The Ideal RB-Heavy Fantasy Football Draft

by Donald Gibson
Jul 10, 2018

An elite, versatile RB, like David Johnson, is the perfect back start off of an RB-Heavy draft strategy

Donald Gibson discusses a running back-heavy draft strategyThis piece is part of our article program that features quality content from experts exclusively at FantasyPros. For more insight from Donald, head to Fantasy Fusion.

Believe it or not, I have gotten in Twitter fights about how I’m not a fan of the Zero RB Strategy. For those who may be unfamiliar, Zero RB is a strategy where you ignore RBs in the draft for as long as you can while loading up on other positions, then pick high-upside RBs or at least those who have a reasonable path to starting.

I understand the appeal, but the main reason I avoid it is because WR is always extremely deep. For example, the 70th overall WR according to FantasyPros PPR rankings is Jamison Crowder, a very serviceable WR that I would be extremely happy starting as a flex. The RBs around him are Ronald Jones II, Royce Freeman, and Sony Michel. Granted, all of them have plenty of upside, but they could also fall flat on their face.

I’d rather get some stud RBs early and fill in the gaps with some solid WRs. I’m going to run through a sample draft at the fifth spot of a 10-team PPR draft with an emphasis on an RB-heavy approach. Rankings and ADP are courtesy of FantasyPros. And the draft was conducted using the Draft Wizard. It’s a great easy (and free) way to prepare for your draft and see how different strategies unfold before the big day.

Shall we begin?

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First Round
This is an easy one. We’ll probably be looking at David Johnson (ranked fourth), Ezekiel Elliott (five), or Alvin Kamara (seven). I feel a lot better about Johnson, or Zeke than Kamara, so we’ll go with Johnson.

Round 1, Pick 5: David Johnson (RB – ARI)

Second Round
You better believe we’re going RB again here. Kareem Hunt (13) could fall to us at 16, but it’s probably more likely that we’re looking at Melvin Gordon (16), Dalvin Cook (17), or Leonard Fournette (18). I also prefer Gordon of the group, but this one’s really up to personal preference.

Round 2, Pick 16: Melvin Gordon (RB – CAR)

Third Round
Running back again? Yep, absolutely. At the 25th spot, we have two very good RB values. Devonta Freeman (25) and LeSean McCoy (27) should both be there. Jerick McKinnon (23) will probably still be around, as I think a lot of people will have trouble pulling the trigger that early on him. I have Freeman at 16th, so he’s the obvious choice for me.

Round 3, Pick 25: Devonta Freeman (RB – ATL)

Fourth Round
This is where it gets a little hairy. In most leagues, you can only start a maximum of three RBs per week, so it may be overkill to take another one here. From 33rd to 39th overall, our options are Golden Tate, Zach Ertz, Amari Cooper, Jordan Howard, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Mixon, and Allen Robinson.

I don’t think Howard or Mixon are immense values or “must-haves,” so I’m going to go WR here. Tate would be my choice if he’s available. Luckily for me, I’m running the show here, so he is!

Round 4, Pick 36: Golden Tate (WR – DET)

Fifth Round
We could go either way here. If there is a solid RB, that’s fine. If not, I’d go after an upside WR to pair with our slew of bell-cow RBs and a high-floor receiver in Tate (that is what we call foreshadowing, folks).

At pick 45, we’re looking at Josh Gordon (43), Juju Smith-Schuster (44), Russell Wilson (45), Alex Collins (46), Tom Brady (47), Brandin Cooks (48), and Marvin Jones (49). As the unofficial (self-proclaimed official) chairman of the Brandin Cooks fan club, I’d probably be swayed in that direction, but the best choice here is Josh “Upside WR” Gordon. His ADP, however, is 35, so I can’t justify getting him 10 spots later.

You guys probably thought that I wasn’t going to let my bias get the best of me, but you were wrong. Chairmen have responsibilities too.

Round 5, Pick 45: Brandin Cooks (WR – LAR)

Sixth Round
Okay, so we have the base of our lineup together now. We’ll either be looking RB or TE here, so let’s see what our options are.

