Fantasy football is an increasingly popular way to spend your Sundays watching football. It’s estimated now that somewhere between 20 and 30 MILLION people play fantasy football each year and the number is growing. Just think if the NFL continues to expand into Europe and it catches on there too. Nonetheless since the start of fantasy football a lot has changed in the landscape. Conventional wisdom just 10 years ago pretty much had every manager taking 2 running backs with their first 2 picks no matter what. This no longer is the case as wideouts and elite quarterbacks have become a staple in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and are even part of the first round now. So this bears the question, what really is the most important position in fantasy football.
So your are off to your draft and you have your fantasy football draft board software in play. You ‘ve studied up and you are ready to make your picks. Things are going to go different this year. You are going to draft a winning team, make the playoffs, and ultimately take home the trophy this year. You’re turn is up and you take gulp… Andre Johnson with Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles on the board. Johnson is a good player but you may have just made a grave mistake. Let’s take a look why.
We’ll take out tight ends, kickers, defensive players, and defenses since none of these players finished in the top 25 scoring in most leagues no matter what the variations of scoring are. In standard leagues none of them did. Of the top 25 in scoring for 2010 15 were quarterbacks, 9 were running backs, and 1 wide receiver. Of the top 10 scorers 9 were quarterbacks and 1 was a running back Arian Foster who was fantasy’s #1 scoring player last year. So quarterback is the most important looking at this right? Well in actuality I would say quarterback is the least important. Let’s say you are in a 12 team league and you look at the #1 QB vs. the #12 qb. #1 was Michael Vick and #12 was Matt Cassel. Vick scored 300 points (depending on your scoring) and Cassel 217. That’s a difference of 83 points or 5.2 per game. Now Vick missed a few games so his numbers would’ve been higher so we could even take Aaron Rodgers the #2 QB who scored 292 points and only missed 1 game just like Cassel and it’s basically 5 points per game difference. So in between these 2 were 10 other quarterbacks that would’ve been only an average difference of less than 5 points of their top 2 counterparts and you can draft some of these guys later in drafts.
Now let’s look at Arian Foster the #1 RB who scored 313 points while the #12 back Maurice Jones Drew scored 186. That’s a difference of 7.94 points per game…even though MJD missed a few games we could take Matt Forte’s #11 finish of 199 points that’s still 7.13 difference per week or 114 points over a season. Now compound that with the fact that you likely need to start 2 running backs vs. only having to start 1 quarterback and it’s almost essential to have a top back. Let’s look at another example. Lets say manager A happened to have Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, or Jamaal Charles last year which was entirely possible. Manager B had MJD and say Cedric Benson. We’ll say for manager A it is Chris Johnson and Arian Foster. The combined total of Foster and Johnson was 529 points and the combined total of MJD and Benson was 344 points. For a 16 game schedule that’s 11.6 points per week. Would you rather be behind 11.6 or 5 to start the week? Yeah that’s what I thought.
Now you may argue that it’s hard to predict which backs will lead fantasy in scoring since Foster came out of nowhere so why not take an elite wide receiver in round 1 and 2 since we also have to play at least 2 if not 3. If you want to win your league and take home the fantasy football traveling trophy then this is also an intriguing idea but hardly a winning one. Let’s take a look at the Average draft position for the top 3 receivers over the last 3 years and how they finished.
1. Andre Johnson Finished 10th
2. Randy Moss Finished 68th
3. Reggie Wayne Finished 9th
1. Larry Fitzgerald Finished 5th
2. Andre Johnson Finished 1st
3. Randy Moss Finished 2nd
1. Randy Moss Finished 10th
2. Terrell Owens Finished 9th
3. Reggie Wayne Finished 14th
So besides 2008 it’s a bit of a crapshoot and in 2008 the #4 adp wideout was Calvin Johnson who finished 24th. Also it gets worse from there with the rest of the top 10..they are all over the board in finish. Truth is the wide receiver position has always been hard to predict because they just get less touches than a RB or QB and thus don’t score quite as high.
Well then which running back do I pick. Well that’s the ultimate question and why we play fantasy. If we knew it wouldn’t be any fun now would it? My suggestion is to get at least one if not 2 good running backs in the first couple of rounds and continue to add them throughout the draft. The fact is they get a lot of touches and are a bit easier to predict than wide receivers. Plus you never know when the next Arian Foster is going to lead you to fantasy gold.