I was diligently researching the fantasy footballs this summer and I may have uncovered the elusive Holy Grail in drafting strategy for running backs.
In looking at running back stats over the past 5 years I found a few statistical consistencies that could provide a radical new approach to drafting running backs in fantasy drafts for years to come.
What do these players all have in common?
- 2004- Corey Dillon – Patriots
- 2005- Lamont Jordan – Raiders
- 2006- Frank Gore – 49ers
- 2007- Jamal Lewis – Browns
- 2008- Michael Turner – Falcons, DeAngelo Williams-Panthers
If you guessed that they finished in the top-10 in fantasy points scored (non-ppr) by a running back in their respective seasons you would be absolutely correct. In fact none of these players finished lower than 7th in their respective season.
What does a closer look at these players reveal?
In 2004, Corey Dillon was playing his first season with the Patriots after coming over from the Bengals. Lamont Jordan signed a free agent deal prior to the 2005 season with the Raiders and that was his first season with them. Frank Gore finally beat out Kevan Barlow and was handed the RB job in 2006. Jamal Lewis signed a free agent deal prior to the 2007 season to come to the Browns. Michael Turner signed a free agent deal to come to the Falcons for 2008. In 2008, DeAngelo Williams was finally given the chance to be the lead back after struggling to unseat DeShuan Foster.
The revelation is that at least 1 top ten running back will be a player that switched teams or became the feature back an offense in that season.
How does this impact drafting strategy for the 2009 season?
Derrick Ward and Fred Taylor were the only 2 free agents to sign new contracts. Fred Taylor is in an awfully full backfield in New England so we can probably eliminate him from a top ten finish.
Pierre Thomas will see an expanded role in New Orleans this season. I also expect Darren McFadden to break out with a greater role.
If we go off past history, however, a free agent signee has finished in the top 10 in four of the last five seasons. Therefore my secret selection at running back for this upcoming season is Derrick Ward, although I would not mind Pierre Thomas on my squad either.
Oh, you probably thought I was going to wrap up my analysis here and call it a night. No way, we are only half way through my new draft theory.
What do these players have in common?
- 2004- Willis McGahee – Bills
- 2005- Mike Anderson – Broncos
- 2006 – Maurice Jones Drew – Jaguars
- 2007 – Adrian Peterson – Vikings
- 2008 – Matt Forte – Bears, Steve Slaton – Texans
This one is a little easier to figure out. I hope that you guessed correctly. They were all rookies in those respective seasons, except for Anderson who was coming back from injury and obscurity in 05.
Another fact: These backs also finished in the top-10 in fantasy points scored (non ppr) by a running back in their respective seasons. The revelation is that a rookie running back will finish in the top-10 in fantasy points scored by a running back.
What does this mean for your 2009 draft?
Draft as many rookies as you can because these guys are hard to figure out.
Knowshon Moreno usually comes off the board first. He is followed by Chris Wells, Donald Brown, LeSean McCoy, and Shonn Greene. That would probably be the order I would try to draft them in at least.
You should be able to pick up most of these backs in the 3rd round or later in your redraft league so pick as many of the above listed backs as you can. If you are in an auction style draft (if you are not, you don’t know what you are missing), you could probably easily pick up a backfield of Derrick Ward, Pierre Thomas, Knowshon Moreno, Chris Wells and Donald Brown all for the price of what you pay for 2 heavy hitters at the position.
I know what you are thinking. Man, I really don’t want my running back corp. to look like the group above at all. You have to think outside the box on this one and trust the research. (Ed. — That’s what Ninjas do, Socko!) I am going to personally test out this strategy in one of my drafts this season. I hope some of you will too.
If the strategy turns out to be a winner please, remember where you heard it first. (Ed., again — That’s S-O-C-K-O-N-F-L at www.chinstrapninjas.com, if you’re keeping score at home.)
If it’s a loser, well I don’t think Monty Python ever found the Holy Grail in his movie either, so it could have just merely been a mirage.