Fantasy football is a game of managing risk and reward when selecting your assets. Running backs are the most volatile stock. Age, workload, injuries, fumbles; all of this can really put a runner in a bad place.
Last year, many (including myself) selected Eddie Lacy in the first round. I did it confidently, but it did not work out very well.
Over the years many people have drafted running backs in the first two rounds of fantasy football drafts. The theory being that the top running backs are going to get a vast majority of the team's touches (carries+receptions) in a given season.
With the lifespan of quality running backs shortening, and the emergence of the running back by committee (RBBC), most running backs carry some kind of risk, even at the very top of the draft.
A New Approach
The risk at the running back position has led to many adopting the ZERO RB approach. Highlighted here by Michael Salfino of Yahoo Sports, the ZERO RB draft strategy helps manage that risk.
Basically, ZERO RB means that you don't select any running backs in the first 3 rounds. Instead, draft elite wide receivers where their production usually matches the draft spot. For running backs, you wait to draft until the later rounds and draft a lot.
Zero RB is catching on with a lot of fantasy football players, which means that this may be the year to use that RB/RB strategy in the first two rounds. In several mocks, drafting in the 7-10 range, I've been able to draft Ezekiel Elliott and Lamar Miller. Or Elliott and Adrian Peterson.
Having a draft strategy is very important going into the draft, but just as important is having flexibility. However, just like in the NFL, draft what the board and your rankings bring you. If you take a wide receiver in the first round just because he is a wide receiver, you may have missed the chance to get an elite running back and that same wide receiver a round later.
Let the draft come to you.
Some of my favorite late round running backs this year are: Rashad Jennings, Melvin Gordon and Duke Johnson.
Running Back Ranking
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