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RB2 By Committee: PPR

Finding a Second Starting Running Back by Committee in a PPR League for 2017

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 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 (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 Player ADP Player
RB25 Doug Martin RB38 Kenneth Dixon
RB26 Eddie Lacy RB39 Duke Johnson Jr
RB27 Bilal Powell RB40 Kareem Hunt
RB28 Paul Perkins RB41 Latavius Murray
RB29 Derrick Henry RB42 James White
RB30 Danny Woodhead RB43 Terrance West
RB31 Mike Gillislee RB44 Jonathan Stewart
RB32 Adrian Peterson RB45 Jamaal Charles
RB33 Frank Gore RB46 Rob Kelley
RB34 Theo Riddick RB47 Giovani Bernard
RB35 Samaje Perine RB48 Alvin Kamara
RB36 LeGarrette Blount RB49 Darren Sproles
RB37 Matt Forte RB50 Thomas Rawls

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 Eddie Lacy Bilal Powell 215.28
2 Bilal Powell Theo Riddick 213.07
3 Bilal Powell Duke Johnson Jr 210.31
4 Bilal Powell Samaje Perine 209.96
5 Eddie Lacy Frank Gore 209.92
6 Bilal Powell Derrick Henry 207.09
7 Bilal Powell Kenneth Dixon 206.91
8 Bilal Powell Paul Perkins 204.48
9 Doug Martin Bilal Powell 204.16
10 Bilal Powell Frank Gore 203.86
11 Bilal Powell Rob Kelley 203.76
12 Bilal Powell Adrian Peterson 203.56
13 Bilal Powell Giovani Bernard 203.21
14 Bilal Powell Mike Gillislee 203.21
15 Bilal Powell James White 202.96
16 Bilal Powell Danny Woodhead 202.22
17 Bilal Powell Terrance West 201.86
18 Bilal Powell Jamaal Charles 201.33
19 Bilal Powell Latavius Murray 201.22
20 Bilal Powell Alvin Kamara 200.95
21 Bilal Powell LeGarrette Blount 200.22
22 Bilal Powell Kareem Hunt 199.99
23 Doug Martin Eddie Lacy 199.9
24 Frank Gore Theo Riddick 199.86
25 Eddie Lacy Theo Riddick 199.54
26 Eddie Lacy Duke Johnson Jr 199.1
27 Frank Gore Kenneth Dixon 197.71
28 Frank Gore Samaje Perine 196.29
29 Frank Gore Duke Johnson Jr 196.04
30 Doug Martin Duke Johnson Jr 195.46
31 Doug Martin Theo Riddick 195.4
32 Eddie Lacy Kenneth Dixon 195.05
33 Derrick Henry Frank Gore 194.38
34 Bilal Powell Matt Forte 194.04
35 Bilal Powell n/a 194.04
36 Bilal Powell Jonathan Stewart 194.04
37 Doug Martin Frank Gore 192.1
38 Mike Gillislee Frank Gore 192.01
39 Eddie Lacy Matt Forte 192
40 Danny Woodhead Frank Gore 191.75
41 Frank Gore James White 191.38
42 Frank Gore Terrance West 191.17
43 Theo Riddick Matt Forte 190.87
44 Frank Gore Giovani Bernard 190.69
45 Adrian Peterson Frank Gore 190.59
46 Eddie Lacy Derrick Henry 190.45
47 Frank Gore Rob Kelley 190.21
48 Paul Perkins Frank Gore 189.67
49 Eddie Lacy Paul Perkins 188.88
50 Frank Gore Matt Forte 188.37
51 Frank Gore Jamaal Charles 188.36
52 Frank Gore Latavius Murray 188.25
53 Theo Riddick Duke Johnson Jr 188.08
54 Frank Gore Alvin Kamara 187.98
55 Eddie Lacy Samaje Perine 187.83
56 Matt Forte Duke Johnson Jr 187.53
57 Frank Gore LeGarrette Blount 187.25
58 Frank Gore Kareem Hunt 187.02
59 Theo Riddick Kenneth Dixon 185.68
60 Matt Forte Kenneth Dixon 185.22
61 Eddie Lacy Danny Woodhead 185.14
62 Eddie Lacy Terrance West 184.52
63 Kenneth Dixon Duke Johnson Jr 184.35
64 Eddie Lacy Rob Kelley 183.97
65 Theo Riddick Darren Sproles 183.44
66 Derrick Henry Theo Riddick 183.11
67 Doug Martin Matt Forte 183.11
68 Eddie Lacy Adrian Peterson 183.08
69 Eddie Lacy Latavius Murray 182.55
70 Eddie Lacy Mike Gillislee 182.09
71 Doug Martin Derrick Henry 181.84
72 Eddie Lacy James White 181.75
73 Eddie Lacy Kareem Hunt 181.51
74 Derrick Henry Matt Forte 181.15
75 Frank Gore n/a 181.07

