Faceoff: A Weakness at RB or WR?

The Footballguys staff weighs in on which position's weakness can be more easily overcome.

Assuming you draft at the 1.07 spot in a 12-team PPR league, would you rather have zero running backs or zero wide receivers after three rounds?

Ryan Hester: Despite the fact that this question centers on a PPR league, I would still prefer the option with no wide receivers. Picking at 1.07 means you'd have the 7th, 18th, 31st, and 42nd picks. As my PPR rankings currently stand, there seems to be much more value in the wide receiver position. If the draft went by my rankings, the next three running backs available would be Alfred Morris, Stevan Ridley, and DeMarco Murray. The receivers would be Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Jordy Nelson, and Larry Fitzgerald. Realizing that the draft never goes according to plan (especially when the "plan" is one set of player rankings), all that means is that there exists the potential of players I have ranked higher than these guys falling down to me.

PPR doesn't mean you have to take a receiver early. Plenty of running backs catch enough passes to remain in the fantasy elite. At 1.07, you could potentially get the likes of Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Trent Richardson, Jamaal Charles, or C.J. Spiller. At 18, guys like Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, and Chris Johnson are all very potent weapons as well. Not having a receiver through three would also mean that you likely snagged an elite tight end or quarterback. There's plenty of value to be found at receiver, so I'd rather wait on that position.

Jason Wood: I'm not sure how anyone could say zero running backs. We're in an era of committee backfields, and the true workhorse RBs are going the way of the DoDo bird. While I could see passing on RB in the late first round, that would necessitate grabbing RBs in the following round or two just to stay competitive. Let's take the current ADP data and run a quick empirical test...

Which start would you rather have?


Matt Waldman: This year? I think I'd rather have the backs becuase I believe in the depth of receiver. I agree with Hester here. This is especially true in a league that flexes a third back, which is often the rage. if not, I'd still rather have the backs and a top QB or TE due to the WR depth.

Wood: Just to be clear Matt, I too prefer the grouping with the top 3 RBs and then WRs thereafter. Having already done a few mocks, and opting to pass on RB early in several, I can say that it feels a lot harder to come away feeling like you've got a balanced team than if you wait for WR, which I see as insanely deep these days.

Chad Parsons: I would easily avoid wide receivers in the first three rounds of drafts in 2013. The middle rounds are a breeding ground for upside plays and older volume-hog veterans at receiver. If an owner punts running back in the first couple rounds, let alone three, they are playing a very risky game throwing darts and relying on the waiver wire to strike gold in the early weeks of the season. On the flip side, waiting until the fourth round to begin building a receiver group means drafting 3-4 of the following names: Jordy Nelson, Reggie Wayne, Torrey Smith, Greg Jennings, and Josh Gordon. A subset of that group could easily pace most of the other teams in a league with a strong stable of running backs built in the opening three rounds.

Stephen Holloway: I would rather not have zero of either at the end of three rounds, but if forced to choose between being void at one, I agree with everyone else that the depth at wide receiver is much greater than running back so you have to choose wide receiver. With the much reduced pool of solid three-down running backs, you really put yourself behind the curve without one solid option at running back. In twelve team leagues though, you really should be able to wait much later to draft either quarterback or tight end, and possibly both so that you can get depth at both running back and wide receiver early.

Will Grant: I agree with the rest of the guys here, but let's see if we can create a situation where it might be possible at 1.07 to land three wide receivers with your first three picks. Assumption one would be that you can start three wide receivers every week. If you were in a PPR league and the top six running backs were off the board, you'd probably be looking at the choice between LeSean McCoy and Calvin Johnson. Assuming you went with a value pick and took Megatron, and everyone behind you went RB-RB, you'd be looking at 16 RBS off the board by the time you were back on the clock. On the WR side, you're looking at A.J. Green or Brandon Marshall vs. Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden or David Wilson. Given the flow of the draft, it would be extremely hard to take a WR over a RB at that point. If a couple quarterbacks or tight ends were off the board, the situation would be even harder because you'd be passing up a guy like Alfred Morris or Steven Jackson for a second WR. I just don't see anyone making that choice, even though Green and Marshall would be excellent value at 18 overall in a ppr league. The risk at that point would be too much for anyone to take and you'd have to go running back just in case.

Andy Hicks: I'm going with a devil's advocate approach rather than my true belief, which is that you'd be nuts to pass up on a running back after three picks. Let's just say that if you chose to ignore the RB position for the first 3 rounds last year, you could have drafted Doug Martin in the 4th, Benjarvus Green-Ellis or Shonn Greene in the 5th or 6th round, as well as guys like Stevan Ridley, C.J. Spiller and Alfred Morris much later.

The same is likely to happen this year, you just have to get the right guys. Of course it is a risky strategy, but if you have a strong conviction that certain running backs are going to be severely undervalued and perform like RB1's, 2's and 3's, then there is every reason to get the very best at other positions first. This strategy would work better though if you had a marquee running back as well, but in theory you can make this situation work provided you have some luck/skill in getting late value at running back.

Jeff Pasquino: I think the best way to look at this question is based on the ADP for RB and WR, and assume that you will have 2 RB, 3 WR and a TE after six rounds.

So in Option 1 (no RBs), could you get Calvin Johnson at 1.07? Quite possibly. If you get Calvin, arguably the best WR available, then come back in Rounds 2 and 3 to land either Julio Jones or Demaryius Thomas followed by Andre Johnson - I would feel rather good in a start 3WR, PPR league with that trio. Then comes the next 3 rounds where you better start getting RB value. Round 4 (Pick 44) would have you targeting RB20 or so off of the board (like a Darren Sproles) as your RB1, then one of Montee Ball, Vick Ballard or even Le'Veon Bell as your RB2. That feels sketchy to me.

Flipping it to no WRs, you could load up with 2-3 RBs and/or a TE in the first three rounds (Jamaal Charles / LeSean McCoy, maybe a RB2 (Steven Jackson) or a TE stud like Jimmy Graham, followed by someone like Darren McFadden or Frank Gore). That's a solid start - so what WRs are left? Good options, actually. Rounds 4-6 would give you Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe and Torrey Smith.

That makes it pretty clear to me - I would rather have no WRs after three rounds than no RBs.

Mark Wimer: I think Calvin Johnson is going to dominate at his position again this year, so I wouldn't pass on him at 1.07. However, I don't expect him to be in play there (I'd be shocked to see Johnson going after 1.05 in any draft this year).

Given the stipulation that Johnson is off the board at 1.07, I agree that I'd rather have no other wide receivers at the end of the third round this year, having filled my roster to that point with two quality running backs (and either an elite qaurterback or an elite tight end). Running back is becoming a by-committee position in the NFL right now, with just a few notable exceptions. 1,000+ yard, 7-8 TD wide receivers are pretty easy to come by these days.