RB2 By Committee: PPR - Footballguys

Finding a Second Starting Running Back by Committee in a PPR League for 2018

Over the past few years, there have been several very popular articles written by myself and 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, Chase 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 quarterback 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 wide receiver 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 an 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 quarterback 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 (Mark Ingram II) 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 Rank
Running Back
ADP Rank
Running Back
RB25
RB38
RB26
RB39
RB27
RB40
RB28
RB41
RB29
RB42
RB30
RB43
RB31
RB44
D'Onta Foreman
RB32
RB45
RB33
RB46
RB34
RB47
RB35
RB48
RB36
RB49
RB37
RB50

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 after grabbing a stud running back in Round 1. This also gives you the flexibility of grabbing two receivers and a stud quarterback or tight end, 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 running backs in Rounds 5 and 6 to act as our RB2BC gives us that ability.

Here is the good news - nearly all the running backs on the list above has an ADP that is Round 6 or higher (later), but several backs fall in the Round 5-6 range that will be of interest. We will have to keep that in mind when we look at the results because it would not make sense to expect to get two Round 5 or Round 6 running backs in one of these combinations based on their ADP.

So what do we do now to figure out some running back pairs?

CRITERIA #3 - USE FOOTBALLGUYS' RB STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

This sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Just take the running back 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 running back 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
186.9
2
186.4
3
185.4
4
185.1
5
184.2
6
184.1
7
183.9
8
183.3
9
183.2
10
182.2
11
182.2
12
182.2
13
182.1
14
182.0
15
181.6
16
181.6
17
181.6
18
181.5
19
181.4
20
181.2
21
181.1
22
180.9
23
180.8
24
180.8
25
180.2
26
180.1
27
180.1
28
180.0
29
180.0
30
180.0
31
180.0
32
179.9
33
179.7
34
179.6
35
179.5
36
179.4
37
179.4
38
179.3
39
179.1
40
178.9
41
178.9
42
178.5
43
178.0
44
177.9
45
177.8
46
177.7
47
177.3
48
177.3
49
176.9
50
176.8
51
176.8
52
176.8
53
176.7
54
176.5
55
176.4
56
176.3
57
176.3
58
176.2
59
176.0
60
175.8
61
175.7
62
175.0
63
175.0
64
174.9
65
174.9
66
174.9
67
174.8
68
174.8
69
174.5
70
174.5
71
174.4
72
174.4
73
174.4
74
174.3
75
174.1
76
174.1
77
174.1
78
174.1
79
173.9
80
173.7
81
173.6
82
173.5
83
173.5
84
173.4
85
173.3
86
173.2
87
173.1
88
173.0
89
172.9
90
172.9
91
172.8
92
172.7
93
172.7
94
172.6
95
D'Onta Foreman
172.6
96
172.6
97
172.4
98
172.4
99
172.4
100
172.4
101
172.3
102
172.3
103
172.3
104
172.2
105
172.1
106
D'Onta Foreman
172.1
107
171.9
108
171.7
109
D'Onta Foreman
171.4
110
171.4
111
171.3
112
171.1
113
171.0
114
170.8
115
170.7
116
170.7
117
170.6
118
170.6
119
170.5
120
170.3
121
170.3
122
170.2
123
170.1
124
170.1
125
170.0
126
169.8
127
169.7
128
169.6
129
169.6
130
169.6
131
169.5
132
169.4
133
169.2
134
D'Onta Foreman
169.2
135
169.2
136
169.1
137
169.0
138
169.0
139
168.9
140
168.8
141
168.8
142
168.8
143
D'Onta Foreman
168.8
144
168.7
145
168.6
146
168.5
147
168.2
148
D'Onta Foreman
167.9
149
167.9
150
167.7
151
167.7
152
167.5
153
167.5
154
167.5
155
167.3
156
167.3
157
167.1
158
D'Onta Foreman
167.1
159
167.0
160
166.9
161
166.9
162
166.9
163
166.9
164
166.9
165
166.8
166
166.1
167
D'Onta Foreman
166.0
168
165.9
169
165.8
170
165.5
171
165.4
172
n/a
165.2

