“Take a top running back in the first round no matter what!”
I went on for years believing that this piece of advice was universally true, just like children believing in a tooth fairy. However, I feel that one can make a case this year to take the best wideout in the game, Detroit Lions‘ Calvin Johnson, as your first pick instead of a lower-tier running back if you have a pick at the end of the first round.
Don’t get me wrong – if you have one of the first four picks (even in a PPR league), taking Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, or Doug Martin would be the best thing you could do for your team. Only someone like Maurice Jones-Drew, who drafts himself, would do something different than that for those picks.
However, consider the following options once you get past those four men:
Marshawn Lynch: No doubt “Beast Mode” has been a Skittles-eating, touchdown-tracking machine for the Seattle Seahawks the past two seasons. However, a workload like his is grueling to the body, and there have been many games the past few seasons that Lynch has been “questionable” for a start.
Plus, there are many others in Seattle (i.e. Russell Wilson) who are anxious to show that they are “the guy” in that offense, and you’ll see how these other contenders will factor in and take the ball (and the fantasy points) away from Lynch.
LeSean McCoy: Last season, I remember many considered him to be one of the top three picks in the first round of fantasy drafts. However, “Shady” had a tough season. McCoy missed Weeks 12 through 15 due to injury and even before that, he never really got off the ground. This is scary thing to think about when picking the cornerstone of your fantasy team.
Ray Rice: He has been the back for the Baltimore Ravens the past few seasons and has been the standard when it comes to healthy running backs. Rice has played in every game in the past four season and is a dual threat out of the backfield.
My biggest problem with Rice is not Rice himself but another factor: Bernard Pierce. Down the stretch last year, every time Rice seemed to trip up, it was Pierce that was there to steal the show, including having an outstanding performance in his first playoff game where he ran for 103 yards. Pierce seems ready to be “the guy” in Baltimore and it could happen as early as this season, making Rice’s value fall.
C.J. Spiller: His new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was quoted by Yahoo.com saying that he was going to run Spiller until he “throws up”. Spiller was handed the starting job last year when Fred Jackson was injured. Since he took this job, Spiller has become a back that plays all three downs. He also will have a new quarterback, and the team will be leaning on him heavily for production.
There is a good chance that this amount of playing time will result in Spiller only playing 12-14 games instead of the full season due to the wear and tear of the running back position, making you think twice about him.
Now, I know many of you are probably saying, “That still doesn’t mean anything! That is all just a hunch!” Well, here are some facts for you:
According to Yahoo Sports, since coming into the league in ’07, Johnson has averaged nine touchdowns per season (better than Rice: 7.8, Spiller: 5, Lynch: 7). He also averages more 100-plus yard games per season since ’10 at 7.6 per season.
Lynch averages 5.3 100-plus yard games rushing, and McCoy averages 4.3 combined rushing or receiving games. Spiller averages two 100-plus yard games rushing and Rice averages four 100-plus yard rushing games.
Finally, Johnson plays on one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL (740 attempts last season, with 204 of those going to him). Did I mention that he survived the “Madden curse,” and went on to almost put up an all-time best season for a wideout?
The numbers are what they are and on draft day, when you are picked to draft 7- 12, don’t think to yourself, “No! All of the good backs are going to be taken!” Instead say, “Take the other running backs. I’ll take Megatron, thank you very much!”