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RB2 By Committee

Finding a Second Starting Running Back by Committee in a Standard League for 2017

Over the past few years, there have been several very popular articles written by myself and 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, Chase 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 (Eddie Lacy) 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 Ameer Abdullah RB38 Rob Kelley
RB26 Mike Gillislee RB39 Kareem Hunt
RB27 Adrian Peterson RB40 Kenneth Dixon
RB28 Bilal Powell RB41 Jonathan Stewart
RB29 Doug Martin RB42 Latavius Murray
RB30 Paul Perkins RB43 Duke Johnson
RB31 Frank Gore RB44 Terrance West
RB32 Derrick Henry RB45 Jamaal Charles
RB33 LeGarrette Blount RB46 Jeremy Hill
RB34 Danny Woodhead RB47 Giovani Bernard
RB35 Matt Forte RB48 James White
RB36 Theo Riddick RB49 Darren Sproles
RB37 Samaje Perine RB50 Thomas Rawls

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 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 has 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 Frank Gore Samaje Perine 162.48
2 Frank Gore Derrick Henry 162.34
3 Mike Gillislee Frank Gore 160.52
4 Bilal Powell Samaje Perine 160.11
5 Bilal Powell Derrick Henry 159.76
6 Doug Martin Frank Gore 159.61
7 Bilal Powell Doug Martin 159.46
8 Ameer Abdullah Bilal Powell 159.37
9 Bilal Powell Frank Gore 159.2
10 Ameer Abdullah Frank Gore 159.2
11 Ameer Abdullah Doug Martin 157.85
12 Frank Gore Kenneth Dixon 157.51
13 Mike Gillislee Doug Martin 156.79
14 Frank Gore Rob Kelley 156.69
15 Bilal Powell Paul Perkins 156.68
16 Adrian Peterson Frank Gore 156.59
17 Doug Martin Derrick Henry 156.5
18 Paul Perkins Frank Gore 155.97
19 Frank Gore Terrance West 155.96
20 Frank Gore Theo Riddick 155.8
21 Doug Martin Samaje Perine 155.41
22 Mike Gillislee Bilal Powell 155.02
23 Frank Gore Duke Johnson 154.96
24 Frank Gore LeGarrette Blount 154.47
25 Bilal Powell Rob Kelley 154.2
26 Frank Gore Giovani Bernard 153.95
27 Frank Gore James White 153.93
28 Frank Gore Latavius Murray 153.65
29 Bilal Powell Kenneth Dixon 153.57
30 Frank Gore Jamaal Charles 153.43
31 Bilal Powell Theo Riddick 153.31
32 Frank Gore Danny Woodhead 153.04
33 Frank Gore Jeremy Hill 152.74
34 Frank Gore Matt Forte 152.68
35 Frank Gore Kareem Hunt 152.63
36 Adrian Peterson Bilal Powell 152.43
37 Bilal Powell Duke Johnson 152.13
38 Doug Martin Matt Forte 152.1
39 Doug Martin Paul Perkins 151.68
40 Bilal Powell Terrance West 151.12
41 Bilal Powell Giovani Bernard 150.45
42 Bilal Powell LeGarrette Blount 150.43
43 Doug Martin Terrance West 150.29
44 Bilal Powell James White 150.18
45 Bilal Powell Latavius Murray 150.01
46 Doug Martin Duke Johnson 149.92
47 Matt Forte Samaje Perine 149.71
48 Bilal Powell Jamaal Charles 149.68
49 Bilal Powell Danny Woodhead 149.29
50 Derrick Henry Matt Forte 149.28
51 Doug Martin Rob Kelley 149.17
52 Doug Martin LeGarrette Blount 149.04
53 Bilal Powell Jeremy Hill 148.99
54 Bilal Powell Kareem Hunt 148.88
55 Ameer Abdullah Matt Forte 148.72
56 Frank Gore Jonathan Stewart 148.61
57 Doug Martin Theo Riddick 147.89
58 Frank Gore n/a 147.89

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 running back outside of the Top 24 that are projected to outpace several Top 24 RBs in fantasy scoring in 2017 - both Frank Gore and Bilal Powell - so expect to see these names appear quite often as I build these pairs.  I could almost stop right there, but I need to be thorough as the 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 Frank Gore by his lonesome, so it looks like there will be a number of options.  Let's also take a look at how often some of these guys show up on the table:

Running Back Frequency Running Back Frequency
Frank Gore 23 Terrance West 3
Bilal Powell 21 Theo Riddick 3
Doug Martin 13 Adrian Peterson 2
Matt Forte 5 Danny Woodhead 2
Ameer Abdullah 4 Giovani Bernard 2
Derrick Henry 4 Jamaal Charles 2
Samaje Perine 4 James White 2
Duke Johnson 3 Jeremy Hill 2
LeGarrette Blount 3 Kareem Hunt 2
Mike Gillislee 3 Kenneth Dixon 2
Paul Perkins 3 Latavius Murray 2
Rob Kelley 3 Jonathan Stewart 1

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

As we can see from Table 3, Frank Gore and Bilal Powell dominate the list with four others appearing four or more times. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, Powell is projected to be worth more on his own than either Christian McCaffrey (ADP of RB16), which means Powell is a huge steal based on projections.  This tells us that this tier of RB15-30 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 Frank Gore, what exactly does that mean? Should Gore 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 (and beyond):

ADP RB Rank Player Team FPs
1 1 David Johnson ARI 320.8
2 3 LeVeon Bell PIT 270.83
3 2 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 287.36
7 5 LeSean McCoy BUF 214.03
9 4 Melvin Gordon LAC 216.43
10 6 Devonta Freeman ATL 212.48
11 7 Jordan Howard CHI 206.24
13 8 Jay Ajayi MIA 201.39
14 9 DeMarco Murray TEN 199.03
20 12 Todd Gurley LAR 179.68
21 10 Leonard Fournette JAX 183.36
23 11 Lamar Miller HOU 182.51
28 13 Marshawn Lynch OAK 175.85
29 14 Isaiah Crowell CLE 170.92
37 24 Christian McCaffrey CAR 139.68
39 16 Carlos Hyde SF 162.99
43 27 Joe Mixon CIN 128.48
47 15 Ty Montgomery GB 167.47
48 20 Spencer Ware KC 150.99
51 17 Mark Ingram NO 160.11
52 23 Dalvin Cook MIN 144
56 19 Tevin Coleman ATL 152.99
57 25 C.J. Anderson DEN 132.43
61 18 Eddie Lacy SEA 155.85
62 26 Ameer Abdullah DET 130.89
66 28 Mike Gillislee NE 127.52
70 31 Adrian Peterson NO 114.91
71 22 Bilal Powell NYJ 146.88
72 29 Doug Martin TB 125.03
73 30 Paul Perkins NYG 117.6
81 21 Frank Gore IND 148.16

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, especially outside of the Top 14. There is a total jumble from RB15-31 (which is why I extended the list beyond RB24), with running backs projected to be drafted in Round 5 through Round 7 projected to be anywhere from RB18 (Eddie Lacy, ADP 61 overall) to RB31 (Adrian Peterson, ADP 70).  Next, it jumps out that only 19 running backs are projected to score over 152 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 4-8 points for a bye week lineup fill-in that someone who owned of these players would use.  Looking at our possible pairs, we have 17 pairs that meet or beat 156 fantasy points, which would put those duos comparable to projected RB19, Spencer Ware (150.99 projected points + 5 points with a bye week replacement).  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 152 total points:

Rank Running Back 1 Running Back 2 Value ADP1 ADP2
1 Frank Gore Samaje Perine 162.48 31 37
2 Frank Gore Derrick Henry 162.34 31 32
3 Mike Gillislee Frank Gore 160.52 26 31
4 Bilal Powell Samaje Perine 160.11 28 37
5 Bilal Powell Derrick Henry 159.76 28 32
6 Doug Martin Frank Gore 159.61 29 31
7 Bilal Powell Doug Martin 159.46 28 29
8 Ameer Abdullah Bilal Powell 159.37 25 28
9 Bilal Powell Frank Gore 159.2 28 31
10 Ameer Abdullah Frank Gore 159.2 25 31
11 Ameer Abdullah Doug Martin 157.85 25 29
12 Frank Gore Kenneth Dixon 157.51 31 40
13 Mike Gillislee Doug Martin 156.79 26 29
14 Frank Gore Rob Kelley 156.69 31 38
15 Bilal Powell Paul Perkins 156.68 28 30
16 Adrian Peterson Frank Gore 156.59 27 31
17 Doug Martin Derrick Henry 156.5 29 32
18 Paul Perkins Frank Gore 155.97 30 31
19 Frank Gore Terrance West 155.96 31 44
20 Frank Gore Theo Riddick 155.8 31 36
21 Doug Martin Samaje Perine 155.41 29 37
22 Mike Gillislee Bilal Powell 155.02 26 28
23 Frank Gore Duke Johnson 154.96 31 43
24 Frank Gore LeGarrette Blount 154.47 31 33
25 Bilal Powell Rob Kelley 154.2 28 38
26 Frank Gore Giovani Bernard 153.95 31 47
27 Frank Gore James White 153.93 31 48
28 Frank Gore Latavius Murray 153.65 31 42
29 Bilal Powell Kenneth Dixon 153.57 28 40
30 Frank Gore Jamaal Charles 153.43 31 45
31 Bilal Powell Theo Riddick 153.31 28 36
32 Frank Gore Danny Woodhead 153.04 31 34
33 Frank Gore Jeremy Hill 152.74 31 46
34 Frank Gore Matt Forte 152.68 31 35
35 Frank Gore Kareem Hunt 152.63 31 39
36 Adrian Peterson Bilal Powell 152.43 27 28
37 Bilal Powell Duke Johnson 152.13 28 43
38 Doug Martin Matt Forte 152.1 29 35

Table 5: Top 28 RB2BC Options for 2017

In prior years,  I would have said that 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. This year, with the value you can steal with getting Bilal Powell in Round 6 or Frank Gore in Round 7, I say to throw that plan out (or make it "Plan B") and just go get Gore in Round 7 (or if it makes you too nervous to wait, Round 6) and then snap up Samaje Perine, who should easily make it to Round 8.  Now, I will say that RB2BC this season is not for the weak of heart.  You are not exactly getting the next David Johnson or Ezekiel Elliott here, but you also are not spending a first round pick like you would need to get a player of that caliber.  This plan works best with taking a Top 10 running back in the first few rounds and then falling back to this committee in later rounds, freeing up those earlier picks for selecting other positoins.  

The added bonus of taking Perine to form your committee is that you could come right back and take Rob Kelley in Round 9, thereby locking up the Washington backfield.  That way, you should have the top option as your RB2 with either Powell or a Washington running back, regardless of how the depth chart shakes out at most any point this season. 

One question you may have is to why I skipped over Powell and Gore as a pair of backs for a committee.  While both are great values, this is simply the result of their schedules, as both the Colts and the Jets share a bye in Week 11.  If you are comfortable finding a replacement back for that one week of an issue, go ahead and take both to form a strong RB2BC this season.

Here is a final summary of the combined schedules for both Bilal Powell and Samaje Perine and also Powell with Duke Johnson, and when the committee approach suggests starting each one:

Wk Suggested RB Opponent
1 Frank Gore at Los Angeles Rams
2 Frank Gore Arizona
3 Frank Gore Cleveland
4 Frank Gore at Seattle
5 Frank Gore San Francisco
6 Frank Gore at Tennessee
7 Frank Gore Jacksonville
8 Frank Gore at Cincinnati
9 Frank Gore at Houston
10 Frank Gore Pittsburgh
11 Samaje Perine at New Orleans
12 Frank Gore Tennessee
13 Frank Gore at Jacksonville
14 Frank Gore at Buffalo
15 Frank Gore Denver
16 Samaje Perine Denver

Table 6: Suggested RB2BC Schedule Plan - Frank Gore and Samaje Perine (preferred)

Wk Suggested RB Opponent
1 Bilal Powell at Buffalo
2 Bilal Powell at Oakland
3 Bilal Powell Miami
4 Bilal Powell Jacksonville
5 Bilal Powell at Cleveland
6 Samaje Perine at Philadelphia
7 Bilal Powell at Miami
8 Bilal Powell Atlanta
9 Bilal Powell Buffalo
10 Bilal Powell at Tampa Bay
11 Samaje Perine at New Orleans
12 Bilal Powell Carolina
13 Bilal Powell Kansas City
14 Bilal Powell at Denver *
15 Bilal Powell at New Orleans
16 Bilal Powell Los Angeles Chargers
*Perine visits the Chargers in Week 14

Table 7:  Suggested RB2BC Schedule Plan - Bilal Powell and Samaje Perine

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.