On Twitter last week there was a huge discussion that took place regarding a draft strategy Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) had suggested in this RotoViz article about the St. Louis Rams’ backfield. He came up with different theories surrounding which Ram(s) running back(s) to draft in fantasy football in 2013.

Here are a few of Freedman’s strategies/theories:

  • If the Rams don’t draft a running back, you should look to draft both Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead in an RBBC situation until either one, hopefully, is given the starter’s job.
  • If the Rams were to draft a running back high in the NFL draft, such as an Eddie Lacy-type, then you would have to assume he’d be the guy and take him early, and then consider either Richardson or Pead later as a handcuff.
  • If the Rams were to wait to draft a running back until late in the NFL draft, like Zac Stacy, then you would stick with drafting both Richardson and Pead, then add Stacy later on.

In the world of fantasy football, we rely on the information we have now in a world of unknowns, which could change at any moment. Right now, what we do know is that the Rams have Pead and Richardson atop their running back depth chart, with nobody really knowing who’ll be the starter, if either, by the time the the regular season starts.

With that in mind, the MyFantasyLeague.com ADPs of both Pead and Richardson in 12-team leagues are reasonable enough that you could theoretically draft both. Right now Richardson’s ADP is that of an RB31 (96.04 overall), which is late 8th round/early 9th round territory. Pead’s ADP is RB45 (131.56 overall), and that’s about the mid-to-end of the 11th round in most leagues.

Looking at the ADPs of both Richardson and Pead, I feel that I could draft them both. Around Richardson’s ADP, you’re looking at running backs such as Mark Ingram, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Rashard Mendenhall, just to name a few.

Are any of those particular running backs in a better situation than Richardson? Mendenhall is probably the one guy who has the greatest shot at being the lead running back of his respective team, but the rest of the players listed don’t possess outstanding value over Richardson.

Then when you look at Pead’s ADP, running backs around his ADP area include DuJuan Harris, DeAngelo Williams, and Willis McGahee. If you had drafted Richardson earlier you’re going to place more value on Pead, but when your other options are Harris, Williams and McGahee you’re not missing out on a particularly more valuable running back, except, perhaps for Harris. That is, if he becomes the Packers top back.

If you were comparing the ADP of Richardson and Pead to that of non-RBs, then you could be looking at missing out on players that could actually help your team though. And that’s when you take your draft and the way it’s unfolding into consideration. If it makes sense to draft Pead, then you draft him and continue with the strategy. If it doesn’t and you have a need somewhere else, you have to fill it. Of course, the drawback is what happens if Pead becomes the guy? Then your earlier Richardson pick could be considered a “waste,” especially if you bypassed drafting a Tony Gonzalez (ADP 91.55), or Mike Williams (ADP 96.64) in order to grab Richardson.

The strategy I found most interesting of Freedman’s was the scenario in which the Rams draft a running back later in the draft, like Zac Stacy, who currently has an ADP of RB72 (187.79 overall). If going all-in on the Rams backfield after already drafting Richardson and Pead, you would then be committing three drafts picks to one position.

You’re essentially using three draft picks, two of them past the 11th round, to acquire one player you hope provides early-round potential. That’s not really a strategy that’s recommended by most fantasy football experts. In fact, some would even call this a “scared” method of drafting, and that’s fair.

You could say that it’s a strategy in which you would be drafting out of the fear of missing out on the one guy that does become the Rams starting running back. Matt Rittle (@FFRittle) kept hammering that point across. There’s a very good chance that you could wind up with three potentially useless running backs, if another name were to emerge and be named the Rams’ starting running back, and, well, that wouldn’t be good.

That’s one of the main drawbacks of this particular draft strategy. You’re dedicating so much space on your roster on the hope that one of three guys you draft becomes a productive fantasy player. Except, you don’t which one, if any, it will be.

Freedman used the Washington Redskins’ backfield situation last season as an example, where he drafted Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Alfred Morris. Helu and Royster were expected to be the main competitors for the starting running back position in Washington last season. Then Morris made a late charge and wound up becoming the Redskin running back to own. Freedman drafted all three, and admitted that the Helu and Royster picks were “wasted,” because Morris became the man, and all he really had to do was draft Morris. That same scenario could also unfold in St. Louis, so you have to be wary of it.

In fantasy football drafts, you don’t really want to waste draft picks, especially when you have so few of them. If the Rams take a running back late, and if you decide you want to draft the Rams’ backfield not knowing who will be the guy, you will be forced into a situation where you’re committing three roster spots for one running back.

That’s a strategy that will probably lead you to reach at a certain point. If you take Richardson, you’re then placing more value on Pead than any other owner in your draft. That’s another risk of this strategy that you have to take into consideration, as it could force you to devalue players.

Again, this isn’t a foolproof strategy; it has its flaws. Dedicating three picks to one position isn’t something that will net you a great return on your investment in the long run. This is more of a short-term draft strategy, in which you hope to turn three RB2/Flex-type players into an RB1.

The main reason why I want a piece of the Rams backfield this season is that Jeff Fisher-coached running backs typically go on to have productive fantasy football seasons. If you take a look at the chart in Freedman’s article, 14 out of Fisher’s 17 seasons, a top-20 fantasy running back was produced. That’s the temptation that comes with the Rams’ backfield this season in fantasy football.

When looking at Freedman’s arbitrage draft strategy suggestion, I would say it’s more of a draft strategy to utilize if it falls into your lap. Don’t target Richardson, Pead and Rams Running Back Draft Pick X; keep it in the back of your mind while the draft takes place.

Every league is different. For example, in a league where you have five bench spots, you can’t risk a “wasted” pick, especially if you have to reach to do it. I look at this Rams arbitrage draft strategy as something I would try once to see what happens, if my league settings allow it; not something I would make a staple of all my drafts.

I, personally, like trying out different strategies in fantasy football. And with mock draft season in full force, now would be a good time to experiment with this particular strategy. The time spent experimenting in mock drafts can help you find out what is and isn’t a sound drafting strategy.

We’ve seen what happened when I decided not to draft a running back until the 5th round of a mock draft. We can’t learn from our mistakes unless we do something wrong in the first place. And, you never really know what the final results might be.