Fantasy Football 2013: Beware the Top Tier Running Backs in Your League's Draft

By Jim Heath
Adrian Peterson
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

There are two pieces of advice I can give you about the running back position as you prepare for your 2013 Fantasy Football league drafts. First, if you don’t own a stud “back,” chances are slim to zilch of you owning a fantasy championship when the season ends. So you need to make that a priority and nab one quick. However, before you do heed the warning of my second piece of advice, the only dependable thing about top 10 projected NFL running backs in fantasy drafts is – they are not dependable. Now go find your back, best of luck.

Before I state my argument based on statistical proof, I will first tell you that when it comes to Fantasy Football, I am the old guy and a data nerd through and through. I’m pretty much set in my ways, am extremely conservative and hold hard and fast to the trends that have made me successful through the years. One of those trends relevant to this article is, I never want to be in the top half of the draft. Stick with me, there is a method to my madness.

For the sake of this article, I have gleaned through five years of data for support. I took the preseason rankings of the top 10 running backs and compared the list to the actual top 10 of each season. The findings will surprise you and possibly take away some confidence you have in your projected top backs.

Of the five years, five of the top 10 backs actually finish in the top 10 just three times. In the remaining two years, only three were able to clinch a top-10 spot.  In five years of data, not one time did a projected number one running back finish the season in the top spot.

Understandably. that is not an easy feat. But when I throw in the fact that only two projected top-three running backs (Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings and Arian Foster, Houston Texans) finished the season as a top-three back, that should be enough to scare the bejesus out of you when selecting a top-three running back. By the way, Peterson did that three times in the five years and Foster once.

During the 2011 Fantasy Football season, not one running back projected to be in the top three finished that season in the top 10! Yet, three individuals used a topthree pick to select one of the three monster busts.

Is that a frightening circumstance? You betcha.

That is why I prefer to comfortably sit in the bottom half of the draft with the knowledge I won’t have to wait as long as that poor sob in the front half gambling on a running back that could be a complete bust to make my next selection. You can call it whatever you want; old fashioned or boring or far too conservative. At the end of the season, I usually call it winning.

My advice to you, look back through the last several years of data on the running backs you are targeting, find the guys that produce year in and year out, they do exist I promise. The big names at the top of your drafts certainly look more “flashy” on paper, and you may even win some kind of award for best preseason draft.

But preseason awards are almost a kick to an uncomfortable area when you finish in the muddled middle at season’s end. Avoid the hype, hoopla and fanfare on draft day. Stick to the basics, trust in the number crunching you took the time and effort to do prior to the draft.

Plus, your roster will gain the flash it lacked in the preseason as you’re walking away from the table with your pockets full of Mr. Preseason Flash’s “Benjamins” when your team wins the league.

Jim Heath is a Fantasy Football writer for Follow him on Twitter @jim_heath, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google


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