I’d been the biggest proponent on this website when it comes to talking about drafting running backs early and often. Even going so far as to advising that using the first three, even four selections on the position. This was a strategy that was tried and true, and won many fantasy the owner their league championship. My Friends, those days are over. Using early draft picks on wide receivers is where it is at in 2008.
I will even go so far as to recommend that this year, it would be wise to come away from the first three rounds with 2 WRs and 1 RB. Depending on your league rules, I’d even go so far to suggest that for leagues where 3 WRs are required in the starting lineup, you may want to consider coming away from the first four rounds with 3 WRs and 1 RB.
You don’t need me to tell you that the first four picks are going to be LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Brian Westbrook, and Steven Jackson (in some order). After that it will probably go something like Joseph Addai, Marshawn Lynch, Clinton Portis, Marion Barber. So this leaves the owner at the bottom of the first round with the choice between the 9th RB on his list, or the #1 WR on his list. And yea, I suppose the #1 QB on the list is also a consideration (article for another day).
Don’t be afraid to break the seal of the wide receiver list, holding off on getting a running back. In fact, towards the bottom of the first round, you will probably be able to grab two of Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards, and Andre Johnson.
The middle of the second round will probably feature the selections of Willis McGahee, Reggie Bush, Frank Gore, Maurice Drew, Ryan Grant, and Larry Johnson. Throw in quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and this sets up things nicely for the owner that drafted early in round one already sitting on a top running back. A perfect chance to grab two wide receivers at this corner of the draft from a list that includes Larry Fitzgerald, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Marques Colston, and Torry Holt.
Things will probably get a little muddled as more quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Drew Brees, and Carson Palmer will fly off the board. A handful more running backs will go, guys like Darren McFadden, Jamal Lewis, Earnest Graham, Michael Turner, Brandon Jacobs and Laurence Maroney. But looking at the wide receiver list, you’ll still be able to pick from Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, Wes Welker, and Roy Williams.
In round five is when things will shift. You’ve been stock piling talent at WR while everyone else has been tripping over themselves to take three and sometimes even four running backs….now the worm has turned. Players from deeper in the wide receiver list will start to go, guys like Brandon Marshall, Plaxico Burress
Meanwhile, the available running back list has some quality in Julius Jones, Willie Parker, Selvin Young, and Thomas Jones. On the other side, wide receivers Dwayne Bowe, Marvin Harrison, Chris Chambers, and Donald Driver are being selected. Again, decent fantasy options, but many of these guys will be asked to be WR1 and WR2 on their fantasy teams.
Finishing things out, the next wave of wide receivers will be Lee Evans, Hines Ward, Lavern Coles, Jerricho Cotchery, and Reggie Brown. You’ll start to see a few tight ends sprinkled in here, along with some more quarterbacks. This is good, since running backs Jonathon Stewart, LenDale White, Ricky Williams, and Matt Forte are the next wave at that position.
Both lists have a significant drop from this point on so there’s no sense in continuing the excercize. The point being, this may be the year where it makes sense to insure you get two of the top 10 wide receivers, while rolling the dice later on in the draft with a handful of runningbacks ranked 15 thru 25.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these what I call “non-glamorous” running backs…these guys are probably not going to set the fantasy world on fire, but they should be consistent fantasy producers all season long.
LenDale White, Tennessee
The Titans are a run heavy offense, and though they selected Chris Johnson, it will be the veteran that gets most of the carries this year, especially at the goal line. White is the epitome of being a “non-glamorous” guy, but don’t be fooled, he will be a solid RB2/RB3 for your fantasy teams.
Thomas Jones, New York Jets
By now you have heard that the Jets have a new quarterback. While the Jets offense gets used to their new general, Thomas Jones will still be filling the role as the starting running back. He may have lost a step, but the Jets will be getting him the ball 20 times per game, so look for between 75-100 total yards and a TD on a consistent basis from Jones.
Julius Jones, Seattle
I’m not as high now on Jones as I was before the preseason started. Mike Holmgren seems determined to go with a 50-50 split between Jones and Maurice Morris, in fact, Morris seems to be getting a little more play than the 50-50. This is a situation worth keeping an eye on. That said, Jones and Morris are guys worth considering in the 7th or 8th round of your draft. Even in a 50-50 split, both of these guys would be a decent RB3 on a fantasy team, and if one gets the hot hand, their stock could go way up.