Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
2015 Draft Prep Guide
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

2012 Draft Prep: RB tiers & strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

• Dave Richard's tiers and strategies: Quarterback | Wide receiver | Tight end | Kicker and DST

There's no such thing as too many running backs.

That's a mantra not just for Draft Day. It's a mantra that applies to real NFL football just as much as it applies to Fantasy.

NFL teams have discovered that going with multiple backs as part of a rushing scheme carries positive results. No one player gets relied upon too often and in some cases players stay fresher. And backs with different skill sets can be used in different ways.

2012 Draft Prep essentials
Fantasy News
Rankings | Top 200 | Player Profiles
CBSSports.com Draft Averages
Mock Drafts | Projections | Draft Index

As it stands now only 12 running backs have a legitimate chance to get close to 20 touches (carries plus catches) on a weekly basis, and that includes Houston's Arian Foster, who will probably share work to some degree with backup Ben Tate.

Twenty touches is a dwindling benchmark, but it's not dying as quickly as the 300-carry barometer. Shoot, it's not dying even as quickly as the number of players getting 250 carries per season. Only two running backs topped 300 carries in 2011, a dozen had 250-plus carries and 19 had 200-plus carries. Those who got to 200 carries were obviously productive -- 15 had at least 1,000 rush yards -- but we're not talking about a lot of running backs here.

Playing time isn't the only issue; staying healthy is an obvious factor. Of the 34 running backs that had at least 100 Fantasy points in standard formats last year, a dozen played 16 games. Fifteen played in 14 or 15 games (which Fantasy owners should be willing to accept with glee). Seven, or roughly one fifth of the rushers we're talking about, played in 13 or fewer. Remember, these are the backs that actually did something! We're not talking about guys we lost for much of the year like Jamaal Charles and Jahvid Best.

Meanwhile, quarterbacks are throwing it more than ever. Last year's 117,601 pass attempts were an NFL record. The 745 passing touchdowns were second-best. Carries by running backs in 2011 effectively were flat year over year with 13,971 (51 more than in 2010), and while the 400 rushing touchdowns scored last season sounds nice, quarterbacks made up 67 of them and receivers and tight ends tallied eight ground scores. That means running backs totaled 325 rushing touchdowns -- roughly 10 per team!

And if that's not enough to make you ill, we have the special treat of several highly productive running backs coming back from major injuries in 2012 and a couple of rushers already hurt this summer. Guys we've been counting on like Charles, Ryan Mathews, Trent Richardson, Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden (we won't even count Tim Hightower, Rashard Mendenhall and Knowshon Moreno) aren't "sure things" because of the injury risk involved. In the case of Peterson, he might not even be ready for Week 1; Charles and McFadden should be.

Consistency Counts
The average Fantasy point total per game among Top 12 RBs in 2011 was 12.9 (standard scoring). Here are the players who had at least 13 Fantasy points in 40 pct. or more of games played.
Player No. of 13+ FPTS Pct. Player No. of 13+ FPTS Pct.
Ray Rice 13 81% Michael Bush 7 44%
LeSean McCoy 11 73% Kevin Smith 3 43%
Arian Foster 9 69% Adrian Peterson 5 42%
Maurice Jones-Drew 11 69% Matt Forte 5 42%
Marshawn Lynch 9 60% Ahmad Bradshaw 5 42%
Fred Jackson 6 60% Reggie Bush 6 40%
Darren McFadden 4 57% Frank Gore 6 40%
Ryan Mathews 7 50%      

Despite these headaches, no one will punt on taking running backs. They're still a huge part of Fantasy rosters, partially because the productive ones are so coveted and everyone grabs for potential studs.

And that's the basis of Rule 1 for running backs this season: Make like a warehouse store and get them in bulk. Say you're in a 12-team, 14-round draft. You'll need a quarterback and you might take a backup. You'll need two starting receivers and probably two more for depth. You'll need a tight end, kicker and DST and don't have to take backups at those positions. Add that up and you'll be able to slot five roster spots for running backs -- six if you don't take a backup quarterback.

By bulking up, you're essentially creating an exclusive pool of talent to pick from all season. Naturally, one or two backs will stand out from the rest, but at the very least you're giving yourself a chance to develop some trade bait while also setting as strong a lineup as possible from week to week. There could be some close-call roster decisions along the way but also some pretty good depth, which is what this is all about. Trust me on this one -- in your darkest hour you don't want to hit waivers on a Wednesday night and settle for a John Kuhn or Delone Carter to start for you because you only drafted three or four backs and byes/injuries/rotten play have crushed you. Now more than ever, success in Fantasy begins with having lots of running backs at your disposal.

