RB-RB-RB Isn’t For Every Format, But It’s For More Than You Think
Earlier today I suggested the RB-RB-RB strategy was the dominant approach to fantasy football in 2013. As always, context matters. One of the great things about fantasy football is the same thing that leads to a myriad asterisks and caveats, as well as dissembling of all sorts. Everything comes down to format.
With that in mind, let’s look at the formats most conducive to the RB-RB-RB approach.
The Game: PFF’s Going Deep Challenge
The Format: 1-QB, 3-RB, 6-WR, 2-TE, 1-SF, ppr, 12 team
Why it’s RB-RB-RB: PFF has done an excellent job of making quarterback and tight end more valuable. While this format creates incentives to select those positions earlier than usual, QB and TE remain incredibly deep. The key to winning this format is to get starters for all three RB slots and all six WR slots.
The reason to select WRs early in many formats is to avoid value destroying lineup gaffes. But you don’t have to decide which receiver to start here. You’re going to start all of them. That means taking the best three runners in the first three rounds is an easy choice. I was very surprised in covering the Experts Mock Draft that not a single expert began RB-RB-RB.
The Game: Footballguys Players Championship
The Format: 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 2-Flex, ppr, 12 team
Why It’s RB-RB-RB: Any time runners and wide receivers are valued evenly, you want to skew toward RB because of scarcity. The double flex also creates a secondary problem for upside-down drafters. Because you can start up to four RBs, some drafters will necessarily approach it as a 4-RB format. I love to draft against trends, but in the FFPC you can get whipsawed pretty badly. Sleepers and handcuffs go much earlier than they should. The only way to get out in front of this is to take all of your runners at the very beginning and then soak up the mid-round WR value.
Further Research: Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, and the Comprehensive RB Workshop
The Game: PFF Dynasty League
The Format: 1-QB 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 2-Flex, half-ppr, 12 team
I include this league as an example of this type of format. The half-ppr concept is quickly growing in popularity. Although many do not know it, receivers have become almost disproportionately valuable in many leagues. Half-ppr rebalances the power – or unbalances it again, depending on how you want to look at it. This is also a double flex league, although the flexes must be spread across two positions, so it’s a 3-RB, 3-WR league for all intents and purposes.
Why It’s RB-RB-RB: In half-ppr leagues, you want to make sure you have the RB position solidified because receivers are going to have a much more difficult time winning on their own (which is possible in some WR-heavy, ppr formats). I like receivers in dynasty, but Scott Spratt has an excellent article in the PFF Draft Guide explaining how current stars tend to be significantly undervalued – and that extends to runners. The middle rounds hold some excellent RB values for in-space backs and big, touchdown heavy receivers. It’s pretty easy to see which group holds more value in half-ppr.
Further Research: Trent Richardson No. 1 in Complete Projection of Top 20 RBs
The Game: Friends and Family Leagues
The Format: 1-QB 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-TE, No Flex, standard, 10 or 12 team
Friends leagues cover a wide variety of formats, but most of them are somewhat similar to what I’ve outlined above. While times are changing in this regard, many leagues do not use PPR scoring and frequently have fewer than 12 teams.
Why It’s RB-RB-RB: Almost all standard formats are very RB-heavy, and you want to avoid the mid-round, pass-catching runners. Once you’ve started RB-RB, the value in selecting a WR in Round 3 is minimal. Receiving value in this format is relatively flat from Rounds 3-8, so you’re much better off taking a third runner. Plus, friends and family leagues tend to feature a lot of trades. Your third runner is going to be very valuable during the bye weeks and then have significant trade value down the stretch . . . if you’re still operating injury-free at the position.
Further Research: Trent Richardson, Chris Johnson, and Why RB-RB is Back
The Game: MFL 10s
The Format: 1-QB 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-TE, 1-Flex, PPR, Draft Champion
This is your draft-only or best ball format.
Why It’s RB-RB-RB: If this were a weekly format, you’d probably want to emphasize wide receivers, but the value proposition changes dramatically in best ball. Without a waiver wire, it’s even more important to build excellent running back depth, and, if you have excess, then your Flex spot is covered. Drafting handcuffs is the only other way to approach a draft champions roster, which means reaching. That’s always a value destroying proposition. Best ball also eliminates the best reason to attack WR early – receiver inconsistency. In best ball you don’t have to worry about selecting the vertical receiver who scores the fluky 50-yard touchdown in any given week. Lineup optimization will do it for you.
Further Research: Using the RB Custom Cheat Sheet: Values, Traps, and Stealth Stars