Table 2: PPR Running Back #2 Committee Pairs

I apologize for the lengthy list in Table 2, but as you can imagine, we have a lot of choices this year. That's a good thing, but now we have to trim that list down to get some very good pairs to select from for RB2BC. There are some tricky situations this season with two backs either already suspended for a few games (Mark Ingram II of the Saints) or another back who could also be facing disciplinary actions (LeSean McCoy). Both are right near the RB24 ADP spot, and that could impact this study. For now, we will eliminate both as options, but I a may readdress one (or both) later this summer as the start of the season nears and when we might have more clarity towards these situations. With so many options this season, 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 171 pairs that are worth more than or equal to Tevin Coleman 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
24
11
24
11
23
10
23
D'Onta Foreman
8
22
8
22
8
22
7
22
7
15
7
14
7
13
6
13
4
12

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

As we can see from Table 3, we have one of the biggest list of options in the history of putting together RB2BC. Eight running backs appear 22 or more times on this list, and another set of eight appears at least 10 times. Clearly, these are the backs to target for the committee approach this season, but which ones? Some of that will come down to personal preferences of these 16 backs, but some of the math in the study can help us out. Keep in mind that these are all based on projections at this time, and a single touchdown can sway the results significantly. With so many backs on this list with such frequency, it tells us that the ADP list in the RB20-RB36 range 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 171 possible pairs that are better than Tevin Coleman, what exactly does that mean? Should Coleman 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
Running Back
Team
FanPts
1
1
LAR
346.9
4
2
DEN
325.5
2
3
Le'Veon Bell
PIT
323.8
6
4
NO
309.0
3
5
ARI
312.9
11
6
LAC
270.5
14
7
JAC
268.2
10
8
KC
259.3
15
9
MIN
250.1
8
10
NYG
247.4
19
11
CAR
242.4
20
12
ATL
235.3
23
13
SF
226.7
28
14
CHI
195.6
31
15
CIN
195.0
35
16
MIA
193.8
37
17
BAL
184.8
51
18
HOU
183.5
40
19
TEN
182.3
46
20
PHI
171.6
42
21
SEA
165.4

Table 4: Projected PPR Fantasy Points for RBs 1-22

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, especially outside of the Top 17. There is a total jumble from RB18-36, and the uncertainty regarding Mark Ingram II (ADP of RB24) and LeSean McCoy (ADP of RB22) only make hte situation more complex. I fully expect the draft lists in any fantasy draft after the Top 15 running backs are gone to be very unpredictable, so having numerous plans and options is of paramount importance this year.

Digging in more closely, it jumps out that only 19 running backs are projected to score over 180 points. Jay Ajayi is projected to score 171.6 points this year, a significant tier down from the Derrick Henry / Lamar Miller / Alex Collins tier of 182-185 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 7-10 points for a bye week lineup fill-in that someone who owned of these players would use. Looking at our possible pairs, we have 31 that meet or beat 180 fantasy points, which would put those duos comparable to projected RB20, Jay Ajayi (171.6 + 8.4 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 180 total points:

Rank
Running Back 1
Running Back 2
Value
ADP1
ADP2
1
186.9
28
38
2
186.4
36
38
3
185.4
25
29
4
185.1
29
36
5
184.2
28
29
6
184.1
25
38
7
183.9
31
38
8
183.3
29
31
9
183.2
29
33
10
182.2
26
28
11
182.2
33
38
12
182.2
38
39
13
182.1
26
31
14
182.0
27
38
15
181.6
26
36
16
181.6
30
38
17
181.6
29
39
18
181.5
27
29
19
181.4
25
36
20
181.2
29
30
21
181.1
31
36
22
180.9
25
26
23
180.8
26
27
24
180.8
26
38
25
180.2
28
30
26
180.1
27
28
27
180.1
26
39
28
180.0
25
28
29
180.0
29
38
30
180.0
32
38
31
180.0
30
31