As for when to get them, here's a good, general attack plan: Have at least one after three picks, two after five picks and four after eight picks. There are other ways to go about getting them (see below), but this basic guideline should help.

Handcuffs -- not just for cops

If you're drafting a lot of running backs, one of them might be an insurance policy. As we said, roughly 20 percent of the running backs with at least 100 Fantasy points played in 13 or fewer games last year. Especially if you go with a back with a significant injury history, drafting his real-life backup is critical.

More importantly, knowing when to expect your handcuff(s) to be taken should be part of your plan. You should check in with our draft averages before you make your picks to get an idea of where all the backups are going, then be prepared to draft accordingly. Remember, not all backups are created equal: The backup for Chris Johnson (Javon Ringer) won't be picked as soon as, say, the backup for Adrian Peterson (Toby Gerhart). Keep in mind that the top backup running backs are also expected to be productive enough to use in a pinch as a flex, so other owners could be on the lookout for the same back(s).

Last point: Think about how important handcuffing your running backs is to you before taking a rusher with one of those desirable backups. Are you willing to spend a pick in Round 8 or 9 on such a player? It might be a deal-breaker to take a back that requires such an investment just a handful of picks later. It varies from person to person; I don't mind spending a relevant pick on a backup if I really want to protect my top rusher (getting Taiwan Jones for Darren McFadden in Round 11, for instance) but I wouldn't want to draft several top backs with injury concerns. One is enough for the first few rounds.

Ready or not?

Injuries made Fantasy running backs tough to love last year, but it's also making them tough to trust this summer. As of early August, here are the players you need to keep tabs on, along with their key teammates.

Player Injury Injury
Date
Ready for the season? Key backup
Ryan Mathews Shoulder Aug. 9, 2012 Questionable Ronnie Brown
Trent Richardson Knee Aug. 6, 2012 Questionable Montario Hardesty
Adrian Peterson ACL Dec. 24, 2011 Questionable Toby Gerhart
DeMarco Murray Ankle Dec. 11, 2011 Probable Felix Jones
Darren McFadden Foot Oct. 23, 2011 Probable Mike Goodson
Fred Jackson Leg Nov. 20, 2011 Probable C.J. Spiller
Jamaal Charles ACL Sept. 18, 2011 Probable Peyton Hillis
Beanie Wells Knee Unknown Probable Ryan Williams
Ryan Williams Patella Aug. 19, 2011 Probable Beanie Wells
Mikel Leshoure Achilles, hamstring Aug. 2011 & 2012 Probable Kevin Smith
Jahvid Best Head Oct. 16, 2011 Out (PUP list) Kevin Smith,
Mikel Leshoure
Rashard Mendenhall ACL Jan. 1, 2011 Doubtful Isaac Redman
Tim Hightower ACL Oct. 23, 2011 Questionable Roy Helu, Evan Royster

The injuries that jarred Fantasy owners the most this August happened to Ryan Mathews and Trent Richardson. On Mathews' first preseason carry he broke his clavicle and now questions about when he'll be ready and what kind of shape he'll be in when he is ready kill his Fantasy value. But Mathews, who has missed six games in two seasons, didn't suffer an injury that will cost him the year and might not even take away any games. The bigger issue is whether or not his own coaches who talked him up before the season can still rely on him for 20 touches per week. That seems highly unlikely since he couldn't last two carries in his first preseason game, but he'll have some big games when he is on the field. He can't be ignored and is worth taking as a second running back if you take one in Round 1 or a first running back if you go with a quarterback or Calvin Johnson with your top pick. He should get taken in Round 2.

Richardson falls into the same boat. The Browns have made it clear that the arthroscopic surgery he had in early August was minor and that the recovery will be a snap. Richardson has the same "trust" issue as Mathews: Will the coaches let him have 20 touches every week when he's got a knee that's been repaired twice in six months (he had another arthroscopic surgery in February). But like Mathews, Richardson's upside can't be ignored in that he's in an offense without a reliable backup rusher and he could get fed plenty of carries when the matchup dictates. And like Mathews, Richardson's a good second-round pick.

If I had to pick one, I'd go with the younger back who didn't get hurt playing preseason football.

