Let’s get the message across right now. Aaron Rodgers was by far the best player in fantasy football last year, averaging about 25.67 points a game in standard formats. He will be the best or one of the best players in fantasy football again this year. It would seem that common sense would indicate that you take the best player with the first pick or a very high pick if he is available. The idea, though, is to have the best fantasy football team and not the best player and that is why I will be passing on Rodgers or any other quarterback until the Top 4 running backs are off the draft board with those running backs being: Ray Rice, Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew and LeSean McCoy. These backs are productive, get the bulk of the carries and less of an injury risk compared to their peers.
The running back position has never been thinner with few backfields that are not timeshares or guys with performance or injury issues heading into this season. You are going to find trouble finding two guys to start each week if you do not draft your running backs early. If you own a Top 4 pick in your draft and draft Rodgers with that pick, you are not going to draft until late second round. The highest ranked running backs that might be waiting for you there depending on the size of your league will be Demarco Murray, Darren McFadden, Jamal Charles, Matt Forte, and Steven Jackson. That is a list of guys that “might” be there at the end of the second round depending on your size of your league, and, depending how your draft goes, you might only have a two or three of these guys as options. I do not feel comfortable with any of those guys being my No. 1 running back and neither should you. First off, all of them except Jackson finished the season on Injured Reserve. Second, only McFadden and Jackson are the guaranteed Week 1 starters with the bulk of the carries going their way, but they are two yearlong game-time decisions. Matt Forte is coming off an injury and has his contract issues, and touchdown vulture Michael Bush is sharing the same back field now. Same story for Jamal Charles with Peyton Hillis in town and coming off an ACL tear. DeMarco Murray looked stellar before suffering his season-ending injury, but he has been an injury concern all the way back in college.
Let’s compare Rodgers to the Tier 1 running backs. Aaron Rodgers averaged about 25.67 points a game in the 15 games he played last year. The numbers for the Top 4 running backs last year were 17.7 points per game for Rice in all 16 games, 19.6 points per game for Foster in his 12 healthy games, 18 points per game for McCoy in 15 games, and 15.6 points per game for Jones-Drew in all 16 games. Obviously Rodgers’ numbers are significantly better than these running backs, but is having Rodgers better when he is paired with any of the running backs previously mentioned that would be available in the late second-round range compared to a Top 4 running back paired with consistent quarterbacks that are available in later rounds? The answer is no. Rodgers is not going to beat your second-tier quarterback and your first-tier running back by himself with your backup waiver wire running back after your second-round running back is in street clothes or has not overcome his injuries yet and returned to his previous form.
It could be very easy with the injury risks of all those running backs that Rodgers is going to have to put up stellar numbers in order for you to win, while having one of the Top 4 running backs combined with a suitable consistent quarterback that you can draft in the fourth round like Eli Manning or Tony Romo, who both averaged about 17 points per game, can provide a consistently higher point total each week. You also could get lucky and have Matthew Stafford drop to you with his 22 points per game late in the second round, but Romo and Manning put up enough points consistently that can lead to you having a championship team. Notice, too, I said fourth round is when you can get Romo or Manning, meaning you can get your top running back at the top of Round 1 then get yourself either a Top 15 receiver, one of the top two tight ends or another running back in your next two picks before you take a quarterback in Round 4. Getting the best running back option early allows you to take other players before finding a solid quarterback in the fourth or fifth round and makes your team better. The point is that early in the draft Aaron Rodgers may look enticing, but I would think twice before I draft him above those top running backs.