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Tiers are a better way to prepare for a draft than just simply doing player rankings. Rank and sort players into groups (tiers) based on what you expect their statistical production to be, regardless of how early or late other people are drafting them. Here are my running back tiers from last year for points per reception (PPR) leagues. I am not going to defend or justify anything from 2011. This is just for a little perspective on how I went into drafts last August.
So how do you define tiers within a position? It all comes down to your personal preference and how comfortable you are. Overall skill, injury risk, reliability and playing time are taken into account for each player. Don’t get caught up too much with the ranking within the tiers - generally, all players within the same tier are comparable enough. Players are ranked within the tiers based on my personal preference and who I would select before another player in a draft.
Running back tiers can change significantly as draft day approaches. Players get injured or signed, and sometimes existing injury concerns become more pronounced. I picked a few players as examples to explain why I have them where I do.
Maurice Jones-Drew: He belongs in Tier 1, period. Contrary to popular belief, Jones-Drew is not injury prone and has only missed three games in his six-year career. He averages 4.6 yards per carry and more than 45 receptions every year. He is going to get the ball, and he is going to do a lot with it. He doesn’t score enough touchdowns, you say? Ray Rice only scored four more last year!
Adrian Peterson: History shows that running backs see a drop in fantasy production after suffering a major knee injury in the prior season. Fantasy output is even worse when the injuries occur late in the season. Peterson is being drafted as the ninth overall running back right now, which is scary. Why has Rashard Mendenhall fallen off the face of the earth when he only tore his ACL a week later than Peterson? Assuming that Peterson will not have any lingering knee issues, he will be “good” at best and should not be relied on as an RB1.
DeMarco Murray: Murray had four monster games, followed by two good games, followed by one bad game, followed by a game with five carries and a broken ankle. Felix Jones is clearly not the answer in Dallas, so that means that Murray will have the opportunity to be a fantasy stud. Murray is being drafted as the 12th overall running back, which means an RB1 in a 12-team league. Do his four games of brilliance warrant that? I would have to disagree.
Marshawn Lynch: Beast Mode or Least Mode? Lynch was running full form in Least Mode and almost droppable in all league formats through the first eight weeks last season. On the other hand, Beast Mode took control in Week 9 and he was the best fantasy running back during that span. Beast Mode or Least Mode, which mode do you want to bet your fantasy season on?
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