Extreme strategies

Maybe you've gotten this far and you're thinking "Omigosh I have to hoard running backs as soon as possible in my draft!" Maybe you also feared the Y2K bug back in the day. While I'll tell you that there's no need to panic for running backs as many good ones will last into Round 6, I won't rule out a strategy where you gun for running backs with all of your first five picks and six of your first nine picks. Here's a mock team in a 12-team league picking fifth overall:

Round 1: Chris Johnson Round 2: Fred Jackson Round 3: Adrian Peterson
Round 4: Doug Martin Round 5: BenJarvus Green-Ellis Round 6: Torrey Smith
Round 7: Reggie Wayne Round 8: Ben Roethlisberger Round 9: Toby Gerhart
Round 10: Tony Gonzalez Round 11: Laurent Robinson Round 12: Jon Baldwin
Round 13: Ravens DST Round 14: Robbie Gould  

You might find yourself drooling after checking out these running backs. That's some immense talent. Of course, there aren't any elite receivers (every team should have a crack at two much less one). The quarterback and tight end choices are satisfactory thanks to the deep talent pools at each position, but neither one is considered great. With this gameplan an owner would basically be willing to go cheap on quarterback and tight end and hope to catch a lucky break at receiver all in exchange for a stellar running back corps. This strategy probably would play better in smaller leagues and certainly in standard-scoring formats.

But maybe you've made it this far and you're thinking "Running backs are overrated. It's a passing league! I'm going to wait on them." Maybe you're still waiting for Apple stock to get to a dirt cheap price. With receiving talent being what it is and quarterbacks putting up more points than ever before, maybe your best move is to chill out and wait at least four rounds before collecting running backs. Here's a mock team in a 12-team league picking eighth overall:

Round 1: Drew Brees Round 2: Larry Fitzgerald Round 3: Victor Cruz
Round 4: Aaron Hernandez Round 5: Reggie Bush Round 6: Stevan Ridley
Round 7: Beanie Wells Round 8: Jonathan Stewart Round 9: Ronnie Hillman
Round 10: Alfred Morris Round 11: Brandon LaFell Round 12: Mario Manningham
Round 13: Packers DST Round 14: Jason Hanson  

Strategy dictated by draft slot?

Where you pick in Round 1 might determine what your best running back draft strategy is. If you're picking in the first three then you have a pretty clear path to an ultra-capable rusher with ridiculous potential. Following that up with more stud running backs or quality talents at other positions is up to you -- probably a bit more freedom if you're in that range.

If you're picking elsewhere in Round 1, a quarterback might be your safest choice. Then you can draft running backs accordingly, perhaps waiting a couple of rounds for one while picking up studs at other positions.

If either extreme strategy piqued your interest, consider where you draft as a guide in figuring out which one is right for you.

Going wild for rookies

Every year rookie running backs get Fantasy owners' juices flowing. They all have potential and are drafted because of it. Last season I was gung-ho on Mark Ingram, but a tough start to his season and foot injuries cost him the chance to put up sizable numbers. Other Fantasy pundits have fallen in love with first-year running backs year after year, but no rookie rusher has truly lived up to preseason expectations since Adrian Peterson back in 2007.

This year, the most talented rookie running back since Peterson joins the NFL: Trent Richardson. Picked third overall by the Browns, Richardson was expected to be a major workhorse until he had another knee procedure before the preseason games kicked in. That makes him risky, but a guy blessed with his skill set and potential to score every week can't be ignored. Richardson has the makings of being everyone's dream running back, but the track record of first-round backs in their rookie seasons haven't been great lately. Nonetheless, someone in every league will get enamored with Richardson and take him with a Top 15 pick. It's up to you if you're a believer or not.

Here's a look at this year's draft-worthy rookie running backs, listed in order of how they're ranked (as of late August).

Player Team Projection Battle for snaps Drafted?
Trent Richardson CLE 1,300 total yards, 7 TDs Montario Hardesty Top 25
Doug Martin TB 1,200 total yards, 5 TDs LeGarrette Blount Top 60
David Wilson NYG 650 total yards, 4 TDs Ahmad Bradshaw Round 9-10
Ronnie Hillman DEN 750 total yards, 4 TDs Willis McGahee Round 10-11
Alfred Morris WAS 650 total yards, 4 TDs Depends on Mike Shanahan Round 10-11
Robert Turbin SEA 500 total yards, 2 TDs Marshawn Lynch Round 11-12
Isaiah Pead STL 550 total yards, 1 TD Steven Jackson Late pick
Lamar Miller MIA 400 total yards, 1 TD Reggie Bush Late pick

Running to tiers

If you're looking for preparation beyond rankings, consider placing running backs into groups based on expected statistical production. These groups are thus called tiers. Assuming you're not trying an extreme strategy, the idea is to get at least one back from every significant tier or as many backs from as many high tiers as possible. During your draft, if you see a tier about to dry up and it's your turn to take someone, it's probably a good idea to pick the last remaining rusher from the tier.

