Raise your hand if you drafted a RB in the first round last year and he ended up a bust.
Don’t be ashamed.
If this was you, don’t worry. You were not alone. In fact, based on Yahoo’s rankings – which are the rankings I will use for this article – 11 RBs were likely drafted in the first round of your standard 12-team draft and a little less than half (45 percent) were busts.
Now, you can’t win your draft in the first round, but you can certainly lose one – or at least put yourself at a distinct disadvantage.
The 11 RBs that I am referring to are as follows (and if you think you or someone in your league didn’t take one of these guys – they VERY strongly considered it or were doing backflips after the draft if they got one of them in the second round): Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, LeSean McCoy, C.J. Spiller, Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, Trent Richardson, Matt Forte and Alfred Morris.
One look at this list and it’s pretty easy to see what RBs were busts.
I’m looking at you Doug Martin. Remember when the Muscle Hamster was even going AHEAD of Peterson in some mocks? 2013 stats: 6 GP, 456 yds, 1 TD, 12 rec, 66 yds, 0TD
Remember the preseason reports that C.J. Spiller was going to get the ball until he threw up? The only ones upchucking were his owners. 2013 stats: 15 GP, 933 yds, 2 TD, 33 rec, 185 yds, 0TD
Ray Rice’s (this was my albatross last year) fantasy stock fell fast. 2013 stats: Ray Rice – 15 GP, 660 yds, 4 TD, 58 rec, 321 yds, 0TD
Arian Foster just broke down and only played 8 games. 2013 stats: Arian Foster – 8 GP, 542 yds, 1 TD, 22 rec, 1 TD
And Trent Richardson – it’s not often the Browns get one over on someone but getting a first-round pick from the Colts for Trent “Run into the line and fall down” Richardson looks like highway robbery at this point. 2013 stats: Trent Richardson – 16 GP, 563 yds, 3 TD, 35 rec, 316 yds, 1 TD
The other six backs didn’t all put up incredible numbers but they certainly didn’t hurt your team and based on so many busts in the first round, one of these six gave you a huge leg up on the teams who drafted the aforementioned five busts.
So, is it worth to take a RB in Round 1 – outside of the Big 4 this year (McCoy, Charles, Peterson, Forte)?
In my opinion, the answer is no.
The 2013 stats aren’t the only ones to pay attention to. In 2012, there were seven RBs likely taken in Round 1 (Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Ryan Mathews, Maurice Jones-Drew, Trent Richardson) and three (McCoy, Mathews, MJD) were considered busts. That’s 43 percent. In 2011, there were nine RBs likely taken (Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Rashard Mendenhall, Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy) and four were busts (Johnson, Charles, Mendenhall, McFadden). That’s 44 percent.
Do you see a pattern here? Not just last year, but over the last three years, taking a RB in the first round is almost a 50-50 shot.
Based on these numbers, the fact that most teams are going to RB committees, the league as a whole becoming so pass happy, the fact receivers are going to be even more protected (ideally leading to fewer injuries) I am going to be drafting a WR or TE Jimmy Graham in the first round after the Big 4. And you should too.
Now, if you still think I’m crazy because “you have to take a RB in Round 1” here is something else to consider.
Over the last three years, the top WRs drafted have been less likely to be busts than the top RBs. Now, obviously not many receivers have been drafted in the first round over the last few years, but after ranking the same amount of receivers as backs that have been drafted in Round 1 each year, it reinforces my doubt in selecting one of them in say the eighth spot.
In 2013, out of the top 11 WRs (Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald, Victor Cruz, Roddy White, Andre Johnson, Randall Cobb) only four (Jones, Cruz, White, Cobb) would be considered busts. That’s 36 percent.
In 2012, out of the top seven WRs (Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Jennings, Roddy White, Victor Cruz, Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall) only two (Fitzgerald and Jennings) fit the bill as busts. That’s 29 percent.
In 2011, out of the top nine WRs (Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, Hakeem Nicks, Mike Wallace, Miles Austin, Vincent Jackson, Reggie Wayne) only two (Johnson and Wayne) failed to live up to expectations. That’s 18 percent.
Overall, there is no such thing as a completely safe pick. Injuries happen, players regress, situations change, but over the last three years you were less likely to end up with a bust at WR than RB among the elite at each position.
As a result, I am going to “play it safe” so I’m not behind the eight ball after my first pick was a bust (fingers crossed).
In 2014, seven RBs are projected to be taken in the first round (LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy, Marshawn Lynch, Montee Ball) and after the Big 4 I won’t be drafting one unless they fall to the second round.
I’d much rather draft one of the elite WRs (Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Jordy Nelson).
How you personally rank the receivers is another conversation. I can’t give you all the answers; after all my competitors read this, too.