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RB2 By Committee: PPR

Finding a Second Starting Running Back by Committee in a PPR 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 (Jeremy Hill) 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 Giovani Bernard RB38 Rashad Jennings
RB26 Ryan Mathews RB39 Derrick Henry
RB27 Jonathan Stewart RB40 Theo Riddick
RB28 Ameer Abdullah RB41 Isaiah Crowell
RB29 Melvin Gordon RB42 Tevin Coleman
RB30 Frank Gore RB43 Bilal Powell
RB31 Jay Ajayi RB44 C.J. Prosise
RB32 DeAngelo Williams RB45 Kenneth Dixon
RB33 T.J. Yeldon RB46 Darren Sproles
RB34 Charles Sims RB47 LeGarrette Blount
RB35 Chris Ivory RB48 Devontae Booker
RB36 Arian Foster RB49 Karlos Williams
RB37 Justin Forsett RB50 James Starks

Table 1: Running Backs RB25-RB50 Based on PPR 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 (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 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 Giovani Bernard Ryan Mathews 195.9
2 Giovani Bernard Ameer Abdullah 195.3
3 Giovani Bernard Jonathan Stewart 194.6
4 Giovani Bernard Frank Gore 193
5 Ameer Abdullah Melvin Gordon 193
6 Giovani Bernard Melvin Gordon 192.9
7 Ryan Mathews Ameer Abdullah 191.5
8 Giovani Bernard Charles Sims 190.9
9 Giovani Bernard Isaiah Crowell 190.1
10 Ryan Mathews Melvin Gordon 190.1
11 Giovani Bernard Theo Riddick 189.2
12 Giovani Bernard Arian Foster 189.1
13 Giovani Bernard Bilal Powell 188.8
14 Giovani Bernard Rashad Jennings 188.6
15 Giovani Bernard T.J. Yeldon 188.3
16 Giovani Bernard Darren Sproles 188
17 Jonathan Stewart Melvin Gordon 188
18 Giovani Bernard DeAngelo Williams 187.2
19 Giovani Bernard Jay Ajayi 186.9
20 Giovani Bernard Derrick Henry 186.2
21 Giovani Bernard Chris Ivory 186
22 Ryan Mathews Jonathan Stewart 185.7
23 Melvin Gordon Frank Gore 185.6
24 Giovani Bernard Justin Forsett 185.4
25 Ryan Mathews Frank Gore 185.4
26 Giovani Bernard Tevin Coleman 185.3
27 Ameer Abdullah Arian Foster 185.1
28 Jonathan Stewart Ameer Abdullah 185.1
29 Giovani Bernard Kenneth Dixon 184.8
30 Melvin Gordon Theo Riddick 184.8
31 Giovani Bernard C.J. Prosise 184.4
32 Melvin Gordon Arian Foster 184.4
33 Giovani Bernard Devontae Booker 184
34 Ryan Mathews Arian Foster 183.1
35 Ryan Mathews Theo Riddick 183
36 Ameer Abdullah Jay Ajayi 182.4
37 Ameer Abdullah T.J. Yeldon 182.1
38 Melvin Gordon Jay Ajayi 181.9
39 Melvin Gordon Charles Sims 181.9
40 Ameer Abdullah DeAngelo Williams 181.3
41 Melvin Gordon Isaiah Crowell 181.3
42 Ameer Abdullah Charles Sims 181.1
43 Melvin Gordon T.J. Yeldon 181.1
44 Melvin Gordon Rashad Jennings 180.6
45 Ameer Abdullah Isaiah Crowell 180.5
46 Melvin Gordon DeAngelo Williams 180.5
47 Ameer Abdullah Darren Sproles 180.2
48 Ryan Mathews T.J. Yeldon 180.1
49 Ameer Abdullah Rashad Jennings 180
50 Ryan Mathews Charles Sims 179.9
51 Melvin Gordon Justin Forsett 179.9
52 Ryan Mathews Isaiah Crowell 179.6
53 Ameer Abdullah Bilal Powell 179.6
54 Melvin Gordon LeGarrette Blount 179.6
55 Melvin Gordon Chris Ivory 179.5
56 Ameer Abdullah Chris Ivory 179.2
57 Ryan Mathews Jay Ajayi 179.1

