Fantasy football preview: Collect RBs liberally early, selectively later

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In the fourth of a six-part fantasy draft preview series leading up to the NFL season, Fantasy Insanity discusses which running backs to draft when. Next week: wide receivers. 

You know how every football season, your wife or significant other gets upset because you don’t pay them enough attention? That they feel like they’ve become second fiddle? Maybe because you spend too much time drafting fantasy teams? 

No? You don’t know what’s that’s like? Really? I’m the only one who drafts dozens and dozens of season-long teams each year? Well, I guess you guys are just weird. 

Nevertheless, that’s how the Madman expects running backs to feel about our rankings this season. Sure, they still are plenty at the top of the list and RBs remain a high priority, but they aren’t getting the same amount of attention they have in the past. They still have the most of any position, but they don’t dominate the way they once did. 

Essentially, we slate the RBs near the top in loose tiers. Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara are a full step ahead of the rest of the pack. Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, Austin Ekler and Saquon Barkley are clustered together in the next pack. 

Christian McCaffrey
AP

Unless you use your first two picks on running backs, you are likely to have to dig deeper for your RB2 and beyond. Our favorites outside the top tiers include Antonio Gibson and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and to a lesser degree David Montgomery. We have less confidence in Joe Mixon and Najee Harris. 

We like Miles Sanders and Josh Jacobs a bit more than J.K. Dobbins (too much TD competition) or D’Andre Swift (overall offensive worries). After that, Mike Davis and Myles Gaskin are a couple of the last potential bell-cow backs you’re going to find a couple of rounds later. 

But at this point in the draft, we will settle for what we can get if we miss on our earlier guys. You’re buying here out of necessity, not because you’re getting a bargain. 

Our favorite bargain RBs come several rounds later. Around the eighth round, the pickings are slim. But often, there are a pair of rookies who are still on the board. The first is San Francisco’s Trey Sermon. 

Niners starter Raheem Mostert is a good player on a good offense, but he struggles to stay healthy. We anticipate Sermon getting a good look at some point in the season, and once he does, it could be hard for San Fran to go back to Mostert. 

Jets RB Michael Carter isn’t surrounded by the same kind of talent, but he does have a clearer path to a feature role. On a team with a new coach and new quarterback, we expect a focus on young players. There is no reason for Tevin Coleman to keep a hold on the top spot, and we don’t consider La’Mical Perine or Ty Johnson legitimate starting NFL backs. Hence, our willingness to invest in Carter as our RB4 or RB5. 

Collect RBs liberally early, collect selectively later. And stockpile what you can in between.

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