This is the tier chart I'll use in my drafts, as of late August.

Elite tier Near-Elite Tier Excellent Tier Near-Excellent Tier
1500+ total yards, 10+ TDs 1300+ total yards, 8+ TDs 1100+ total yards, 7+ TDs 1000+ total yards, 7+ TDs
Arian Foster Chris Johnson Maurice Jones-Drew Adrian Peterson
LeSean McCoy Darren McFadden Michael Turner Darren Sproles
Ray Rice Marshawn Lynch Ahmad Bradshaw Doug Martin
  DeMarco Murray Matt Forte BenJarvus Green-Ellis
  Trent Richardson Jamaal Charles
  Fred Jackson   Stevan Ridley
  Ryan Mathews   Frank Gore
  Steven Jackson    
Very Good Tier Good Tier High-end backups More backups
1000+ total yards, 6+ TDs 900+ total yards, 5+ TDs    
Shonn Greene DeAngelo Williams Toby Gerhart Pierre Thomas
Donald Brown Cedric Benson Jonathan Stewart Ronnie Hillman
Willis McGahee Mikel Leshoure Mark Ingram Alfred Morris
Reggie Bush Ryan Williams Michael Bush LeGarrette Blount
Kevin Smith Isaac Redman Ben Tate Evan Royster
Peyton Hillis Beanie Wells C.J. Spiller Daniel Thomas
    Rashad Jennings Taiwan Jones
Jonathan Stewart   David Wilson Robert Turbin
    Jacquizz Rodgers
      Vick Ballard

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Report: Buccaneers bringing in Dan Connolly for a visit
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(9:11 pm ET) Former Patriots offensive guard Dan Connolly will visit the Buccaneers on Tuesday, per a report by Fox's Ross Jones, citing a source. 

Connolly has played in 87 games for the Patriots in the last seven years and hasn't played in fewer than 13 games in a season since 2008. 


Steelers RB DeAngelo WIlliams says signing was easy decision
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(9:03 pm ET) After playing his first nine seasons with the Panthers, running back DeAngelo Williams signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Steelers this offseason. Among his many thoughts on the signing, he called it an easy decision, according to the Sporting News.

“I didn’t know they wanted me. I had never been on a visit before,” Williams said. “I was with the same organization for nine years. When I got the call and they said, 'hey we want to bring you in for a visit' I took it as that. Had they said we wanted to bring you in for a signing I would have had a different mindset. I had no idea what was going to transpire when I got here.”

Williams added that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get the team to the next level.

“It’s the opportunity to take maybe one or two reps or whatever it takes to make this team better,” Williams said. “That is what I will do. I want to make it to a Super Bowl and win it. I know this team has that potential and they can do it.

“Coming here was an easy decision. This is a Super Bowl contending team. Every veteran out there, veteran or rookie, they want to go to the Super Bowl and win it and get the best opportunity. I think the best opportunity is here in Pittsburgh.”

Williams has rushed for 6,846 yards on 1,432 carries with 46 rushing touchdowns in his career.


Lions WR Golden Tate doesn't feel pressure due to loss of Suh
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(8:49 pm ET) Although Lions wide receiver Golden Tate feels the loss of Ndamukong Suh is a blow to the team, he doesn't believe it puts more pressure on the offense, reports ESPN. 

When asked specifically about the subject, Tate was clear about his thoughts.

"No, I don't think it adds any pressure," Tate said by phone Monday. "We just need to be who we are. We know that we have a lot of weapons all over the field. We just need to reach our potential each and every week.

"We just need to go out there and play fundamentally sound football and I have no doubt our defense is going to be really good again this year and we just got to do our jobs. There's no pressure on anyone but to be ourselves and to play good football."

Additionally, Tate recognizes that Suh was a game-changing player for the Lions, but he likes the addition of Haloti Ngata.

"Obviously, losing Suh is a big hit," Tate said. "I don't care what team you are, he's the guy that can change the game. Change an opposing offense's game plan. He affects the game so much. But with that being said, I'm thankful to have [had] the opportunity to play with him for a year and be a part of something special. But the show must go on.

"The guy we got, [Haloti] Ngata, is a heck of a player. I think it's a good pickup for us. I know he has a past with coach Caldwell so he knows the ins and outs of the system, probably. But we're ready to move forward. We can't live in the past and football season must still go on. We're preparing to have a great year and build from last year."

