The most valuable commodity in fantasy football is still the elite
running back. Notwithstanding this fact, once those five names are
gone, I prefer the wide receivers. Depending on your evaluation
of the running backs, you can certainly take one in the latter stages
of the first round. The names are typically
Le’Veon Bell, Joe
Chubb, and Todd
Gurley. Extending a little further we have Damien
Williams and Dalvin
Cook. All seven of these guys may very well be elite running
backs but I am not certain which ones and that worries me. To quote
myself from my previous article, “There is a cutoff after 1.05 because
the safety level of the running back drops such that the advantage
in having the elite RB no longer outweighs the safety of the WR.”
Bell hasn’t played football in almost two years. He is on
a new team with a weaker offensive line and a turnover prone quarterback.
The proficiency of the Steelers’ passing game helped propel
Bell to elite fantasy numbers. He’s not going to have the
same experience with the Jets, which caps his efficiency and his
Mixon is an elite talent, but plays behind a terrible offensive
line. The Bengals tried to improve by drafting Jonah Williams, but
unfortunately he was lost for the season in June. Adding injury
to injury, A.J. Green went down with torn ankle ligaments, further
depleting the offense. Mixon’s situation is concerning.
Conner is a mediocre talent that was never supposed to be the feature
back. He fell into that role by happenstance and excelled in the
Steelers’ system. Conner hasn’t been the pinnacle of
health in his career and has Jaylen Samuels lurking behind him to
steal passing down. Samuels has proven capable of being a three-down
back if asked. Conner will be an elite RB1 if he gets the volume,
but he has job security concerns.
Chubb is in a great offensive situation and is an excellent
runner, but he wasn’t used much in the passing game. The departure
of Duke Johnson opens the door for Chubb to see increased targets,
but Dontrell Hilliard appears to be ticketed for that role. Chubb’s
lack of receiving work caps his upside.
Gurley’s situation is well documented by now. How much are
the Rams going to use him? Will his knee hold up? Obviously these
are significant concerns.
Williams is a 27 year old former UDFA that has fewer than 300 career
touches. If he gets a 60% opportunity share in the Chiefs’
backfield, he will be an RB1. His job security is minimal and we
have no history of him holding up over a full season.
Cook has missed 17 of his first 32 professional games. He is running
behind a bad offensive line and the team spent a third round pick
Mattison. I don’t think Mattison is any good, but clearly the
Vikings do. Cook has injury concerns and a hint of usage concerns.
Target two of the top 7 WRs
It was necessary to address the running backs first as the concerns
regarding each of the them are why I want a wide receiver at picks
6 through 12 in Round 1. There is a clear big seven at the position.
You can separate them further however you please, but the top seven
WRs off the board in just about every league will be DeAndre Hopkins,
Davante Adams, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Every single one of them is talented
and playing in prolific offense. Every single one of them has put
together an elite WR1 season before. Every single one of them has
zero job security concerns. Every single one of them has zero target
competition concerns. You see where this is going.
Of course they aren’t all completely bulletproof. Hopkins
seems to be constantly playing through injuries. Adams has the highest
floor, but his ceiling isn’t as high as most of the others.
Beckham is on a new team and hasn’t played a full season since
2016. Julio has issues scoring touchdowns and is on the wrong side
of 30. Hill’s weekly floor is lower than you’d like
and there will always be lingering off the field concerns. Thomas
is entirely dependent on volume and has an even lower weekly floor
than Hill without the same ceiling. JuJu posted a 56.6% slot share
last season, which may decline now that he’s the clear WR1
with Antonio Brown off to Oakland.
The difference between the WR concerns compared to the RB concerns
is floor. Even if things go awry for the WRs, they will still
be excellent options. If things go wrong for the RBs, they may
be useless. I prefer to chase ceiling but in the first and second
rounds, for me to take on the risk of a low floor, the ceiling
needs to be worth it. In this case, all seven of these WRs have
the same ceiling – No.1 scorer in all of fantasy. The RB
ceilings aren’t necessarily higher than WR ceilings, but
the WRs are so much safer. I have a very difficult time envisioning
a scenario where any of the WRs bust without an injury.
Ideally, your goal is to get two of the big seven WRs if your
picking in the back half of Round 1. If you can’t, then
you absolutely should consider one of the “next seven”
running backs mentioned above. Both Mike Evans and Antonio Brown
are also on the table if you are overly concerned about the RBs,
but Evans and AB are not as safe as the big seven WRs so taking
an RB over them is justified.
In the fourth round, you’re looking at Derrick Henry, Sony
Michel, Phillip Lindsay, and Mark Ingram. None of these RBs are
without risk, but compare them to the quality of RBs going in
the third and fourth round in years past and you will see how
much better things are in 2019.
Even the fifth and sixth round RBs are of higher quality than
the third and fourth round RBs from previous years. Guys like
Tarik Cohen, Tevin Coleman, David Montgomery, James White, Kenyan
Drake, and Chris Carson are far from terrible options as your
RB2. If you can lock up two elite WRs, they can make up the deficit
you will experience at RB due to the viability of the mid-round
If all else fails and you have loaded up on WR and even thrown
in a QB or TE early, you can take solace in the fact that there
are RBs available in rounds 7-10 with a reasonable chance of breaking
out. Guys like Darrell Henderson, Jaylen Samuels, and Royce Freeman
all have high ceilings.
You can build your team in a number of different ways and be successful.
In most years, there has been a fear of missing out on running
backs when going WR heavy in the early rounds. You should feel
empowered to draft without that fear from the 6-12 spots in 2019.
There are running backs available throughout the draft. Trust
in the safety and upside of the elite WRs and know that when you
do, you have a significant advantage at WR over your competitors.
Most importantly, every draft room is different and your team
is your team. I can’t predict how your draft will unfold.
All I can do is give you confidence that you can execute whatever
strategy ends up being optimal, especially WR-WR.