (Week 13) and in Week 6 at Miami, but Johnson at Tennessee looks like a solid choice.   A "Plan B" of Johnson - Williams would work nicely.

Here is a final summary of the combined schedules for Duke Johnson and Gio Bernard, and when the committee approach suggests starting each one.  Note that I also highlighted three weeks (Weeks 6, 7 and 11) where the projected points are close, so a "gut call" on who to start will be up to you:

Wk Suggested RB Opponent
1 Duke Johnson at Philadelphia
2 Duke Johnson Baltimore
3 Duke Johnson at Miami
4 Giovani Bernard Miami
5 Giovani Bernard at Dallas
6* Giovani Bernard at New England
7** Duke Johnson at Cincinnati
8 Giovani Bernard Washington
9 Duke Johnson Dallas
10 Giovani Bernard at New York Giants
11*** Giovani Bernard at Baltimore
12 Duke Johnson New York Giants
13 Giovani Bernard Philadelphia
14 Duke Johnson at Buffalo
15 Duke Johnson San Diego
16 Duke Johnson at Pittsburgh
Alternate RB options for certain weeks
6* Duke Johnson at Tennessee
7** Giovani Bernard Cleveland
11*** Duke Johnson Pittsburgh

Table 6: Suggested RB2BC Schedule Plan

The committee approach is not a perfect one, but having this knowledge prior to your fantasy draft can prove to be invaluable if you decide to adopt this approach.  If all the players on your starter list are gone, goiong with a committee can save your team and help you deal with the loss of bigger names.  The method is also a big help in "Best Ball" leagues, where lineup decisions are not necessary every week.  That's exactly where a committee can do the best, as either player can count for you each week.

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