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Faceoff: Waiting at RB

August 28th

Clayton Gray: How long can you wait at running back? Explain.

Andy Hicks: It depends on your draft slot. Depending on format, if you are a top 3 to top 6 drafter then you are more than likely to end up with a top RB than not. If you are in the bottom half your options open up considerably.

Let's break this argument into 2 then:

Top 6 pick, I am likely to have a RB and can wait until the 4th or 5th rounds to get my RB2, where guys like Reggie Bush, Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Shonn Greene are waiting. I can wait even longer to double up in rounds 6 & 7 where guys like Jonathan Stewart, C.J Spiller, Peyton Hillis and Steven Ridley are going.

The key point here is that with one stud RB on my roster I can load up at WR and maybe even TE and/or QB before heading back to RB.

If I'm at the bottom of a draft, I'd probably avoid a RB for round 1 and look for guys like Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Ahmad Bradshaw in rounds 2 or 3. I could even get Frank Gore or Darren Sproles in round 4 if I'm fortunate.

If you don't have a RB by round 7, then you will be very strong elsewhere, but have to grab a bunch of guys like Mark Ingram, Donald Brown, David Wilson, Ryan Williams, Mikel LeShoure and Ronnie Hillman for the next few rounds to have any chance at scoring well. It would be possible to do it this way, but the risk is considerable.

If I didn't have a RB by round 4, I'd probably invest the next 3 picks at the position.

If I drafted at least one back in the first 3 rounds, getting another before round 7 would be preferable.

In answer to the question, you can wait until round 7 if you really like some of the younger backs or guys in good situations that will be around between rounds 7 & 10, but not having a back by round 4 is not for the faint of heart.

Jeff Pasquino: I like what Andy is saying here, but you have to temper it with your own expectations. If you think that Matt Forte or Darren McFadden will be Top 5 studs, grab them at the back end of Round 1 and don't look back. You have to be able to compete with the Top 3 teams who will take Rice / Foster / McCoy in some order.

There are absolutely some great running backs to target in Rounds 4-8. Anyone from Bradshaw, Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram, Donald Brown and Willis McGahee to name a few have Top 20 potential and keep you afloat as your RB2. Hunting for the next breakout RB can also help (like Leshoure, David Wilson or Ryan Williams). You do need two Top 30 guys to keep your team competitive until you get a breakout star, but if that is your plan you had better be committed to drafting 4-5 guys with major upside throughout your draft. The good news is that if you wait at RB, you should have studs at QB, WR and TE so you do not have to load up on strong backups. Starting six rounds with 1 RB, 1 QB, 1 TE and 3 WRs can win you a championship if you score big on your RB2.

Maurile Tremblay: With the high-flying passing attacks around the league these days, there is greater parity than ever among fantasy positions. The first round is no longer completely dominated by running backs. A few quarterbacks, several wide receivers, and even a couple tight ends merit consideration in the first round this year. In fact, I don't think there's anything wrong with taking a quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end (in whatever order) with your first three picks, and waiting until the fourth round to take your fantasy RB1.

But if you do that, you should really take another running back with your fifth pick, or your sixth at the latest, and then alternate mainly between WR and RB for a while after that. (The details will depend on starting lineup requirements. The more RBs you expect to start, including at flex spots, the harder you'll have to hammer the RB position in the middle rounds of the draft if you pass on them early.)

My overall principle is that, among QB, RB, WR, and TE, I usually like to fill all my starting positions (including flex spots) before taking backups. (It's not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes I'll take a backup RB or WR before I take a starting QB or TE.) But then, between RB and WR, the position where I have the weakest starters is the one that I give priority to when drafting backups. So if I draft one or two WRs before I take my first RB, I'll generally emphasize RBs over WRs until I've made up for in quantity what I missed out on in quality.

Steve Holloway: The answer here is also league scoring dependent. I play in leagues where only one starting running back is mandated and in those leagues when my pick is outside the top three, I am likely waiting a long time. I would consider getting all my potential wide receiver and tight end starters if I was confident I could grab a #20 or better running back in the fifth or sixth round.

Another key consideration for me is keeping options open and not waiting until you feel forced to draft a position player at all costs. One of the most frustrating things for me is really needing a running back and having an amazing value fall at another position. When you keep your roster somewhat balanced though the early portion of the draft it definitely adds flexibility to take whatever value falls.

Mark Wimer: Pasquino is right on here about targeting high upside backs in rounds 4-8. I've been going after Ryan Williams in a lot of drafts, and if I'm at the end of the snake in 1.11 or 1.12 I've grabbed Williams and Wells as late as the 9/10 round turn in an individual defensive players' draft, locking down the Arizona running back position. I like Williams to break out so if you have to choose one ARI back I'd pull the trigger on Williams as you can get him later in most drafts and he has more upside than Wells with his creaky knees.

I also like Donald Brown and McGahee as high upside picks (Ingram is in too huge a committee for my taste, and the Miami offense doesn't inspire me with a lot of confidence given the dearth of talent at receiver which will likely limit scoring opportunities for Bush down in South Florida).

Unlike Jeff, I think Michael Turner is being undervalued this year - the Falcons still plan to hand him 70% of the carries from week to week, and their offense is explosive enough that I think Turner gets a lot of work late in games to grind out the clock once Ryan/Jones/White/Gonzalez have put the contest out of reach. Garbage time yardage counts in fantasy football, friends.

Will Grant: Like most of the folks here, the short answer is "depends on your format and draft slot."

We had a great discussion a week or so ago about RB strategy and that if you landed a stud RB - like in the top 3-5, you could hold off and go RBBC for your RB2 with RBS in the 15-25 range and probably be successful. Especially if you hit a sleeper.

The key is really knowing your scoring system, especially in flex leagues where you might be able to start 3 RBS. In a PPR league where RB catches are awarded a full point, guys like Reggie Bush, Matt Forte and even Bradshaw will get a bump up because they catch the ball well out of the backfield.