by Nick Ercolano
June 26, 2019
If you play fantasy football, at some point in time, you've probably heard the phrase:
You can't win your fantasy league in the first round, but you can certainly lose it. I believe this to be true. There are very rarely players that transcend every other player at a specific position, single-handedly winning you your fantasy football league, so it's very hard to win your league in the first round.
On the flip side, losing your first, second, even third round pick, or having them bust is a MASSIVE blow to your fantasy team and puts you in a major hole relative to the other teams in your league.
It's the reason that one of the biggest lessons I've learned over the last year or two is to be as risk-averse as possible in the early rounds of seasonal leagues. You want to shoot for upside, do it later in drafts. Make sure that your best players, the ones accounting for 50, 60, 70% of your fantasy points on a weekly basis are actually going to do that for you.
Here's the kicker. I went back over the L5 years, looked at ADP data and looked at the finishes of running backs in fantasy. On average, over the last five seasons, 50% of running backs drafted as a top-12 fantasy RB, finish outside of the top-12 at the end of that year. So, 6 of the top 12 drafted this year won't finish inside the top 12. On average, 4.2 will finish outside of the top 18. On average over 3.5 will finish outside of the top 24. I'd consider anything outside of the top 18 an absolute bust if you're drafting them as a top-12 back. Some were due to injuries, some simply not good and fell into an RBBC. But these are facts, big facts, derived from manual research. Straight from these fingers.
Today we're going to look at the riskiest running backs picks inside the first three rounds of 2019 fantasy football drafts. The ADP is from the FFPC, high-stakes leagues so these are legit, and they are from the last two weeks of draft, so we're not being skewed with guys who were taken high in February or some shit.
Right now, there are 18 running backs being taken in the first three rounds. So, literally half of the picks in the first three rounds are running backs. Every RB1, the top 12 are being taken at the 2.08 (in 12 team leagues) or earlier.
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I'm confident in saying we were the first place in the industry telling you to start fading Todd Gurley in the first round of drafts, when we had Dr. Jesse Morse on back in February or March. Hopefully, we saved you a lot of money in bestball drafts.
Everything you knew about Todd Gurley, about Georgia Todd Gurley, about 2017 and 2018, Todd Gurley, it doesn't matter anymore. He's a soon-to-be 25-year old running back with arthritis. You hate to see it.
The problem with it, as Dr. Morse said is that it's not going away. You can treat it, you can let it rest, but it doesn't heal. So, much of the problem you hear with people who are still buying Gurley - "Well even if you take 25% of his production away - he's still a top-8 RB" or whatever. Like, that's not how this is going to work.
There are a million conflicting reports. Let's make a timeline.
The problem with Gurley is exactly what happened in Week 15, where out of nowhere it became inflamed, then he misses two games and his touches thereafter are all over the map. With this arthritis, it could inflame at ANY time during this season. So, it's obviously smart to keep him out of the entire preseason. The more time he spends playing against NFL defenders, the more likely it is to happen. And do you think defenders won't be targeting that arthritis? Stop.
So, will it happen in Week 1, Week 3, Week 10. I don't know. But I see one-of-two things happening with Gurley.
So, with that being said, Gurley is off my board in the first three rounds where I want to go as risk-averse as possible. If you take Gurley with your 2nd round, and the knee predictably acts up, you're going to be kicking yourself... because we literally know what we're dealing with.
Leonard Fournette - Jacksonville Jaguars
Current ADP: RB14, 3.05
Devonta Freeman - Atlanta Falcons
Current ADP: RB17, 3.11
Le'Veon Bell - New York Jets
Adam Gase as coach, terrible offense, questionable offensive line, away from game for a long time, off-the-field bullshit.
Damien Williams - Kansas City Chiefs
Tiny sample size, never played a full 16 games, never more than 50 carries in a regular season. UDFA, 27 years old. Easily replaceable in the Chiefs backfield if he struggles.
James Conner - Pittsburgh Steelers
Losing passing down work to Jaylen Samuels. Drafted Benny Snell. JuJu tackled inside-the-two five times last year - lot of TD luck for Conner - more GL carries in 2018 than Bell's L3 seasons in PIT.
Dalvin Cook - Minnesota Vikings
Injury concerns (non-predictive though). Drafted Mattison in 3rd.
Mack, A. Jones, Kerryon - Lower risk all may fall into RBBCs, but I think the hype of an RBBC is more overblown than reality for all 3.
by Nick Ercolano
October 26, 2020
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