With so much preparation, expert analysis and researching of fantasy players in August, I figured “Hey, maybe I should talk about some of the idiotic claims people are making about running backs this year.”
I did this exercise about a month ago with receivers, so instead of any sort of interesting preface or introduction, I’ll just get right to it. The following are 5 invalid claims about 2012 running backs:
1. Matt Forte shouldn’t be a first-round choice because Michael Bush will steal goal-line carries.
This is any different than how it was for Forte last year? His “opportunities” may be sacrificed, but Matt Forte scored just as many goal-line touchdowns as you and I did last year: Zero.
And while he didn’t get into the end zone when he was close to it, he still averaged 13 fantasy points per game (standard scoring) over the 12 full games he played.
Forte is a player that you should target in the late-first round because his fantasy talent doesn’t rely on touchdown production. Especially in a PPR league, Forte is a huge value. He’s yet to have under a 1,400-yard season, and up until last season, he hadn’t missed a single NFL game.
Michael Bush’s presence may take a few carries from Forte per game, but the Bears are also supposed to run the ball more under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice. There’s little reason to believe Forte can’t do what he’s done throughout his brief career, and that’s produce fantasy points.
2. Ryan Mathews is a steal in the 2nd round. After all, every running back gets hurt.
The reason Ryan Mathews has dropped in the fantasy ranks isn’t necessarily just because he’ll miss some time. It could easily be because we were all reminded of how fragile this player is. He’s missed time in every single season he’s played in…since Junior High.
Each year, it’s almost a definite that your fantasy running back will miss at least a week or two. And that’s fine – you know that going into the season. That’s part of the reason many value Chris Johnson high in 2012. He’s reliable.
The main issue I have with this statement about Mathews is that many assume that this can (and will) be the only injury Mathews will sustain this entire season. It’s as if he’s met some sort of quota.
But the fact that he is already hurt doesn’t mean he’s “getting his injury out of the way”. It means that he’s already starting the season with a maximum number of games that he will play at 14 or 15.
That’s fine if you value Ryan Mathews because he’s talented. Just don’t assume he’ll play 14 or 15 games this year. Given his history, he’s bound to miss more time. But if you can get 12 or 13 top-tier weeks out of him, you’re valuing him correctly at the end of round 2 or early round 3 given his situation in San Diego.
Don’t use the injury as your logic for grabbing him. Use his talent as your reason.
3. If you draft Jamaal Charles, you should handcuff him with Peyton Hillis.
The reason you handcuff your best players is so that you have some insurance for them if they go down. And when you get that backup running back as a handcuff, your hope is to get him at the tail end of a deep draft.
The situation in Kansas City is not handcuffable. (Yeah, that’s a word. Don’t worry about it.) While Jamaal Charles is the kind of running back that you’d love to get some insurance for, the fact is, the insurance is way too costly.
Peyton Hillis is a low-end RB2 in most leagues. He’s being drafted in the fifth round of standard 12 team leagues. It’s for good reason, considering he could potentially receive over 200 carries in an offense that will run the ball a lot in 2012.
In fantasy football, Peyton Hillis isn’t a back up. He’s a starter. And because of that, you don’t want to pay a premium on a guy just so that he can sit on your bench.
There’s plenty of other talent in the 5th round that you can draft outside of Hillis. If you get Charles, it’s best that you simply forget the handcuffing strategy for him.
It’s not as though I think Hillis is a wasted pick. I just don’t like putting all my eggs in the Chiefs’ basket, as that won’t mitigate any risk. There’s no way I’ll have both of those running backs on my team this year.
4. You should get a tight end and quarterback early, taking a chance with running backs late.
Oh, yes. This is my favorite claim. Matthew Berry believes in this, and plenty of others will surely follow suit. This whole idea completely disregards the value of a position. With running backs being so thin, shouldn’t we want to get one that is going to produce?
Instead of getting too deep into this, I’ll pinpoint my rebuttal to Matthew Berry’s Draft Day Manifesto. He’s the biggest advocate of waiting on a running back.
My biggest issue with this philosophy is that it assumes nobody else will be drafting late running backs. Why can’t I, the person getting running backs early, still get running backs late as well? Sure, you’ll be able to get a couple and hope that one of them “hits” and becomes a top back…but I’m doing the exact same thing in my draft.
If you end getting a quarterback and tight end with your first two picks, the rest of your lineup is going to have some gaping holes. Don’t believe me? Go do a mock draft and follow Berry’s rules. It’s not pretty, especially with more fantasy owners becoming aware of the need to get elite running back talent.
5. Darren McFadden shouldn’t be drafted high because of his injury woes.
I just recently completed a draft for a friend. There were 12 teams, it was standard scoring, and most of them didn’t have a clue about what they were doing. Darren McFadden dropped to the middle of Round 2. Unfortunately, I had the first overall pick, so I wasn’t able to get him.
But the reason people passed up on him was because he “hadn’t played a full season his entire NFL career.” While that notion makes sense most of the time, I’m not sure that’s always the best logic to use in a case like McFadden’s.
In 2010, DMC played 13 games. And in those 13 games, he had 1,664 total yards and 10 touchdowns. He single handedly took teams to the playoffs.
The one thing that I have agreed with Matthew Berry on is the idea that fantasy football is a week-by-week game. It’s not as though you’re taking zero points at a running back position when McFadden doesn’t play. That’s why you have back ups. If you can get 13 games out of McFadden in 2012, and if he continues to play at the level he’s capable of playing at, you’re gaining spectacular value on your team.
I understand the logic in drafting consistency in the early rounds of your draft. That’s part of the reason I like Chris Johnson as much as I do. But there comes a point in time when you have to realize that 80% of elite back production is better than 100% of mediocre talent. That’s my point.
Get DMC, and even if he gives you 13 weeks of solid production, feel good about it.