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RB2 By Committee - PPR

Finding a Second Starting Running Back by Committee in a PPR League 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 (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 Chris Ivory RB37 Bryce Brown
RB26 Montee Ball RB38 Ben Tate
RB27 Ahmad Bradshaw RB39 DeAngelo Williams
RB28 Shane Vereen RB40 Ronnie Hillman
RB29 Eddie Lacy RB41 Bernard Pierce
RB30 Giovani Bernard RB42 Danny Woodhead
RB31 Rashard Mendenhall RB43 Fred Jackson
RB32 Andre Brown RB44 Vick Ballard
RB33 BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB45 Pierre Thomas
RB34 Daryl Richardson RB46 Mikel Leshoure
RB35 Mark Ingram RB47 Johnathan Franklin
RB36 Jonathan Stewart RB48 Isaiah Pead
    RB49 Jacquizz Rodgers

Table 1: Running Backs RB25-RB49 Based on PPR ADP

Great, now we have 25 guys to pair up and see how they do. That makes 300 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 (especially in PPR leagues) 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 Chris Ivory and Montee Ball 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 25 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 Shane Vereen Eddie Lacy 207.6
2 Shane Vereen Montee Ball 207.0
3 Shane Vereen Ahmad Bradshaw 201.4
4 Montee Ball Chris Ivory 199.4
5 Shane Vereen Rashard Mendenhall 199.1
6 Shane Vereen Andre Brown 193.3
7 Eddie Lacy Chris Ivory 193.1
8 Shane Vereen Giovani Bernard 192.6
9 Shane Vereen Isaiah Pead 192.4
10 Shane Vereen Mark Ingram 191.8
11 Shane Vereen Pierre Thomas 191.4
12 Shane Vereen Jacquizz Rodgers 191.3
13 Shane Vereen Daryl Richardson 191.0
14 Shane Vereen Danny Woodhead 190.9
15 Shane Vereen Chris Ivory 190.5
16 Shane Vereen BenJarvus Green-Ellis 190.5
17 Montee Ball DeAngelo Williams 190.0
18 Shane Vereen Vick Ballard 189.9
19 Shane Vereen Ben Tate 189.6
20 Eddie Lacy Rashard Mendenhall 189.6
21 Shane Vereen Fred Jackson 189.5
22 Shane Vereen Ronnie Hillman 189.0
23 Shane Vereen DeAngelo Williams 188.8
24 Shane Vereen Bernard Pierce 188.8
25 Shane Vereen Johnathan Franklin 188.8
26 Montee Ball Giovani Bernard 188.4
27 Montee Ball Isaiah Pead 187.9
28 Montee Ball Danny Woodhead 187.7
29 Shane Vereen Jonathan Stewart 187.2
30 Montee Ball Rashard Mendenhall 186.6
31 Montee Ball Daryl Richardson 186.2
32 Montee Ball Mark Ingram 186.1
33 Montee Ball Fred Jackson 185.9
34 Montee Ball Jacquizz Rodgers 185.9
35 Montee Ball Pierre Thomas 185.6
36 Montee Ball Eddie Lacy 185.4
37 Rashard Mendenhall Ahmad Bradshaw 185.0
38 Montee Ball Ahmad Bradshaw 184.8
39 Montee Ball Jonathan Stewart 184.4
40 Montee Ball BenJarvus Green-Ellis 183.9
41 Eddie Lacy Giovani Bernard 183.7
42 Chris Ivory Ahmad Bradshaw 183.5
43 Montee Ball Ben Tate 183.5
44 Eddie Lacy Ahmad Bradshaw 183.1
45 Eddie Lacy Danny Woodhead 183.0
46 Eddie Lacy Andre Brown 183.0
47 Shane Vereen n/a 181.9

Table 2: PPR Running Back #2 Committee Pairs

As we can see from Table 2, we have some very good pairs to select from for RB2BC. Based on just one running back outside of the Top 24 alone, Shane Vereen by himself is projected to outpace Ryan Mathews (who is projected to post 170.1 points).  There are 46 pairs that are worth more than or equal to Shane Vereen by his lonesome. It is interesting to note that two players (Shane Vereen and Montee Ball) both project to be better by themselves than Mathews, so that’s a strong indication of the running backs to target.   Let's also take a look at how often some of these guys show up on the table:

Running Back Frq Running Back Frq
Shane Vereen 23 DeAngelo Williams 2
Montee Ball 17 Fred Jackson 2
Eddie Lacy 8 Isaiah Pead 2
Ahmad Bradshaw 5 Jacquizz Rodgers 2
Chris Ivory 4 Jonathan Stewart 2
Rashard Mendenhall 4 Mark Ingram 2
Danny Woodhead 3 Pierre Thomas 2
Giovani Bernard 3 Bernard Pierce 1
Andre Brown 2 Johnathan Franklin 1
Ben Tate 2 Ronnie Hillman 1
BenJarvus Green-Ellis 2 Vick Ballard 1
Daryl Richardson 2    

Table 3: PPR 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 – Shane Vereen, Montee Ball and Eddie Lacy.  In fact, as I mentioned earlier, two of these backs are worth more on their own than Ryan Mathews Redman himself.  That tells that this tier of RB24-26 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 46 possible pairs that are better than Shane Vereen (and Ryan Mathews), what exactly does that mean? Should Vereen or Mathews 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, using PPR:

Rank Player FPs
12 Steven Jackson 247.5
13 Chris Johnson 234.5
14 Reggie Bush 237.1
15 Maurice Jones-Drew 227.7
16 Darren Sproles 227.9
17 DeMarco Murray 220.7
18 Stevan Ridley 189.5
19 Darren McFadden 209.1
20 Frank Gore 205.7
21 David Wilson 195.2
22 Lamar Miller 197.2
23 LeVeon Bell 183.1
24 Ryan Mathews 170.1

Table 4: Projected PPR Fantasy Points for RBs 12-24

Based on Table 4, we see some things that catch the eye.  First, Stevan Ridley is way overdrafted given his projected points – which hints at our target player, Ridley’s teammate Shane Vereen.  Next, it jumps out that only 19 running backs are projected to score over 200 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 5-10 points for a bye week lineup fill-in that someone who owned of these players would use.  Even with an extra 5-8 points, however, only 21 running backs would be over 200 projected points (Ridley, LeVeon Bell and Ryan Mathews all fall short of 200 even if you throw another 10 points on their projections for a bye week filler).  Looking at our possible pairs, we have three pairs that meet or beat 200 fantasy points, and a total of 26 that 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 (LeVeon Bell, 183 points + 5 for a bye-week fill-in):

Rank Running Back 1 Running Back 2 Value ADP1 ADP2
1 Shane Vereen Eddie Lacy 207.6 28 29
2 Shane Vereen Montee Ball 207.0 28 26
3 Shane Vereen Ahmad Bradshaw 201.4 28 27
4 Montee Ball Chris Ivory 199.4 26 25
5 Shane Vereen Rashard Mendenhall 199.1 28 31
6 Shane Vereen Andre Brown 193.3 28 32
7 Eddie Lacy Chris Ivory 193.1 29 25
8 Shane Vereen Giovani Bernard 192.6 28 30
9 Shane Vereen Isaiah Pead 192.4 28 48
10 Shane Vereen Mark Ingram 191.8 28 35
11 Shane Vereen Pierre Thomas 191.4 28 45
12 Shane Vereen Jacquizz Rodgers 191.3 28 49
13 Shane Vereen Daryl Richardson 191.0 28 34
14 Shane Vereen Danny Woodhead 190.9 28 42
15 Shane Vereen Chris Ivory 190.5 28 25
16 Shane Vereen BenJarvus Green-Ellis 190.5 28 33
17 Montee Ball DeAngelo Williams 190.0 26 39
18 Shane Vereen Vick Ballard 189.9 28 44
19 Shane Vereen Ben Tate 189.6 28 38
20 Eddie Lacy Rashard Mendenhall 189.6 29 31
21 Shane Vereen Fred Jackson 189.5 28 43
22 Shane Vereen Ronnie Hillman 189.0 28 40
23 Shane Vereen DeAngelo Williams 188.8 28 39
24 Shane Vereen Bernard Pierce 188.8 28 41
25 Shane Vereen Johnathan Franklin 188.8 28 47
26 Montee Ball Giovani Bernard 188.4 26 30

Table 5: Top 26 PPR RB2BC Options for 2013

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 Shane Vereen and Montee Ball.  Take Ball in Round 5 and Vereen in Round 6 to pair together for your RB2 committee.  Even though you are drafting them both slightly ahead of the round their ADP suggests, the value you get of a top end RB2 is well worth that investment.

Note that I have skipped over the first pair, Shane Vereen and Eddie Lacy.  Why/ I am still uncertain if Lacy will be the lead tailback for Green Bay (Jonathan Franklin will push him, as will other veterans), plus the Packers are more knows to throw than to run.  Ball may have to get past Ronnie Hillman, but he should be by the time you will need to put Ball in your lineup.

I will go one step further this year, which is to provide some backup plans if Ball (or Vereen) goes early.  Take Ball in the fifth, but if he is gone, just take Vereen.  That may seem way too early, but trust me here that he is worth it.  That will allow you to take either Andre Brown in Round 6, DeAngelo Williams in Round 7 or Pierre Thomas in Round 8, depending on who you like most of those three. 

Now, what about taking Ball and then Vereen disappearing before your next turn?  Take DeAngelo Williams in Round 7 and call it a day.  All of these backup plans will give you a duo amongst the Top 24 couplets on the RB2BC list.

Note that 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 Montee Ball 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 Shane Vereen New Orleans
7 Montee Ball at Indianapolis
8 Montee Ball Washington
9 Shane Vereen Pittsburgh
10 Montee Ball at San Diego
11 Montee Ball Kansas City
12 Montee Ball at New England
13 Montee Ball at Kansas City
14 Montee Ball Tennessee
15 Montee Ball San Diego
16 Shane Vereen at Baltimore

Table 6: Suggested PPR RB2BC Schedule Plan

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


More from Jeff Pasquino:

For The Win: Week 1 - September 1
I Will Survive: Managing Survivor Leagues - August 25
WR3 By Committee - PPR: Update - August 22
WR3 By Committee: Update - August 22
Perfect Draft: 10 Teams - August 20
Perfect Draft: 12 Teams - August 20
Perfect Draft: 14 Teams - August 20
Perfect FPC Draft - August 20
Average Auction Values - August 19
RB2 By Committee - PPR: Update - August 18