In the simplest terms, the rationale behind drafting any player is hoping he out-produces everyone else
available at that time. This is true whether you’re choosing the first overall pick or the fourth pick in
Round 9 or the last pick in the draft. Why else would you take a player?
The only reasonable answer to that question: Because you need to fill specific positions in your weekly
lineup. But even when you’re choosing based on roster needs, the same rationale applies: When you
pick a player, you're hoping he out-produces everyone else available from that position at that time.
But that’s something you already could have figured out. What you might not have thought through is
how you feel about each position. How much will you stress running backs? Is this the year you’re going
to target receivers early? Or are you going to zag while the rest of your league zigs and lock down a tight
end and a quarterback before anyone else? And can you rationalize to yourself the answers to these
Look, Fantasy is supposed to be fun. This should be a fun thought exercise and not something that keeps
you up at night. Besides, you need your beauty sleep. Read along and think about these strategies and
how they align with what you think is best on Draft Day.
And don’t forget to know exactly what the rules of your league are and how many players you can start.
The strategies you’ll map out in a 10-team league with one flex are a lot different than a 12-team
Superflex with three receivers or a 14-team tiered-PPR with team RBs and four flex dyno-multipliers.
I just made that last one up, but it sounds fun!
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In 2021, 21 running backs averaged at least 15 touches per game (15 of them played at least 12 games).
Bump those touches up to at least 20 per game, and eight running backs can lay claim to that average
(six played at least 12 games). That’s a fancy, roundabout way of telling you that there aren’t enough
running backs to go around in a Fantasy league.
You’ve got three choices when it comes to running backs:
Go big early
If you value position scarcity and want league-winning upside from the toughest position
to fill, then target running backs as soon as Round 1 and do not stop until Round 3 or 4. To that end, this
year is pretty much like prior years: The running backs in Tiers 1 and 2 are easy to buy into; the ones in
Tiers 3 and 4 are a little less appealing but still lineup-worthy. And then you get to the running backs in
Tier 5 and you'll think they're grosser than 10-day-old tofurkey chili.
Go Zero RB
Some managers do the opposite and will skip running backs completely until Round 4 or 5,
choosing instead to have top-tier talent at wide receiver, tight end and even quarterback. This can work
as a winning strategy, especially if you trust yourself to find good running backs both later in the draft
and as the season moves along via free agency. But it means more work to find good running backs, and
it almost certainly means having a positional disadvantage at RB for however long it takes you to find
Go with one
There’s this comfy medium between the first two options where a drafter picks one stud
running back, then ignores the position for a while. You’ll enjoy the benefits of taking a bunch of quality
players at other positions while still clinging to one really good rusher.
There is no one right way, but I would expect the Fantasy majority to take a balanced approach on Draft
Day. That means taking at least one running back within the first three rounds, two through four rounds
and three through five or six rounds. This is the alternative that will help you fill your running back spots
while also picking up good values at other positions.
There’s one more twist: More and more NFL teams are wisely moving to committee backfields where
multiple backs will see weekly work. That does create a larger pool of players who should see at least 10
touches per week when they’re sharing — and way more in those weeks when they fall into a big role
because a teammate is hurt or an opponent is bad against the run. When you’re looking for running
backs past Tier 5, think about the players who are young, can catch the football, or are capable at the
goal line. Those who carry at least two of those qualities are worth your speculation.
DAVE’S FAVORITE STRATEGY AT RB: Draft for upside early without fear of missing out on a receiver or tight end. You can find those guys later. Have six running backs before you get to Round 12.
DAVE’S FAVORITE STRATEGY IF YOU START THREE WR IN A FULL PPR LEAGUE: If you pick before ninth overall, take one running back early and then start grabbing receivers. If you pick ninth or later, wait on running backs and load up on receivers first.
Running back PPR tiers (updated 7/29)
Running back Non-PPR tiers (updated 7/29)