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2024 fantasy football position preview: Running back

todayJune 25, 2024 12

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  • moody eric

    Eric Moody, ESPNJun 19, 2024, 07:45 AM ET

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      Former manager at a Fortune 100 financial services company, now living my dream creating fantasy and sports betting content about the NFL, NBA, and WNBA for ESPN.

Once upon a time, NFL offenses relied heavily on running backs, much like how cars needed gasoline. But times have changed and we now have hybrid cars, pass-happy NFL offenses and backfield committees. Last season, only four running backs that played at least 10 games saw 20 or more touches per game, a stark contrast to previous decades. Back in 2013, it was eight, and in 2003, it was 17 (seven of which averaged 25-plus touches). The game has shifted gears and, if it hasn’t already, so should your fantasy draft strategy. While snagging an every-down back at the top of the draft is still a win, it’s no longer the norm for running backs to dominate the early rounds.

At one end of the fantasy football drafting spectrum, you’ve got your “robust RB” fans, who load up on running backs early. At the other end, you’ve got the “zero RB” crew, who accumulate wide receivers and tight ends early and often.

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Both strategies have their success stories. Last season’s ADP data backs this up. “Robust RB” drafters point to running backs like Christian McCaffrey (RB1 in fantasy points), Travis Etienne Jr. (RB3), Joe Mixon (RB6) and Derrick Henry (RB8) as shining stars from the early rounds. However, there were also backs drafted early who fizzled out and underperformed, like Najee Harris (RB23), Austin Ekeler (RB26) and Josh Jacobs (RB28). On the flip side, the “zero RB” believers highlight the likes of Raheem Mostert (RB5), Kyren Williams (RB7) and David Montgomery (RB17), who soared above expectations after being selected in the latter half of drafts.

Whether you employ one of these two approaches or something in between, don’t sleep on the mid-tier running backs — those in timeshares or backups in good offenses — that may not get 200 rushing attempts, but are still valuable additions to your fantasy team. It’s all about value, folks. So, relax, let the draft unfold and trust your instincts, as you unearth some gems at the position in the middle rounds.

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So, what about endgame roster strategy? You’ve locked in your starters and built up some depth, but what about those final few roster spots? Think upside. Consider drafting a rookie with potential or a veteran returning from injury, even if they are buried on the depth chart. If there is an obvious backup to one of your starting backs — or the backup to someone else’s early-round RB — this is the time to pounce. Sleepers come in all shapes and sizes, so cast a wide net. You want players who, given the right circumstances, could become start-worthy. When in doubt at this stage of the draft, prioritize talent over expected playing time. It’s all about maximizing your chances to strike gold.

So, when you’re drafting your fantasy team, make sure to prioritize grabbing one of the top running backs early on, ideally within the first two rounds. But hey, don’t panic if you can’t snag one right away. Depth is key, so aim to have at least two solid running backs by the sixth round. By the time you’re done drafting, plan to have five to seven backs on your roster: five or six, if your top two backs are every-week NFL starters, seven if you didn’t prioritize the position and require less depth at other positions.

Written by: Ag Entertainment

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