Lamar Miller and Derrick Henry are ranked at 58 and 60, respectively. Miller’s ADP is actually at 63, while Henry’s is at 37(!). Beyond them, we have Evan Engram (63) and Jimmy Graham (68).

Tight end gets just as ugly, but I don’t think we can pass on Lamar Miller here. Also, Mark Ingram has an ADP of 52, so if he falls to 56, I’m all in for that too, especially since you can afford to sit him through his suspension as you already have three high-quality RBs.

Round 6, Pick 56: Lamar Miller (RB – HOU)

Seventh Round
If Engram is still available, he’s my pick. If not, we’re looking at Jimmy Graham and Royce Freeman. Ronald Jones II and Sony Michel have ADPs in the mid-50s, so I can’t justify getting one of them here. Let’s go with Graham because I have no desire to hop on the Trey Burton train this year.

Round 7, Pick 65: Jimmy Graham (TE – GB)

Eighth Round
This one is a no-brainer for me. Marlon Mack is ranked 86th overall with an ADP of 81, and I have him in the 50s and would have been fine taking him earlier. I’d imagine this is a guy that the Zero RB-ers will be going after, but we’re going to take him first as a symbol of our revolution.

Round 8, Pick 76: Marlon Mack (RB – IND)

Ninth Round
I think we need some balance now, so let’s try to grab a WR here and maybe in the next round too.

At 85th overall, we have Randall Cobb (83), DeVante Parker (85), Robby Anderson (89), and Jordy Nelson (91). It’s like a cavalcade of people that disappointed last year, accompanied by a guy who does questionable things when he’s arrested.

Randall Cobb may miss some time in the offseason with an ankle injury, but I love his opportunity this year if he’s healthy. Let’s go with him.

Round 9, Pick 85: Randall Cobb (WR – GB)

10th Round
Let’s look at WR again. Marquise Goodwin was very good with the emergence of Jimmy Garappolo last year, and he’s ranked 99th. Like the Marlon Mack situation, I have him in the 50s and would be ecstatic to grab him here.

Round 10, Pick 96: Marquise Goodwin (WR – SF)

11th Round
Did someone say quarterback? Nah, didn’t think so. RBs in the 100s include Kerryon Johnson (101), Isaiah Crowell (102), Carlos Hyde (104), and Jamaal Williams (111).

Williams has a very reasonable chance to start in GB and showed last year that he could handle it. He’s my guy here, though I like Johnson’s chance at a starting job as well.

Round 11, Pick 105: Jamaal Williams (RB – GB)

Rounds 12-16

Okay, to save time, I’ve compiled the last five rounds into one section. We still need a QB, K, and D/ST, so that leaves us two spots for an RB, WR, or TE. We currently have six RBs, four WR, and one TE

  • Round 12, Pick 116: Allen Hurns, WR: I’m pretty sure he’s the WR1 on the Cowboys right now. That’s enough for me in the 12th round.
  • Round 13, Pick 125: Marcus Mariota, QB: Rough schedule after Week 2, but I’ll move on to the next QB at that point. See more on how I stream QBs here.
  • Round 14, Pick 136: Doug Martin, RB: He could end up as a productive starter, and no one would be surprised.
  • Round 15, Pick 145 and Round 16, Pick 155: Defense and kicker of your choosing

Summary

Okay! We made it. Here’s what our lineup looks like by position:

  • QB: Marcus Mariota
  • RB: David Johnson
  • RB: Melvin Gordon
  • WR: Golden Tate
  • WR: Brandin Cooks
  • TE: Jimmy Graham
  • FLEX: Devonta Freeman
  • DST: Your choice
  • K: Your choice

Bench:

  • Lamar Miller
  • Marlon Mack
  • Randall Cobb
  • Marquise Goodwin
  • Jamaal Williams
  • Allen Hurns
  • Doug Martin

I love it. We have a powerful RB group and a nice combination of safety and upside receivers. The QB and TE situations should be okay, but feel free to take them a round or two earlier. If there are two things to take away from this exercise, they are:

  • RBs are important (obviously). It’s a lot easier to make a strong team if you go heavy at RB early and grab value WRs late. If you try to do the opposite and your RBs flame out, you end up starting LeGarrette Blount and hoping for a TD every week.
  • Stay flexible. Don’t go into a draft saying that you’ll definitively take certain players at certain draft spots. Weird stuff happens, and guys fall, so don’t take Melvin Gordon over DeAndre Hopkins in the second round just because you told yourself you were going to draft an RB.

