Fantasy Football 2012: 6 Reasons a Running Back Might Not Be Your Top Pick

Cedric HopkinsContributor IFebruary 12, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: 6 Reasons a Running Back Might Not Be Your Top Pick

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    You won't win your fantasy football league with the first pick of your draft, but with the wrong pick, you sure can botch your season.

    When it comes to selecting your top pick, consistency is key. The first round is not the place for plaguing your roster with unnecessary risk either. 

    With the changes taking place in the NFL—committee backfields, pass-heavy schemes—a running back may not be your best option in the first round. 

    Let's face it, the running backs that have the most value are the guys netting at least 20-25 touches per game (read: getting tackled 20-25 times per game). With each tackle comes the risk of injury.

    On the flip side, quarterbacks, wide receivers and—dare I say—tight ends take hits at a fraction of the rate of running backs. Hence they are less likely to wind up on your bench with the dreaded "O" beside their name.

    There are seven reasons why you may want to trash conventional wisdom of taking a running back with your first pick. Unless you're clairvoyant, click below to learn those reasons.

Running Back Committees

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    There's nothing worse for a Darren McFadden owner than watching Michael Bush do a touchdown dance. Watching Bush vulture your touchdown forces you to stare at your computer and mumble profanities.

    Rare is the workhorse running back—he every-down back that can run, catch and of course, retain the coveted goal-line work. There are only a few of these left in the league. The rest are practicing their sharing skills with the rock.

    Unless you're able to land a true No. 1 running back—Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice—you're better off waiting a couple of rounds to build your virtual backfield. 

Accounting for Injuries

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    When it comes to your draft, you need to think of your running backs the same way I think of having girlfriends. I don't shoot for one perfect 10; I have five good two's. Both ways you get to 10, but only one way gives you options. 

    Having options at the running back position is essential because of the myriad of injuries that exist at the position. Rather than wasting a top pick on a guy who has a good chance of being hurt, you can grab a quarterback or wide receiver who will be shelling out fantasy points each week.

    Quarterbacks and wide receivers don't take nearly the amount of punishment as running backs. It's better to wait on a running back and snag a few solid options like Marshawn Lynch, Darren Sproles or even Reggie Bush in the second, third or fourth round.

NFL Is a Passing League

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    This past season, 10 quarterbacks eclipsed the 4,000-yard passing mark. Three of those (Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford) tossed the rock more than 5,000 yards.

    To put those numbers into perspective, in 2010 Philip Rivers led the league with 4,710 passing yards—in 2011, he would've finished fifth.

    Here's another stat: There have been four quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 5,000 yards looking back just 10 years—three of them were from this past season. 

    NFL teams have de-emphasized the run game and have turned to airing it out. Next season, when you belly up to the table for your fantasy football draft, consider following the trend.

    Look for a top passer before you establish your ground game.

Opening Day Health Status

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    Normally, preseason NFL games are boring and provide little value to fantasy football managers. I can still remember watching Chris Johnson struggle in the 2010 preseason averaging a measly 2.1 yards on 19 carries. I slid Johnson way down my draft board only for him to break off 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns in the regular season. 

    Well, this preseason won't be a normal preseason.

    There are seven running backs who are coming back from significant injuries and will test their injured body parts during the exhibition games.

    Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Darren McFadden, Fred Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall and DeMarco Murray all will be "ahead of schedule" when it comes to their recovery. You can bank on such PR coming from their camps this summer. 

    Don't buy into the hype. Running backs coming off of injury are highly suspect to perform well. Yet another reason to pass on these guys as your top pick in 2012. 

Fluke Seasons

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    Can Marshawn Lynch put together back-to-back stellar seasons or was 2011 a fluke? Judging from his picture to the left, he's going for two. Personally, I think "Beast Mode" was motivated by money being that he was in a contract year in 2011. 

    And then there's Reggie Bush. He broke out last season pass the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his NFL career. More impressively, he averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Is he a featured back? Has he established himself as a true running back? Will he repeat those numbers for you in 2012?

    Those are not the type of questions you want to answer with a top pick of the draft. 

    Neither are the questions that Chris Johnson poses to fantasy owners. 

    Sure, Johnson passed the 1,000-yard mark like Bush, but Johnson owners were forced to suffer through his pathetic efforts for most of the season. Will Johnson bounce back in 2012? Or will owners be subjected to more pinky tackles bringing down their top pick?

    Leave those questions for another owner to answer.  

Depth at Running Back in 2012

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    The trend to wait on a running back will hit fantasy football like a Beanie Wells stiff arm. That fact alone will push solid rushers to later rounds. 

    But even if you take the top 10 running backs off of the board, you still have guys like Steven Jackson, Darren Sproles, Beanie Wells and Fred Jackson. Each of these ball-carriers—among a host of others—have the ability to put up 1,000-yard seasons with multiple touchdowns.

    If you pair a couple of the later-round running backs with an Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Calvin Johnson, your team will make it beyond Week 13 next season.