Runningback Key Considerations

by Shamin Shah, June 28 2020 – 10 minute read

A few things to keep in mind of when analyzing RBs

Every year, RB is the most important position in fantasy football. Sure QBs get the highest points, and your WRs may outscore your RBs any given week, but the main reason for this is that solid RBs are simply hard to come by on the waiver wire. You can always find a plug and play QB that can blow up any week (assuming 1 QB leagues), and a plug and play WR or TE in hopes that he will get some catches and maybe even hit pay dirt. But with RBs, people tend to store them on their bench and will definitely use a high waiver priority or a lot of FAAB $ to get one off the waiver wire, making it very difficult throughout the year. That being said, let’s look at some key points to consider throughout your draft when it comes to RBs.

  1. Opportunity is key. If your RB gets 15-20 touches/game, chances for them to bust is very low. Even with an abysmal 4 yards/carry, that’s 60-80 yards and possibly a TD. Pass catching ability for RBs is almost a needed skill now as well, so even 3-5 touches can bolster your RBs statline significantly, especially in PPR leagues. That being said, getting at least one RB that isn’t sharing a backfield is going to be crucial. We will get into who these RBs are later in the article.
  2. Automatic starts on your squad are going to help you a lot throughout the season. Avoiding decisions on who to play will minimize risk and increase your weekly comfort level. Getting high floor RBs that are starters in your lineup no matter what the matchup is going to be key. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
  3. Coaching history on a team can tell you a lot about how they will utilize their RBs based on game flow. Coaches will always say they want to establish the run, and want their team to be run heavy, but based on game script, this plan doesn’t always work out. Research which coaches abandon the run when down or which ones tend to stick to it no matter what. Alternatively, research which coaches stick to the running game, or keep their RBs in the game for pass catching ability. 
  4. RBs that know how to block stay on the field. Research who are these great blocking RBs and you should find them playing a high % of snaps that can potentially turn into some easy screen passes and more opportunities. This is true for TEs as well.
  5. Age is a big factor with RBs. We all know the general rule, that 30 years or older start to see a decline. Of course there are outliers to this rule, but generally, it does happen. However, I believe injury history plays a bigger part. Rbs bodies get hit more than any other position, so chances of injury are generally higher. Keep an eye on who stays on the field and who hasn’t throughout their career. 
  6. TD opportunity makes and breaks RB statistics. Do research on who gets those goal line opportunities and how many opportunities they have gotten throughout the season. Grabbing RBs from potent offenses will generally help your RB stats as well as those teams naturally get more scoring opportunities. 
  7. Matchups are only somewhat important when it comes to RBs. No matter who the team is playing, if you are a starting RB, you will get opportunities early and often. What really matters is what the RB does with those opportunities early, and how the game flow is going. If it’s just not working against a defense, coaches will abandon the run and try something else. That’s just common sense. However, if it is somewhat successful, even if the team goes down early, the coach will try to reestablish the run in the second half. Keep an eye on RB strength of schedule, but don’t let it sway you from picking a RB that you think will get many opportunities.
  8. Offensive lines are very key to the success of RBs. If RBs are continuously seeing holes and not getting touched 2-3 yards after the line of scrimmage, it doesn’t take much for them to get solid stats. Some key players that benefit from good O-lines include Ezekel Elliot, Dalvin Cook, and Derrick Henry. Ofcourse, there are exceptions for someone as dynamic as Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkeley who’s O-lines ranked in the middle to bottom of the league.
  9. There is going to be value in drafting RBs early and often as the field gets pretty dry quickly. 
  10. If you get some safe RBs to start the draft, take some chances on some risky guys who have weekly RB1 potential like Ingram, Mack, and Conner.
  11. If you get some risky RBs like Mixon and Sanders, follow that up with some safer RBs later in the draft like White or Singletary.
  12. Backup your top RB with his backup if you can. Absolute must have handcuffs are Pollard, Mattison, and Murray.
  13. On a final note, find different ways to do your own kind of analysis that makes sense to you. Turning information into something relevant to your draft strategy is the reason why we do so much analysis to prepare for our drafts.  This only scratches the surface for RBs. Make sure to do some mock drafts to identify which strategy works best (picking up 2 RBs to start, picking a WR first, or picking up 2 WRs first).