The FPC: Running Backs - Footballguys

The Footballguys Players Championship Analysis - Looking at the Running Back Position

By studying the rules of both the FFPC and the FPC along with some of the history and previous performances by FPC players, insights can be found that will help many players to not only compete well in both contests but also to be in a position to win their league and be in the running for a top prize in the championship round.

As the summer rolls on, I will continue analyzing many aspects of the Footballguys Players Championship and the Fantasy Football Players Championship. Through these articles, I hope to provide extra help with fully understanding how to best build a top-notch fantasy team within the contest. As someone who has competed against the best players in the world and in several contests much like the FPC and the FFPC, I fully understand how every possible advantage and extra edge can make all the difference in the world.

THE RUNNING BACK POSITION

Under the microscope this time around is the position of running back. According to the rules of the Footballguys Players Championship, the rosters are as follows:

Starting Roster

  • 1 quarterback
  • 2 running backs
  • 2 wide receivers
  • 1 tight end
  • 2 flex players (RB/WR/TE)
  • 1 kicker
  • 1 team defense

With the following relevant scoring system in place:

  • 4 points for passing touchdowns, 6 points for all other touchdowns
  • 0.1 point for every 1 yard rushing or receiving
  • 1.5 points per reception for tight ends

So how do you analyze the impact of this scoring system to the current crop of potential fantasy running backs? We need to dig into some numbers.

First, let's take a look at both the projected scores for the Top 50 running backs this season and calculate some VBD numbers using the worst starter method (more on that in a minute). The results are in Table 1:

Rank
Points
VBD
Rank
Points
VBD
1
326.3
176
26
152.7
3
2
302.4
152
27
152.0
2
3
299.7
150
28
151.7
2
4
297.4
147
29
150.5
0
5
297.3
147
30
150.1
0
6
256.0
106
31
149.3
-1
7
243.1
93
32
147.3
-3
8
237.8
88
33
142.7
-7
9
235.3
85
34
139.8
-10
10
231.2
81
35
139.5
-11
11
221.4
71
36
138.4
-12
12
220.2
70
37
136.6
-14
13
216.0
66
38
133.3
-17
14
183.9
34
39
128.2
-22
15
180.9
31
40
124.1
-26
16
179.9
30
41
123.4
-27
17
175.4
25
42
119.7
-30
18
173.6
23
43
110.6
-39
19
170.8
21
44
110.2
-40
20
160.0
10
45
109.4
-41
21
159.5
9
46
107.3
-43
22
154.8
5
47
105.1
-45
23
154.7
5
48
103.5
-47
24
153.7
4
49
102.2
-48
25
153.5
3
50
101.9
-48

Table 1: FPC Projected Fantasy Points For Top 50 Running Backs

First a comment on the worst starter method. Even though only 24 running backs are necessary as starters (the rules require two running backs per team), the Dual Flex rule can and should put more of them into play. Like last year, running back value tapers off for RB20-RB32, with RB32 projected to be just 23.5 points (or one or two points per game) lower than RB19. That means that after the RB1s are gone and a few RB2s, the vaue really evens out for the next tiers of running backs. It appears that in 2018, the FPC flex spots are predicted to go towards wide receivers most of the time, just like last season. Looking at the Draft Dominator, the breakdown of players projected to score 150 or more points is 30 running backs, 42 wide receivers and 10 tight ends (since 12 tight ends are required, TE11 and TE12 round out the Top 84). That means most of the flex spots in the league (18 of 24) will be wide receivers most of the time. If you can snag an RB3 with upside that gets a starter workload, your team will likely benefit greatly - but most teams are going to play it safe and get three or four wide receivers in a hurry.

Also note that I stopped with just 50 running backs, but I expect several more to be drafted. The reasoning is that after about Round 15 (Pick 180), many of the teams select kickers and defenses, so ADP pretty much goes out the window. Just know that several more skill players are going to be selected in the final five rounds, so do not be shy to grab one you really want.