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. There is one running back outside of the Top 24 that is projected to outpace several Top 24 RBs in fantasy scoring in 2015 - Giovani Bernard - so expect to see his name 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 59 pairs that are worth more than or equal to Giovani Bernard 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
Giovani Bernard 23 Frank Gore 3
Melvin Gordon 17 Rashad Jennings 3
Ameer Abdullah 14 Theo Riddick 3
Ryan Mathews 11 Bilal Powell 2
Arian Foster 4 Darren Sproles 2
Charles Sims 4 Justin Forsett 2
Isaiah Crowell 4 Kenneth Dixon 2
Jay Ajayi 4 LeGarrette Blount 2
Jonathan Stewart 4 C.J. Prosise 1
T.J. Yeldon 4 Derrick Henry 1
Chris Ivory 3 Devontae Booker 1
DeAngelo Williams 3 Tevin Coleman 1

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

As we can see from Table 3, two RBs in addition to Bernard show up on this list with a lot of regularity – Ryan Mathews, Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon.  In fact, as I mentioned earlier, Bernard is projected to be worth more on his own than Danny Woodhead (ADP of RB22) himself.  That tells that this tier of RB20-30 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 59 possible pairs that are better than Giovani Bernard, what exactly does that mean? Should Bernard 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), using PPR:

ADP RB Rank Player Team FPs
4 1 Todd Gurley LA/8 259.4
6 2 David Johnson Ari/9 256.8
14 3 Lamar Miller Hou/9 249.9
16 4 Devonta Freeman Atl/11 236.8
17 5 Jamaal Charles KC/5 233.9
10 6 Ezekiel Elliott Dal/7 233.5
24 7 Mark Ingram NO/5 228.9
8 8 Adrian Peterson Min/6 220.5
30 9 LeSean McCoy Buf/10 208.4
36 10 Matt Forte NYJ/11 207.6
13 11 LeVeon Bell Pit/8 205.6
38 12 C.J. Anderson Den/11 204.4
25 13 Doug Martin TB/6 200.3
46 14 Dion Lewis NE/9 194.2
52 15 Duke Johnson Cle/13 193.4
42 16 Latavius Murray Oak/10 192.9
26 17 Eddie Lacy GB/4 190.3
41 18 Carlos Hyde SF/8 189.9
40 19 Thomas Rawls Sea/5 188.2
63 20 Giovani Bernard Cin/9 178.5
57 21 Danny Woodhead SD/11 178
75 22 Melvin Gordon SD/11 170.9
74 23 Ameer Abdullah Det/10 170.5
64 24 Ryan Mathews Phi/4 168.3
51 25 DeMarco Murray Ten/13 167.6
55 26 Matt Jones Wash/9 167.4
61 27 Jeremy Langford Chi/9 166.4
76 28 Frank Gore Indy/10 160.3
70 29 Jonathan Stewart Car/7 160
62 30 Jeremy Hill Cin/9 159.4

Table 4: Projected PPR Fantasy Points for RBs 1-30

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 RB12-30 (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 RB15 (Duke Johnson, ADP 52 overall) to RB29 (Jonathan Stewart, ADP 70).  Several fifth and sixth round ADP running backs are projected to outscore two backs (DeMarco Murray, Matt Jones) just beyond the Top 24 RBs on the ADP list.   Next, it jumps out that only 17 running backs are projected to score over 190 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 5-10 points, however, only 20 running backs would be over 188 projected points.  Looking at our possible pairs, we have 17 pairs that meet or beat 188 fantasy points, which would put those duos comparable to projected RB21, Danny Woodhead (178 + 10 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 185 total points:

Rank Running Back 1 Running Back 2 Value ADP1 ADP2
1 Giovani Bernard Ryan Mathews 195.9 25 26
2 Giovani Bernard Ameer Abdullah 195.3 25 28
3 Giovani Bernard Jonathan Stewart 194.6 25 27
4 Giovani Bernard Frank Gore 193 25 30
5 Ameer Abdullah Melvin Gordon 193 28 29
6 Giovani Bernard Melvin Gordon 192.9 25 29
7 Ryan Mathews Ameer Abdullah 191.5 26 28
8 Giovani Bernard Charles Sims 190.9 25 34
9 Giovani Bernard Isaiah Crowell 190.1 25 41
10 Ryan Mathews Melvin Gordon 190.1 26 29
11 Giovani Bernard Theo Riddick 189.2 25 40
12 Giovani Bernard Arian Foster 189.1 25 36
13 Giovani Bernard Bilal Powell 188.8 25 43
14 Giovani Bernard Rashad Jennings 188.6 25 38
15 Giovani Bernard T.J. Yeldon 188.3 25 33
16 Giovani Bernard Darren Sproles 188 25 47
17 Jonathan Stewart Melvin Gordon 188 27 29
18 Giovani Bernard DeAngelo Williams 187.2 25 32
19 Giovani Bernard Jay Ajayi 186.9 25 31
20 Giovani Bernard Derrick Henry 186.2 25 39
21 Giovani Bernard Chris Ivory 186 25 35
22 Ryan Mathews Jonathan Stewart 185.7 26 27
23 Melvin Gordon Frank Gore 185.6 29 30
24 Giovani Bernard Justin Forsett 185.4 25 37
25 Ryan Mathews Frank Gore 185.4 26 30
26 Giovani Bernard Tevin Coleman 185.3 25 42
27 Ameer Abdullah Arian Foster 185.1 28 36
28 Jonathan Stewart Ameer Abdullah 185.1 27 28

Table 5: Top 28 PPR RB2BC Options for 2016

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 Giovani Bernard in Round 5, I say to throw that plan out (or make it "Plan B") and just go get Giovani Bernard in Round 5.  His ADP of 63 should make this a very simple plan to follow.  No matter who you pair him with in Round 6 or 7 - Ryan Mathews, Melvin Gordon, Jonathan Stewart or Frank Gore, for example - you should have 190+ points and have a RB2BC that projects to be at or near a higher end RB2.  Taking Bernard in Round 5 and then snapping up Mathews in Round 6 is one of the best ways to play it, as both backs should be big parts of the offense for their respective teams.  Bernard is going to be utilized quite a bit this year with both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones gone via free agency, while Mathews looks to be at least splitting time in Philadelphia with Darren Sproles.  

Judging from current ADP, there is one nightmare scenario where you could have an early Round 5 pick (taking Bernard) and most of these guys are gone by Pick 70-72.  In that case, the fallback position I would take would be to snap up Jonathan Stewart (current ADP of 70), with the disaster plan going towards Melvin Gordon (ADP 75) if no one else you like on the list is available.  My favorite pair this year is Gio Bernard and Ryan Mathews, followed by Bernard and Stewart.  Stewart will be the top back again in Carolina and be very productive in that role once again this year.  Just be sure to secure Bernard in Round 5 and everything will work out great for your RB2BC.

Here is a final summary of the combined schedules for both Giovani Bernard with Ryan Mathews or Jonathan Stewart, and when the committee approach suggests starting each one:

Wk Suggested RB Opponent
1 Ryan Mathews Cleveland
2 Ryan Mathews at Chicago
3 Giovani Bernard Denver
4 Giovani Bernard Miami
5 Giovani Bernard at Dallas
6 Ryan Mathews at Washington
7 Giovani Bernard Cleveland
8 Ryan Mathews at Dallas
9 Ryan Mathews at New York Giants
10 Giovani Bernard at New York Giants
11 Giovani Bernard Tennessee
12 Giovani Bernard San Francisco
13 Giovani Bernard at Detroit
14 Giovani Bernard Green Bay
15 Giovani Bernard Washington
16 Ryan Mathews New York Giants

Table 6: Suggested PPR RB2BC Schedule Plan - Giovani Bernard and Ryan Mathews (preferred)

Wk Suggested RB Opponent
1 Giovani Bernard at New York Jets
2 Jonathan Stewart San Francisco
3 Giovani Bernard Denver
4 Giovani Bernard Miami
5 Giovani Bernard at Dallas
6 Jonathan Stewart at New Orleans
7 Giovani Bernard Cleveland
8 Giovani Bernard Washington
9 Jonathan Stewart at Los Angeles
10 Giovani Bernard at New York Giants
11 Jonathan Stewart New Orleans
12 Jonathan Stewart* at Oakland
13 Giovani Bernard at Detroit
14 Giovani Bernard Green Bay
15 Jonathan Stewart at Washington
16 Jonathan Stewart Atlanta
*Equal Projection to Gio Bernard in Week 12

Table 7:  Suggested PPR RB2BC Schedule Plan - Giovani Bernard and Jonathan Stewart

Take note in Table 7 above that Week 12 for both Stewart (at Oakland) and Bernard (vs. San Francisco) project similarly, so a "gut call" on who to start would be needed.

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.