Fantasy Debate: Should You Draft A RB Or WR With Your First Pick?

by Michael Drahota | Posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 | 0

With the 2014 NFL fantasy football season tantalizingly close, it’s time to decide on what may be the toughest decision of your fantasy draft, the choice whether to draft a running back or wide receiver with your first pick.

Not that long ago, conventional wisdom dictated that you select a top running back with your first pick, and maybe even your first two picks. Workhorse backs, they said, were a fantasy mainstay that you simply could not do without.

However, with the NFL becoming more and more of a passing league as each season rolls by, top wide receivers have quickly supplanted themselves near the top of fantasy drafts. Players like the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson and the Denver Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas put up such massive stats that it’s hard to overlook them once the three top backs are off the board.

So what should you do in your draft? Well, that’s all going to be a case of your draft position and who remains on board, and a case can be made for both strategies. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both.


Drafting A Running Back:

Last year, a plethora of supposedly top running backs were taken early and often in fantasy drafts everywhere, and owners were sad to see many of their teams be out of contention when their star pick went down with an injury. That’s just an inherent danger of the position in the NFL, so you are undoubtedly rolling the dice when you take a running back early.

To counteract the bad taste of last year, this year, drafts have been featuring more and more wide receivers being taken in the early rounds. Because of that, true feature backs are becoming more and more valued because they rare. They’re also becoming more and more valuable because most teams now choose to feature a platoon of backs to keep their star fresh and healthy.

So if you did find yourself lucky enough to draw one of the first picks in your draft (top five), you may want to select a feature back. This elite tier features Jamaal Charles, Lesean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, and Eddie Lacy.

True, wide receiver is quickly gaining ground on running back as the most coveted position, but there is simply a much larger pool of viable pass catchers from which to choose from.

If your league uses a point-per-reception (PPR) scoring format, backs like Charles, McCoy, Forte, and Lacy become even more important, as they add the extra dynamic of racking up points based on their catches out of the backfield.

With top backs quickly becoming a thing of the past, getting one early if you can is rarely a bad strategy.


Drafting A Wide Receiver:

As mentioned above, this is an increasingly used strategy as the NFL begins to favor passing more with each and every season. The best wide receivers are elite talents who provide much more consistency than the position of running back, and they get hurt less as well.

Taking a player like the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson or the Denver Broncos Demaryius Thomas could be a great draft strategy, especially if your league features a PPR scoring format. The main thing you’ll have to decide, however, is whether or not the difference in scoring between Johnson and Thomas and a top receiver you may score in the second round is worth passing on a top back.

It very well may be.

Johnson, Thomas, and to a lesser extent, the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant, will all have monstrous seasons. Johnson should be healed from his nailing ailments from last season and has new head coach in Jim Caldwell.

Thomas enjoys the benefit of playing with the game’s best quarterback in Peyton Manning. With wide receiver Eric Decker and his 136 targets now out of the picture, Thomas will be leaned on more now than ever.

Bryant is currently working on a new deal with Dallas and will be targeted an insane amount of times with the ‘Boys’ defense looking porous, which should require Dallas to pass the ball a lot of the time.

You could look like a genius if you build a team around one of these cornerstone wide receivers. You’ll need to make a solid gameplan for selecting running backs later on, which can get a bit tricky, so do your research before you roll the dice on draft day.

About the Author

Both an avid NFL fan and analyst, I’ve been following professional football since the late 1980s. I’m also an avid fantasy football player with several league victories under my belt. Check out my NFL articles on TSM for the latest NFL news, highlights, predictions, and more.

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