If you play fantasy football, at some point in time, you've probably heard the phrase:
You can't win your fantasy league in the first round, but you can certainly lose it. I believe this to be true. There are very rarely players that transcend every other player at a specific position, single-handedly winning you your fantasy football league, so it's very hard to win your league in the first round.
On the flip side, losing your first, second, even third round pick, or having them bust is a MASSIVE blow to your fantasy team and puts you in a major hole relative to the other teams in your league.
It's the reason that one of the biggest lessons I've learned over the last year or two is to be as risk-averse as possible in the early rounds of seasonal leagues. You want to shoot for upside, do it later in drafts. Make sure that your best players, the ones accounting for 50, 60, 70% of your fantasy points on a weekly basis are actually going to do that for you.
Here's the kicker. I went back over the L5 years, looked at ADP data and looked at the finishes of running backs in fantasy. On average, over the last five seasons, 50% of running backs drafted as a top-12 fantasy RB, finish outside of the top-12 at the end of that year. So, 6 of the top 12 drafted this year won't finish inside the top 12. On average, 4.2 will finish outside of the top 18. On average over 3.5 will finish outside of the top 24. I'd consider anything outside of the top 18 an absolute bust if you're drafting them as a top-12 back. Some were due to injuries, some simply not good and fell into an RBBC. But these are facts, big facts, derived from manual research. Straight from these fingers.
Today we're going to look at the riskiest running backs picks inside the first three rounds of 2019 fantasy football drafts. The ADP is from the FFPC, high-stakes leagues so these are legit, and they are from the last two weeks of draft, so we're not being skewed with guys who were taken high in February or some shit.
Right now, there are 18 running backs being taken in the first three rounds. So, literally half of the picks in the first three rounds are running backs. Every RB1, the top 12 are being taken at the 2.08 (in 12 team leagues) or earlier.
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Todd Gurley - Los Angeles Rams
Current ADP: RB10, 2.05
I'm confident in saying we were the first place in the industry telling you to start fading Todd Gurley in the first round of drafts, when we had Dr. Jesse Morse on back in February or March. Hopefully, we saved you a lot of money in bestball drafts.
Everything you knew about Todd Gurley, about Georgia Todd Gurley, about 2017 and 2018, Todd Gurley, it doesn't matter anymore. He's a soon-to-be 25-year old running back with arthritis. You hate to see it.
The problem with it, as Dr. Morse said is that it's not going away. You can treat it, you can let it rest, but it doesn't heal. So, much of the problem you hear with people who are still buying Gurley - "Well even if you take 25% of his production away - he's still a top-8 RB" or whatever. Like, that's not how this is going to work.
There are a million conflicting reports. Let's make a timeline.
- Week 15, Gurley leaves with a knee injury - we find out it's knee inflammation and is day-to-day.
- Day-to-day turns into two weeks, missing Week's 16 and 17.
- Gurley comes back for the playoffs, has a really strong game against DAL in the DP, goes for 118 YFS and a touchdown on 18 touches.
- 18 touches. to 23 of C.J. Anderson.
- Fast forward, they take him off the injury report, they tell you he's fully healthy. The $60 million dollar man is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT HEALTHY. for the NFC Championship game.
- He gets 5 touches. To CJA's 17. $12 million/touch!
- The guy who was signed off the street a few weeks earlier.
- Fast forward to this off-season, reports are all over the place. TMZ videos of Gurley limping, but he and the staff are saying he's fully healthy.
- He might undergo stem cell surgery for the knee - that's not normally long-term solution. I had a stem cell shot in my lower back. DONT... participate in a dunk contest on an 8-foot basketball hoop the day after getting one, just some life advice.
- The reports of him being done as a bellcow start surfacing, and are absolutely confirmed by the moves that the Rams made this off-season.
The problem with Gurley is exactly what happened in Week 15, where out of nowhere it became inflamed, then he misses two games and his touches thereafter are all over the map. With this arthritis, it could inflame at ANY time during this season. So, it's obviously smart to keep him out of the entire preseason. The more time he spends playing against NFL defenders, the more likely it is to happen. And do you think defenders won't be targeting that arthritis? Stop.
So, will it happen in Week 1, Week 3, Week 10. I don't know. But I see one-of-two things happening with Gurley.
- They continue to use him as a bellcow... The inflammation will happen and he'll be out of your lineup sooner rather than later.
- They try to mitigate the risk as much as possible. Lower his workload, instead of a 22-25 touch/game guy, he's now a 15-18 touch/game guy. Which, obviously, does not give him the ceiling the Gurley we've come to know, has had. That obviously has to lower him in your rankings, just naturally. But this doesn't guarantee him staying healthy, he's still very much at risk of having the knee becoming inflamed, and when/if that happens, you're going to be looking at the missed time, games with 10-12 touches, just shit that becomes a headache of whether or not you should start him.
- I mean, if you want to throw a 3rd option in here and assume he's perfectly fine, and nothing changes more power to ya.
So, with that being said, Gurley is off my board in the first three rounds where I want to go as risk-averse as possible. If you take Gurley with your 2nd round, and the knee predictably acts up, you're going to be kicking yourself... because we literally know what we're dealing with.
Leonard Fournette - Jacksonville Jaguars
Current ADP: RB14, 3.05
Devonta Freeman - Atlanta Falcons
Current ADP: RB17, 3.11
Le'Veon Bell - New York Jets
Adam Gase as coach, terrible offense, questionable offensive line, away from game for a long time, off-the-field bullshit.
Damien Williams - Kansas City Chiefs
Tiny sample size, never played a full 16 games, never more than 50 carries in a regular season. UDFA, 27 years old. Easily replaceable in the Chiefs backfield if he struggles.
James Conner - Pittsburgh Steelers
Losing passing down work to Jaylen Samuels. Drafted Benny Snell. JuJu tackled inside-the-two five times last year - lot of TD luck for Conner - more GL carries in 2018 than Bell's L3 seasons in PIT.
Dalvin Cook - Minnesota Vikings
Injury concerns (non-predictive though). Drafted Mattison in 3rd.
Mack, A. Jones, Kerryon - Lower risk all may fall into RBBCs, but I think the hype of an RBBC is more overblown than reality for all 3.