Table 5: Top 28 PPR RB2BC Options for 2018

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, as I said earlier, drafters are going to have to focus on their favorite two backs that can be had in Round 5-6, and hope that they can get both for their committee. Several of the backs on this list are either going to be in a committee for certain or be a part of an offense that has had a history of struggling, so my personal choices are going to focus on higher octane offenses that give plenty of snaps and scoring chances to both of the top rushers. That points me squarely at Sony Michel of the New England Patriots for my first choice, and his ADP has him available all of Round 5 (average ADP of 63, early in Round 6). New England spent a first rounder to get Michel this year, and I believe he will get plenty of chances to produce for the Patriots. The second choice for me comes down to two options - either Tevin Coleman of the Falcons (ADP 67) or Tarik Cohen of the Bears (ADP 70). One or both should make it through Round 6. (If neither do, take Chris Thompson, who is Pair #45 in Table 2, just 2.2 points below the 180-point threshold).

So why am I targeting Pair #5 in Table 5? While both Michel and Coleman are in the Top 4 pairs, I do not trust the Cleveland offense, so Carlos Hyde is out. Jamaal Williams will be in a total committee in Green Bay, and I cannot trust Ronald Jones II with Jameis Winston out the first three weeks and a ton of uncertainty for the Buccaneers looking as another committee backfield, as the Footballguys' staff discussed. Relying on a veteran running back in Coleman with an Atlanta team that has shown to be very productive on offense reduces the downside risk in taking Michel as the other half of the committee. Further, as we will see in a moment, I will use Coleman for most of the first half of the year to make sure that Michel will be used as I expect as a feature back by the Patriots. The "Plan B" for the committee if Coleman does not make it to my pick in Round 6 is Tarik Cohen, who has produced well in PPR leagues in Chicago as a high floor due to his pass catching abilities. Now, I will say that RB2BC this season is not for the weak of heart. You are not exactly getting the next David Johnson or Ezekiel Elliott here, but you also are not spending a first round pick like you would need to get a player of that caliber. This plan works best with taking a Top 10 running back in the first few rounds and then falling back to this committee in later rounds, freeing up those earlier picks for selecting other positions.

Here is a final summary of the combined schedules for both Sony Michel and Tevin Coleman (Table 6) and also Michel and Tarik Cohen (Table 7), and when the committee approach suggests starting each one:

Week
Suggested Starter
Opponent
Alternate Starter
Opponent
1
at Philadelphia
2
Carolina
3
New Orleans
4
Cincinnati
5
at Pittsburgh
6
Tampa Bay
7
NY Giants
at Chicago
8
at Buffalo
9
at Washington
Green Bay
10
at Cleveland
at Tennessee
11
Dallas
12
at New Orleans
at NY Jets
13
Baltimore
Minnesota
14
at Green Bay
at Miami
15
at Pittsburgh
16
Buffalo
17
at Tampa Bay

Table 6: Suggested PPR RB2BC Schedule Plan - Sony Michel and Tevin Coleman (preferred)

Week
Suggested Starter
Opponent
Alternate Starter
Opponent
1
at Green Bay
2
Seattle
3
at Arizona
4
Tampa Bay
5
Indianapolis
6
at Miami
7
at Chicago
New England
8
at Buffalo
9
Green Bay
at Buffalo
10
at Tennessee
Detroit
11
Minnesota
12
at Detroit
13
Minnesota
at NY Giants
14
at Miami
15
at Pittsburgh
16
Buffalo
17
NY Jets
at Minnesota

Table 7: Suggested PPR RB2BC Schedule Plan - Sony Michel and Tarik Cohen

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, going 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.