Wide Receivers Before Running Backs Next Year?

Playing fantasy football for as long as I have now, the craze for running backs early in drafts has probably been the only consistent thing in a fantasy football season.  This all started for good reason, as the running back position actually used to be the #1 point producer for fantasy football teams, and the top player like Shawn Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson would average close to 2 TDs a game (OBSURD!).  So yes, back then, taking these players early was a great idea.  But the NFL is changing.  The “softer” calls by refs has made defense even harder, especially for defensive backs.  Wide receivers now-a-days are protected by refs, making sure defensive backs don’t hit them early, and hold them from having a chance to catch the ball.  While the quarterback is no longer to be hit it seems, he’s getting more comfortable in the pocket, and with the lack of contact on the receivers, they are getting even more open.

This is leading to bigger and more consistent stats from wide receivers, and I am putting to question this,: iIs it time to start drafting wide receivers before running backs?  This is a question that I surely cannot definitavely answer at this point, but instead I went back and looked at the statistics of average draft position of players from 2011 to this season and made up a list for each year at the running back and wide receiver positions.  I wrote down the first 25 players taken at each position that had played at least 12 games that given year, then figured out where they finished at their respective position in ptotal points for that year.  My hunch was that you would starrt to see picking a top teir wide receiver would be a safer choice than running back, and that finding running backs that would be top 20 players in later rounds was easier than finding wide receivers like that late.

Lets take a look at the results…

-Blue and Red use a statistics I made myself.  I took the Average Draft Position of that player and then took the difference from that from where they finished that season in total points at their position.  I also took out the largest difference for a player in each category as it skewed the data.  After this I added all of the players “plus/minus” and ended up with 1 number.

– I excluded players injured, so for “top 10 ADP” for instance, it may actually include the 11th and 12th player because the 4th and 7th player didn’t play enough games to be valid for the statistics.

Blue- plus/minus for top 10 ADP players

Red- plus/minus for 11-25 ADP players

Yellow- number of players it took to make top 25

Green- number of players with ADP in top 10 that finished top 10 in total points

(note: 2013 is in week 12, so my judgment had to be made when not counting specific players dealing with injuries)


What does this say?

-Based on my statistics, 2013 and 2012 show that the +/- for wide receivers in the top 10 is greater than running backs, but not for 2010.  for 2013 and 2012, this illustrates top 10 wide receivers drafted are more likely to finish closer to where they were drafted than running backs.  2010 says the exact opposite, rather, as running backs barely fell from where they were expected to finish.

-Probably the most telling statistic collected, wide receivers drafted 11 through 25 each year greatly decreased from their draft day value. Every year wide receivers recorded a negative statistic in the +/-, while the running backs each year recorded a positive +/-.  This tells us finding a running back in the later round that will exceed their draft day value is far more likely than wide receivers.

– Players that make up the top 25 tells us if any certain position is more prone to injury, which kills fantasy owners.  Unfortunately, the numbers show no trends of any position getting injured more than the other.

– No trends were found when comparing players drafted in the top 10 at their position who also finished top 10 in points at their position.

Looking back at my objective, these statistics are not convincing enough to say fantasy owners NEED to start drafting the top wide receivers before running backs.  Though this year and last year have been favoring the dependability of the top 10 receiver taken more than the top 10 running backs, the difference isn’t substantial enough to have a strong argument.

One important statistic you should take from this is the upside of taking running backs in later rounds rather than receivers.  The statistics clearly show the upside of later round running backs to exceed their draft day value is greater than receivers.  Using this logic, you can make the case to take wide receivers early because you are going to stock up on your running backs later, anyway.

Ryan Jackson

About Ryan Jackson

My name is Ryan Jackson and I love fantasy sports. I graduated from the University of Maine in 2014 with a degree in Journalism, and I am now a graduate student at Quinnipiac University working on a sports journalism degree.