What's your take? Leave a comment

1Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)RB
2DeAndre Hopkins (HOU)WR
3T.Y. Hilton (IND)WR
4Melvin Gordon (LAC)RB
5Chris Carson (SEA)RB
6Marlon Mack (IND)RB
7Amari Cooper (DAL)WR
8Keenan Allen (LAC)WR
9Tarik Cohen (CHI)RB
10Lamar Miller (HOU)RB
 View all Flex Rankings 
11Gus Edwards (BAL)RB
12Tyler Lockett (SEA)WR
13Jordan Howard (CHI)RB
14Alshon Jeffery (PHI)WR
15Zach Ertz (PHI)TE
16Doug Baldwin (SEA)WR
17Eric Ebron (IND)TE
18Kenneth Dixon (BAL)RB
19Allen Robinson (CHI)WR
20Josh Adams (PHI)RB
21Austin Ekeler (LAC)RB
22Mike Williams (LAC)WR
23Darren Sproles (PHI)RB
24Taylor Gabriel (CHI)WR
25Nyheim Hines (IND)RB
26Golden Tate (PHI)WR
27Nelson Agholor (PHI)WR
28Michael Gallup (DAL)WR
29Keke Coutee (HOU)WR
30Mike Davis (SEA)RB
1Mike Trout (LAA)CF,DH
2Mookie Betts (BOS)CF,RF
3Jose Ramirez (CLE)2B,3B
4Francisco Lindor (CLE)SS
5Nolan Arenado (COL)3B
6J.D. Martinez (BOS)LF,RF
7Max Scherzer (WSH)SP
8Trea Turner (WSH)SS
9Christian Yelich (MIL)LF,CF
10Manny Machado (FA)3B,SS
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11Chris Sale (BOS)SP
12Ronald Acuna (ATL)LF,CF
13Jose Altuve (HOU)2B
14Alex Bregman (HOU)3B,SS
15Aaron Judge (NYY)RF,DH
16Bryce Harper (FA)CF,RF
17Jacob deGrom (NYM)SP
18Freddie Freeman (ATL)1B,3B
19Paul Goldschmidt (STL)1B
20Giancarlo Stanton (NYY)LF,RF
21Corey Kluber (CLE)SP
22Trevor Story (COL)SS
23Justin Verlander (HOU)SP
24Andrew Benintendi (BOS)LF,CF
25Charlie Blackmon (COL)CF
26Aaron Nola (PHI)SP
27Gerrit Cole (HOU)SP
28Kris Bryant (CHC)3B,RF
29Juan Soto (WSH)LF,RF
30Clayton Kershaw (LAD)SP
1Anthony Davis (NOR)PF,C
2James Harden (HOU)PG,SG
3Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)SF,PF
4Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)C
5Kevin Durant (GSW)SF,PF
6LeBron James (LAL)SF,PF
7Stephen Curry (GSW)PG,SG
8Nikola Jokic (DEN)PF,C
9Damian Lillard (POR)PG
10Russell Westbrook (OKC)PG
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11Victor Oladipo (IND)PG,SG
12Paul George (OKC)SG,SF
13Joel Embiid (PHI)PF,C
14Kawhi Leonard (TOR)SG,SF
15Chris Paul (HOU)PG
16Jimmy Butler (PHI)SG,SF
17Kemba Walker (CHA)PG
18Kyrie Irving (BOS)PG,SG
19Ben Simmons (PHI)PG,SF
20Jrue Holiday (NOR)PG,SG
21Rudy Gobert (UTH)C
22Andre Drummond (DET)PF,C
23John Wall (WAS)PG
24Kyle Lowry (TOR)PG
25Khris Middleton (MIL)SG,SF
26Donovan Mitchell (UTH)PG,SG
27Bradley Beal (WAS)SG
28Kevin Love (CLE)PF,C
29Draymond Green (GSW)PF,C
30LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS)PF,C
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