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Why you should draft a running back in the first round of your fantasy football draft

Of course there are a few caveats…always caveats!

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Since I started playing this maddening game in the mid 90’s there has always been a couple axioms regarding the first round: (1) draft a RB in the first round and (2) don’t draft a QB in the first round. To this day these axioms stand and I’m going to tell you why. Of course there are caveats.

Yes you should draft a RB in the first round…if one of the top X is available. ‘X’ of course changes from year to year. Same with whether to draft a QB in the first round…it depends on your draft position...o This year is no different for these axioms to ring true. Here’s how I’ve determined what RBs you should draft in the first round in 2018 and when it may be the time to pick a QB.

I started with the list of top 12 scorers from last season (see top 25 below). Here’s the position breakdown for the top 12, essentially those players scoring like first rounders.

Top 12 breakdown by position:

QB: 4 of 12 (33%)

RB: 5 of 12 (42%)

WR: 3 of 12 (25%)

ESPN Fantasy Football

Those numbers certainly support taking a RB in the first round but it doesn’t explain not taking a QB. If you take the analysis out to the top 25 the numbers change somewhat.

QB: 12 of 25 (48%)

RB: 7 of 25 (28%)

WR: 6 of 25 (24%)

This should be an eye opener for everyone. Almost half of the top 25 are QBs. Since there is typically a maximum of 12 teams in a league you have a pretty good chance of getting a QB much latter in the draft. While I think you can get a good QB in the first round I would say never go earlier than the third round. Hell I got Matt Ryan in the 12th round two seasons ago. He had a big year obviously.

Waiting until the fourth or fifth round to draft a QB means you will most likely get the top QB on the board but I’m betting you get a top six or seven QB. So would I ever draft a QB in the first round? Probably not but my advice to you is you better be pretty sure your guy is going to be top five if you pull the trigger.

Are you willing to pull the trigger on Russell Wilson in the first this season? How about our QB Cam Newton? Tom Brady? Notice Drew Brees is not on the list. His offense went run heavy last season. Who really saw that coming? Final point is that you might be able to get your top QB in the second round or even later.

Moving back to RB the numbers indicate that you should consider at least five RBs in the first round but not too many after that for the second round. Here’s a look at one consensus draft rankings for the top 12, this one by ESPN. Notice not a single QB. It’s seven RBs and five WRs.

So let’s assume these are the seven top RBs to consider in the first.

LeVeon Bell

Todd Gurley

David Johnson

Zeke Elliot

Saquon Barkley

Alvin Kamara

Kareem Hunt

So if you have a top seven draft position your decision becomes pretty easy. All seven of those guys, if they remain healthy, should not only have good seasons but could vie for the No. 1 position. Of course staying healthy is a key. Just ask all the owners that drafted David Johnson No. 1 overall last season. Johnson was lost of the season in the first game of the season.

Yet the data shows that after the top seven RBs the value drops off until you get to the third round area. So it puts more value on getting a top RB in the first two rounds but then waiting until the fourth or fifth round to get your No. 2 RB.

If your draft position is 8-12 your decision is a little harder. You could still go RB but with a player that poses a little more risk such as Dalvin Cook. Leonard Fournette or Melvin Gordon. Those would not be bad picks for 11 or 12 in my view.

At No. 8 I would look to WR if all seven of those RBs were taken 1-7 (doubtful but it could happen). I see two WRs worth a first round pick in 2018, Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins. Odell Beckham is coming off and injury but a bigger factor is the offense is sure to run the ball more with Barkley in the stable. Julio Jones might be primed for a bounce back season were he not in a contract dispute. No idea who that might turn out and the last scars it could leave.

I am a true believer that you can win a fantasy league no matter where you draft. The key is getting value with every pick…and getting lucky. Luck sometimes can come in the form of not losing a player to injury.

So my final advice is to plan to draft in this order if drafting in positions 1-7:

1 – RB

2 – WR

3 – WR

4 – QB

5 – RB

Now if you are drafting 8-12:

1 – WR

2 – RB

3 – WR

4 – RB

5 – QB

My reasoning here is if you getting a potentially second tier RB as your No. 1 then you better grab another one with potential soon afterward. That will push your QB pick to the ned of the fifth round but remember, you can still get a good QB at that point. In early draft results QBs such as Carson Wentz, Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins are still on the board. Heck I think you could still wait another round and grab my sleeper top five QB Jimmy Garrappolo…but I digress.

Just for kicks I did a simulated draft and from the No. 3 draft position I got Tom Brady in the fifth round. Three QBs were off the board before him: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and DeShaun Watson.

So that is the extent of my first couple of rounds drafting secrets. They have worked well for me in the past. Any questions?