Taking a running back first in a Fantasy Football Draft has been the most commonly used strategy since the game became popular. Nothing can compare to a 3-down, workhorse running back that is guaranteed 20+ touches a game.
In the past few years, the most dominant receivers have snuck into the conversation. Antonio Brown in particular is arguably the safest Round One pick the past few years. With that said, the cream of the crop at the running back position provides too much upside with enough safety to bypass Brown in the first few picks.
I’ve been as staunchly against running backs as anyone. However, when looking at the Fantasy Football landscape as a whole this season, I think it is imperative to take a running back first from the top tier if possible.
Taking a running back first is a draft strategy that has its stipulations, just like every draft strategy. You have to still be flexible. For instance, if I’m drafting fifth and all four of the top running backs are gone, then I’m still taking Antonio Brown (and we will have a mock draft with a wide receiver first later).
2018 Mock Draft: Drafting a Running Back First pic.twitter.com/TEy2FRVeWk
— Michael Tomlin (@Tomlin3) August 9, 2018
One thing to remember with the Draft Wizard, is do not always worry about your grade. Did YOU like your team? I will go through and analyze each pick.
This exercise will show what happens when you get that top pick and take an elite running back first. I am using the normal league setup of 1QB/2RB/2WR/1FLEX/1TE/1K/1DEF with full Points Per Reception scoring. I am using the greatest Fantasy Football tool ever created, the Draft Wizard from FantasyPros.com.
2018 Mock Draft: Taking a Running Back First
Round 1, Pick 4: David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
As I have already said, the purpose of the strategy is to get one of the four elite, 3-down running backs. As you will see in my Running Back Primer, I am somewhat shocked that Johnson is being downgraded by some. He had one of the best individual Fantasy seasons ever in 2016 and I would say he might have a better offense around him now.
Round 2, Pick 21: Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Mike Evans was the top-ranked receiver available here. As we know, I like Evans this season about as much Jon Snow likes smiling. While usually I do not like going RB/RB to start, Freeman is too good of a value to pass up here. Even with missing two games last season, Freeman had almost 1,200 scrimmage yards and 8 touchdowns. I would say that is about his floor with Top-5 upside.
Round 3, Pick 28: Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
— FlurrySports (@FlurrySports) August 6, 2018
The problem with starting RB/RB is it forces my hand to go with a pass-catcher in Round 3. Luckily, I got just the one I was hoping for. Hill broke out last season and now has a quarterback in Patrick Mahomes with a Brett Favre-esque arm to give him plenty of deep ball chances.
Round 4, Pick 45: Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
As I have preached in the past couple of seasons, getting one of the elite tight ends not named Rob Gronkowski is usually part of my draft plan. To me, the position is the opposite of quarterbacks: the drop-off to the replacement level guys is massive. So I’m grabbing Olsen here so that the position is an afterthought the rest of the draft.
Round 5, Pick 52: Michael Crabtree, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Only two players have at least 8 receiving touchdowns each of the last three seasons: Antonio Brown and Michael Crabtree. In fact, Crabtree has the fifth most scoring catches over that time frame behind the top three wide-outs by ECR and Doug Baldwin. Now, he joins a Ravens’ team that completely revamped their receiving corps and he is the only Red Zone threat. I’m betting on double-digit scores for the former Red Raider.
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Round 6, Pick 69: Chris Hogan, WR, New England Patriots
Round 7, Pick 76: Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets
These are my two favorite Wide Receiver breakouts and sleepers and I am willing to reach on them both. I know, their ADP is much lower than these picks. But personally, I am still getting value on them within my own rankings. As I said in my Draft Mistakes post, don’t expect someone to be there at their ADP. If you want someone, get him whenever they become a good value.
Round 8, Pick 93: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders
Round 9, Pick 100: Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
These two backs are the Yin and Yang for how I think you should build your mid-to-late-round roster. Marshawn Lynch is an older, more established back that is the unquestioned starter and due to get the majority of work on a good offense. He has a high floor, but low ceiling. Kerryon Johnson is a flavor-of-the-week rookie that is behind on the depth chart, as of now. However, he has the skill-set to break out and could end up being an incredible steal in the later rounds. He has a low floor, but decently high ceiling. I want both of these types on my bench so that I have a safety play during bye weeks (Lynch) and a lottery ticket that could be an every-week starter (Johnson).
Round 10, Pick 117: Ty Montgomery, RB, Green Bay Packers
Round 11, Pick 124: Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
The other type of player I’m drafting late is the pass-catching running back. I exclusively play in PPR leagues and these guys get under-valued year in and year out. Montgomery is more of a risk since his backfield is crowded as of now. However, I think one of Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams will take a back seat and the former wide receiver will resume all third-down snaps. Having Aaron Rodgers’ third-down back is a great pick-up in Round 10. Bernard is under-valued. Every. Single. Year.
Did you know that over his five year career now, he averages 12.25 PPR points per game? His finishes at the position starting with last year going backward: RB27, RB40 (missed six games), RB16, RB17 and RB13. He is Flex-worthy even with Joe Mixon starting and should Mixon miss time, Bernard has proven that he can handle a full load (at least 90 yards rushing every time he has at least 18 rushing attempts).
Round 12, Pick 141: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
The way the draft worked out, I was going to be the last person to take a quarterback no matter what. This means I am probably going to be streaming the position. With Luck falling all the way to Round 12, it was too much upside to pass up. Should he not be ready by Week 1, I can just pick up the next best guy I would have drafted anyway.
Andrew Luck back 👀🔥 pic.twitter.com/r1B5Wpk8uA
— FootBasket.com (@FootBasketcom) August 4, 2018
Round 13, Pick 148: Los Angeles Chargers D/ST
Round 14, Pick 165: Harrison Butker, K, Kansas City Chiefs
I am streaming defenses and kickers are a crapshoot. The Chargers open with the Chiefs and Mahomes, who while I think will be really good will also get sacked a ton and throw some picks. Then they get Buffalo and whatever awful quarterback they choose, so I will have a lot of Chargers’ shares to open the season.
My Running Back First team analysis: pic.twitter.com/5bRLJ9JTYv
— Michael Tomlin (@Tomlin3) August 9, 2018
So that’s a path that you can build a strong roster drafting a running back first. The best thing to do is perform your own mock drafts to see the best route for you.
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