The VBD does not do much for a complete analysis without some context of other positions. Looking at the Draft Dominator, we can run a mock draft to get a feel for when the various running backs are slated to come off of the draft board. Table 2 gives some more insight as to when the mock draft says to take a running back:

Rank
Points
VBD
DD ADP
Rank
Points
VBD
DD ADP
1
326.3
176
1
26
152.7
3
72
2
302.4
152
2
27
152.0
2
74
3
299.7
150
3
28
151.7
2
76
4
297.4
147
4
29
150.5
0
77
5
297.3
147
5
30
150.1
0
78
6
256.0
106
8
31
149.3
-1
79
7
243.1
93
11
32
147.3
-3
80
8
237.8
88
12
33
142.7
-7
81
9
235.3
85
13
34
139.8
-10
82
10
231.2
81
15
35
139.5
-11
83
11
221.4
71
19
36
138.4
-12
86
12
220.2
70
20
37
136.6
-14
87
13
216.0
66
21
38
133.3
-17
88
14
183.9
34
44
39
128.2
-22
97
15
180.9
31
46
40
124.1
-26
102
16
179.9
30
47
41
123.4
-27
103
17
175.4
25
48
42
119.7
-30
104
18
173.6
23
51
43
110.6
-39
112
19
170.8
21
52
44
110.2
-40
126
20
160.0
10
56
45
109.4
-41
127
21
159.5
9
60
46
107.3
-43
128
22
154.8
5
66
47
105.1
-45
129
23
154.7
5
67
48
103.5
-47
130
24
153.7
4
70
49
102.2
-48
131
25
153.5
3
71
50
101.9
-48
132

Table 2: Draft Dominator FPC Mock - ADP For Top 50 Running Backs

Based on the results, the first round appears to be dominated by running backs, with 8 of 12 picks and the top-five selections are likely going to the running back position. That screams grab an elite RB1 if you can as a predominant strategy, at least according to the Draft Dominator mock draft. Round 2 continues this them with five more backs going before Pick 24. The bigger thing to notice is the steep dropoff at that point between RB13 (Pick 21) and RB14 (Pick 44). The mock draft says that there is nearly a two round gap in value after the first 13 backs go off the board. Bottom line - get an RB1, preferably two, if you can - and early.

Rounds 4 and 5 are dominated by running backs once again as the value for the next tier bubbles to the top - four backs go towards the end of Round 4, while four more finish out in Round 5. Round 6 continues in similar fashion with five more running backs selected, raising the total to 26 - which starts to get into the RB3 / flex level. Round 7 is greatly dominated by running backs with 9 of 12 picks at the position, raising the grand total to 35. That means, on average, every team in the league would have three running backs. The position is nearly ignored for the next three rounds (3 in Round 8, 4 in Round 9 and just one in Round 10) until the Top 50 is exhausted in Round 11 with 7 of 12 selections in that particular round. That screams at how little value there is in drafting a ton of running backs, at least according to the Draft Dominator. The NFL's commitment to using two or three backs in committee approaches has spread the relative value of running backs so thin that after the Top 20 backs are selected, the value is minimal at best.

Now that we have the Draft Dominator's outlook, let's get some real life comparisons involved now. With the help of Clayton Gray here at Footballguys, he has pulled together some great ADP data based on early FPC drafts and created current ADP data for all of the top players. We can use this information to compare against the Draft Dominator mock results. Here are both ADPs compared side-by-side and their relative differences:

Rank
FPC ADP
DD ADP
ADP Dif
Rank
FPC ADP
DD ADP
ADP Dif
1
1
1
0
26
55
72
-17
2
2
2
0
27
58
74
-16
3
3
3
0
28
59
76
-17
4
4
4
0
29
68
77
-9
5
6
5
1
30
69
78
-9
6
7
8
-1
31
72
79
-7
7
9
11
-2
32
73
80
-7
8
11
12
-1
33
77
81
-4
9
12
13
-1
34
78
82
-4
10
13
15
-2
35
80
83
-3
11
18
19
-1
36
83
86
-3
12
22
20
2
37
85
87
-2
13
23
21
2
38
86
88
-2
14
27
44
-17
39
93
97
-4
15
28
46
-18
40
95
102
-7
16
36
47
-11
41
96
103
-7
17
37
48
-11
42
100
104
-4
18
38
51
-13
43
102
112
-10
19
42
52
-10
44
104
126
-22
20
45
56
-11
45
112
127
-15
21
46
60
-14
46
114
128
-14
22
49
66
-17
47
115
129
-14
23
50
67
-17
48
119
130
-11
24
51
70
-19
49
120
131
-11
25
54
71
-17
50
126
132
-6

Table 3: Draft Dominator FPC Mock vs. 2018 FPC Data - Comparison of ADPs

Several key facts can be pulled from Table 3 about running backs and FPC scoring:

  • The NFL may be much more of a passing league, but when it comes to the few elite tailbacks, they go right at the top of the draft. Snapping up a top-five running back can set teams ahead at the position, affording them more picks to go after wide receivers and tight ends in the later rounds.
  • Even after the first five options are gone, running backs are still a focus for drafters through the end of Round 2. It is almost as if it is a race to collect the Top 12 or so tailbacks, as the rest of the next few tiers are about equal to each other.
  • After the first four rounds are over, most teams have just one running back, with just a handful of teams owning two. The fantasy value of running backs has really dropped with most NFL teams using the running back by committee approach.
  • After teams exhaust the Top 14 running back list, value slides about a half to a full round for RB2s. The phenomenon of RBBC coupled with studs at quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end push the value of running backs down the chart.
  • There are some small runs on the running back position a few times (Rounds 4-5, Rounds 6-7) across the Top 36 running backs. While many will look for upside potential in RB2 and RB3 choices, the lack of clear starters and the thought of waiver wire replacements affording similar value greatly depresses the value of drafting the position.

PARTING THOUGHTS

Every fantasy league and its rulebook are a little different. For the FPC and the FFPC, the configuration of the scoring and the rosters really emphasize the running back position. The Dual Flex rule allows teams that have four dominant rushers to all count each week, which is a huge advantage. That sounds great, but the likelihood of one squad cornering the market on feature rushers is very unlikely. That means teams have to address running back as much as they can but still get depth at wide receiver and tight end to cover a likely shortfall of stud running backs. Odds are pretty good that some teams will use at least one rusher as one of two flex spots each week, especially if one of their backup running backs elevates to theh role of a starter for their team.

So what is the right answer? Grab your starters reasonably early then look for value throughout the draft. Should luck and fate shine upon you (and the right mix of injuries both miss your roster and hit one of the guys in front of your backups) then you could get the ultimate roster of four starting running backs. Odds are against that, however, but to push towards the ultimate prize of the FPC it will likely be for a team with studs across their lineup in December. When in doubt, take a running back.

That leads us to a final point on your team's running backs - do not be shy about grabbing the backup (or handcuff) to the first running back you draft. With a top pick invested in a guy like Le'Veon Bell, it would be foolish not to lock up his full potential with a cheap insurance policy in James Conner. Should you not have Spencer Ware, the pain of losing Kareem Hunt will be hard to digest and overcome. With 20 roster spots, plan on having one handcuff on the squad. Additionally, taking two backs to cover a full backfield can help in several ways. First, if one of the players in the duo elevates to the feature back, you are both set for a starter and have his handcuff. If injury strikes to either one, you also get a clear starter as well. This is where a solid pairing of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen could pay off in a big way.

It takes a little time to get your mind wrapped around a new contest with a new set of rules, but the time spent is often well worth it if the goal is to field a competitive team. Giving a little bit of effort to get a greater understanding of the twists and turns to the rulebook can give turn a good fantasy player into a great one and a great player into a dominant force. Knowledge is power - so be as powerful as you can!

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