The 26-year-old stated that he plans on focusing on the intricacies of the offensive playbook heading into this season.

"One thing I really want to focus on is learning the playbook a little bit better," Tate said. "I felt like I knew it for the most part, but details, running the plays exactly how Joe Lombardi draws them up, could help us win more games and create more opportunities for myself and our team."

Tate finished his first season with the Lions catching 99 passes for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns.


Report: LB Rolando McClain ends Patriots' visit without contract
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(7:52 pm ET) After visiting the Patriots on Monday, linebacker Rolando McClain and the team did not agree to terms on a contract, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. The same report states that the visit was a positive one.

McClain played in 13 games last season for the Cowboys, collecting 81 total tackles and one sack. Over his four-year career, the 25-year-old has accumulated 327 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, 23 passes defensed, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.


Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu looks forward to being healthy
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:56 pm ET) Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu believes that he is regaining his health and he's ready to make an impact this season, according to the team's website.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been healthy,” Mathieu said Monday. “Last year I felt like I took a back seat. I played well my rookie year and then last year it was kind of, eh, I was there but I wasn’t there. This (year) is more important for me because I really want to let everyone know I’m back and I can still make some plays.”

Mathieu tore his ACL and LCL toward the end of the 2013 season. He recently said that the comeback was "way harder than I thought."

Head coach Bruce Arians talked about how Mathieu was not himself last season.

“You saw him fight through it last year,” Arians said. “He was not the player he was used to (being) and it was very frustrating for him.”

Mathieu was aware of the chatter from the outside world and he is using that as motivation going forward.

“You hear people talk and I had time to listen to them talk, so it’s like … I hear it,” Mathieu said. “Like I said, I didn’t feel like I made enough plays last year to help our team. I am looking forward to this year because I know I can do it.”

The 22-year-old has registered 106 total tackles, one sack, three interceptions and one forced fumble in 26 games played during his two-year career.


Saints plan to rework Jahri Evans, Cameron Jordan contracts
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:27 pm ET) Saints coach Sean Payton said that the team has a plan in place to rework guard Jahri Evans' contract to help create salary cap space, per ESPN's Mike Triplett

Evans is scheduled to make $6.8 million salary in 2015 and cost $11 million against the cap. 

The team might also extend defensive end Cameron Jordan's contract. Jordan is entering the last year of his contract and is scheduled to make $6.969 million this year.


Rams have agreed to terms with OL Tim Barnes
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:16 pm ET) The Rams have agreed to terms with offensive lineman Tim Barnes, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The one-year deal has a maximum value of $1 million. 

Barnes recently visited had a visit with the Chiefs before signing with the Rams. The 26-year-old spent all three of his previous seasons with the Rams, starting four of the 45 games he appeared in.


Report: Brandon Tate visits Chiefs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:14 pm ET) Free agent wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Tate visited the Chiefs on Monday, according to a report from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, citing a source.

Tate had 17 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown for the Bengals last year. He also had a combined 571 yards in kick and punt returns. 


Lions' Riley Reiff open to playing right tackle
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:10 pm ET) Lions coach Jim Caldwell said that Riley Reiff might start at right tackle next season. 

Reiff has started 32 games at left tackle over the last two seasons. The Lions aren't sure that last year's right tackle LaAdrian Waddle will be fully recovered from knee surgery, and backup tackle Cornelius Lucas is better on the left side. 

Reiff told the Daily Republic he doesn't care where he plays. 

 "I like playing, and wherever they want to put me, that's fine. I'll play," he said.


Broncos OL Michael Schofield looking to compete for starting job
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) Broncos offensive lineman Michael Schofield is ready to come in and compete for a starting job this season, reports the Denver Post.

After not dressing for a single game as a rookie, Schofield added weight and he looks forward to fighting for a starting job.

"I am going in there with that mentality. In the NFL everybody is competing," Schofield said during a road trip to see family in Illinois. "They are looking for someone to step up and take over. I want to make that jump."

The third-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2014 struggled with weight issues, but he is now up to 305 pounds. He also recognized that his pass protection needs improvement.

"Personally, I felt there were reasons I wasn't out there (for games). I wasn't consistent enough in pass pro (protection). And my weight was really fluctuating," Schofield said.

Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak believes that the team's zone-blocking scheme can help Schofield elevate his game, and Schofield agrees.

"We like the Schofield kid, so we'll see. We think he's got some flexibility (in where he can play)," Kubiak said. "It will be very competitive."

"I feel like I am better suited for this," Schofield said. "You have to be able to reach block, and I feel the steps required fit me better."


 
 
 
Rankings