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 are two running back outside of the Top 24 that are projected to outpace several Top 24 RBs in fantasy scoring in 2017 - both Eddie Lacy and Bilal Powell - so expect to see these names 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 34 pairs that are worth more than or equal to Bilal Powell by his lonesome, and 39 more than just Frank Gore by himself (and about 38 more than only Eddie Lacy), 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
Bilal Powell 22 Giovani Bernard 1
Frank Gore 7 Jamaal Charles 1
Eddie Lacy 6 James White 1
Doug Martin 4 Kareem Hunt 1
Duke Johnson Jr 4 Latavius Murray 1
Theo Riddick 4 LeGarrette Blount 1
Kenneth Dixon 3 Matt Forte 1
Derrick Henry 2 Mike Gillislee 1
Samaje Perine 2 Paul Perkins 1
Adrian Peterson 1 Rob Kelley 1
Alvin Kamara 1 Terrance West 1
Danny Woodhead 1    

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

As we can see from Table 3, Bilal Powell dominates the list with five others appearing four or more times. Frank Gore, Eddie Lacy, Doug Martin and Duke Johnson Jr appear often, as does Ken Dixon (who is now out of the year, opening up another RB2BC opportunity for someone in Baltimore).  In fact, as I mentioned earlier, Powell is projected to be worth more on his own than either Christian McCaffrey (ADP of RB15) or Carlos Hyde (RB16) themselves.  This tells us that this tier of RB15-30 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 34 possible pairs that are better than Bilal Powell, what exactly does that mean? Should Powell 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
1 1 David Johnson ARI 401.92
2 2 LeVeon Bell PIT 350.68
3 3 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 323.36
8 5 Melvin Gordon LAC 267.32
10 6 LeSean McCoy BUF 264.6
11 4 Devonta Freeman ATL 269.87
14 9 Jay Ajayi MIA 235.32
16 8 Jordan Howard CHI 238.56
17 7 DeMarco Murray TEN 247.33
22 12 Todd Gurley LAR 214.56
27 11 Leonard Fournette JAX 218.51
28 10 Lamar Miller HOU 218.84
32 14 Isaiah Crowell CLE 209.53
36 15 Marshawn Lynch OAK 207.71
41 23 Christian McCaffrey CAR 178.19
48 18 Carlos Hyde SF 196.03
49 13 Ty Montgomery GB 211.32
50 27 Joe Mixon CIN 153.23
54 21 Spencer Ware KC 181.08
57 22 Dalvin Cook MIN 178.4
58 19 Tevin Coleman ATL 193.9
65 16 Mark Ingram II NO 207.16
66 24 Ameer Abdullah DET 168.19
69 25 C.J. Anderson DEN 162.36
72 26 Doug Martin TB 155.82
73 20 Eddie Lacy SEA 182.91
74 17 Bilal Powell NYJ 198.51
82 28 Paul Perkins NYG 138.88

Table 4: Projected PPR Fantasy Points for RBs 1-28

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 15. There is a total jumble from RB16-28 (which is why I extended the list beyond RB24), with running backs projected to be drafted in Round 5 through Round 7 projected to be anywhere from RB17 (Bilal Powell, ADP 74 overall) to RB28 (Paul Perkins, ADP 82).  Next, it jumps out that only 19 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.  Looking at our possible pairs, we have seven pairs that meet or beat 206 fantasy points, which would put those duos comparable to projected RB16, Carlos Hyde (196 + 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 194 total points:

Rank Running Back 1 Running Back 2 Value ADP1 ADP2
1 Eddie Lacy Bilal Powell 215.28 26 27
2 Bilal Powell Theo Riddick 213.07 27 34
3 Bilal Powell Duke Johnson Jr 210.31 27 39
4 Bilal Powell Samaje Perine 209.96 27 35
5 Eddie Lacy Frank Gore 209.92 26 33
6 Bilal Powell Derrick Henry 207.09 27 29
7 Bilal Powell Kenneth Dixon 206.91 27 38
8 Bilal Powell Paul Perkins 204.48 27 28
9 Doug Martin Bilal Powell 204.16 25 27
10 Bilal Powell Frank Gore 203.86 27 33
11 Bilal Powell Rob Kelley 203.76 27 47
12 Bilal Powell Adrian Peterson 203.56 27 32
13 Bilal Powell Giovani Bernard 203.21 27 47
14 Bilal Powell Mike Gillislee 203.21 27 31
15 Bilal Powell James White 202.96 27 42
16 Bilal Powell Danny Woodhead 202.22 27 30
17 Bilal Powell Terrance West 201.86 27 43
18 Bilal Powell Jamaal Charles 201.33 27 46
19 Bilal Powell Latavius Murray 201.22 27 41
20 Bilal Powell Alvin Kamara 200.95 27 48
21 Bilal Powell LeGarrette Blount 200.22 27 36
22 Bilal Powell Kareem Hunt 199.99 27 40
23 Doug Martin Eddie Lacy 199.9 25 26
24 Frank Gore Theo Riddick 199.86 33 34
25 Eddie Lacy Theo Riddick 199.54 26 34
26 Eddie Lacy Duke Johnson Jr 199.1 26 39
27 Frank Gore Kenneth Dixon 197.71 33 38
28 Frank Gore Samaje Perine 196.29 33 35
29 Frank Gore Duke Johnson Jr 196.04 33 39
30 Doug Martin Duke Johnson Jr 195.46 25 39
31 Doug Martin Theo Riddick 195.4 25 34
32 Eddie Lacy Kenneth Dixon 195.05 26 38
33 Derrick Henry Frank Gore 194.38 29 33
34 Bilal Powell Matt Forte 194.04 27 37
35 Bilal Powell 0 194.04 27 n/a

Table 5: Top 28 PPR RB2BC Options for 2017

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 Bilal Powell in Round 6, I say to throw that plan out (or make it "Plan B") and just go get Powell in Round 6 and then take the next running back on the list in Table 5 that you really like.  My personal choices are Samaje Perine (should make it to Round 8) or Duke Johnson Jr (Round 9).  Both are bargains at their current prices, and offer upside if they become the primary back for their respective teams.  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 positoins.  

The added bonus of taking Perine to form your committee is that you could come right back and take Rob Kelley in Round 10, thereby locking up the Washington backfield.  That way, you should have the top option as your RB2 with either Powell or a Washington running back, regardless of how the depth chart shakes out at most any point this season. 

Here is a final summary of the combined schedules for both Bilal Powell and Samaje Perine and also Powell with Duke Johnson Jr, and when the committee approach suggests starting each one:

Wk Suggested RB Opponent
1 Bilal Powell at Buffalo
2 Bilal Powell at Oakland
3 Bilal Powell Miami
4 Bilal Powell Jacksonville
5 Bilal Powell at Cleveland
6 Samaje Perine at Philadelphia
7 Bilal Powell at Miami
8 Bilal Powell Atlanta
9 Bilal Powell Buffalo
10 Bilal Powell at Tampa Bay
11 Samaje Perine at New Orleans
12 Bilal Powell Carolina
13 Bilal Powell Kansas City
14 Bilal Powell at Denver *
15 Bilal Powell at New Orleans
16 Bilal Powell Los Angeles Chargers
*Perine visits the Chargers in Week 14

Table 6: Suggested PPR RB2BC Schedule Plan - Bilal Powell and Samaje Perine (preferred)

Wk Suggested RB Opponent
1 Bilal Powell at Buffalo
2 Bilal Powell at Oakland
3 Bilal Powell Miami
4 Bilal Powell Jacksonville
5 Bilal Powell at Cleveland
6 Duke Johnson Jr at Houston
7 Bilal Powell at Miami
8 Bilal Powell Atlanta
9 Bilal Powell Buffalo
10 Bilal Powell at Tampa Bay
11 Duke Johnson Jr Jacksonville
12 Duke Johnson Jr at Cincinnati
13 Bilal Powell Kansas City
14 Bilal Powell at Denver *
15 Bilal Powell at New Orleans
16 Bilal Powell Los Angeles Chargers
*Cleveland hosts the Packers in Week 14

Table 7:  Suggested PPR RB2BC Schedule Plan - Bilal Powell and Duke Johnson Jr

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.