Draft Day Dilemma: Proven Wide Receivers vs. Young Running Backs

Draft Day Dilemma: Proven Wide Receivers vs. Young Running Backs

“Finally…Drafting Wide Receivers in the First Two Rounds Has Come Back…to Fantasy Football”


Written By: Nicholas A. Speca

Typically, fantasy general managers will try to come up with a strategy before their draft for which positions they should go after in the early rounds (1-3).  Let me just start by saying if your pick is between Nos. 1-5, I would suggest drafting a top running back such as LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte or Eddie Lacy (not in that particular order). My strategy will reflect more towards having the sixth pick and later.

In the past, experts have suggested drafting a stud running back in both the first and second rounds, regardless of draft position. These running backs often do not live up to the hype of being drafted that high. For example, last year many fantasy owners selected running backs like Ray Rice, Trent Richardson, C.J. Spiller, Arian Foster, and Alfred Morris as their first two picks in the draft. These running backs left fantasy owners frustrated, annoyed and simply depressed (In one league, I selected both Morris and Richardson. Felt like I didn’t see the sun for three months).

Now my Best F’N colleagues know me very well and we have been in the same league for over 10 years. Back in the day, when my pick was towards the end of the draft they already knew who I was going to select (Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss). By the end of the season, these stud receivers would always have over 1,000 yards with double digit touchdowns in their prime. Your first and second round pick should be all about consistency. This is the kind of player you should be targeting in the second half of the first round: the elite wide receivers.

We all know Calvin Johnson is going to be selected around pick No. 5 or 6 in your draft. Johnson is obviously the most dominant and best wide receiver in the league and should be selected that high. After Calvin is selected, I often see people draft a running back with an unproven track record we’re simply projecting to do great things. We need more certainty with our early picks.

When you are making your first and second round selections, you need to think of players you KNOW are going to give you 15 points or more per week. Let’s look at some stats, because after all, fantasy football is a numbers game.


Dez Bryant 

YEAR   REC      YDS      AVG      TD

2011      63            928         14.7        9

2012      92            1,382     15.0        12

2013      93            1,382     13.3        13


Montee Ball (2013 Season)

ATT       YDS     AVG      LNG       TD           FD          REC        YDS     TD          FUM        LST

120         559         4.7           45            4               35            20            145         0               3               3


Many experts have Montee Ball as a late first round pick. I have witnessed in countless mock drafts, Ball being drafted in the first round over a stud receiver.  Of course, we know Ball is going to be the starting running back in Denver after the departure of Knowshon Moreno who had a great 2013 season. However, is Ball worth your first-round pick based on another player’s season the year before? I understand there are a scarce amount of workhorse running backs but I would rather draft Dez Bryant based on his consistency over the past three years.  I’m not suggesting Ball is going to be a bust this year, but with my first round pick, I would rather select the player with less risk.

I have also seen second-year running back Giovani Bernard from the Bengals being selected over his teammate A.J. Green.


Giovani Bernard (2013 Season)

ATT      YDS      AVG      TD        REC       YDS     TD     FUM     LST

170         695         4.1           5            56           514         3           1              1


A.J. Green

YEAR   REC     YDS   AVG      TD

2011        65        1,057     16.3        7

2012        97        1,382     15.0       12

2013        98        1,426     14.6        11


Bernard had a solid rookie season, especially in a timeshare with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but should Bernard be selected over Green? With Jeremy Hill also added to the backfield in Cincinnati, drafting A.J. would seem like a safer late first-round pick. Green has caught at least 97 balls and 11 touchdowns in the past two seasons.

It doesn’t stop there. Le’Veon Bell has an average draft position of No. 10 on Yahoo and No. 11 on ESPN . Would you take him over Demaryius Thomas?


Demaryius Thomas                                            

YEAR   REC    YDS      AVG      TD

2011        32         551         12.9        4  *(torn achilles’ tendon)

2012        94         1,434     15.3        10

2013        92         1,430     15.5        14


Le’Veon Bell (2013 Season)

ATT       YDS      AVG       TD       REC      YDS     TD     FUM     LST

244         860         3.5           8            45         399         3            1             1


Bell should be a solid running back this year. Pittsburgh loves to run the ball and is not in a running back committee, which is rare nowadays. But can you risk your first pick in the draft on a second-year running back who averaged only 3.5 yards per carry?

After Calvin is gone, do not be afraid to draft Thomas. More importantly, don’t forget who is throwing him the ball. Peyton Manning and consistency are one in the same when it comes to fantasy football.

You may ask yourself,  “if I don’t select a running back in the early rounds, who will be left in later rounds?”  Let’s say your first and second-round picks are Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Marshall. In the third round, running backs such as C.J. Spiller, Doug Martin and Trent Richardson will be available. These running backs will slip this year due to injuries and inconsistency last season, but will bounce back in 2014.

Back in high school before class would end, my history teacher would always say “do not forget about the past, it may help you in the future.” With that being said, I’d like to share just a few running backs from the past who were drafted high after one good year but never lived up to their first round value the following year:

2006: Lamont Jordan, Raiders and Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers

2007 AND 2008: Ronnie Brown, Dolphins

2009: Steve Slaton, Texans

And don’t forget about all those disappointments from last year we mentioned above.

Drafting is the most important part in fantasy football and that’s why you need to make sure you get the best value in your early rounds. It’s important to remember, these aren’t Player A vs. Player B debates. These are simply examples of a bigger draft day dilemma we all face when we get stuck at the bottom of the draft order: do you take a proven wide receiver or the young running back with superstar potential. For me, I’m sticking with the stud wide receivers and letting someone else take a chance on those stars in waiting.




Stephen Albertini
Written by Stephen Albertini