2018 Fantasy Football: Can RB Gold Offset WR Mold?

Senior Fantasy Football Expert Shawn Childs examines a team from a recent draft at PlayFFWC.com to determine if a strong RB core can offset weak receivers.

Read my FFWC Team Reviews examinations of Team 4, Team 6Team 11 & Team 1 vs. Team 9 vs. Team 12

Each time we sit a draft table, a Fantasy owner has some a plan for his first few picks. Success at the highest level in Fantasy sports requires the ability to make quick decisions on the fly while reacting to draft flow. In a recent FFWC draft, there was a crazy secondary run in running backs which put the pressure on the sheep to follow. Here’s a look at the draft board:

In this draft, Team 4 came out of the gate with five straight RBs (Saquon Barkley, Joe Mixon, Jordan Howard, Sony Michel, and Royce Freeman). Now the question a Fantasy observer has to ask: is this overkill?

The problem with second-tier RBs (RBs that don’t touch the ball on every down) in PPR leagues is that they can deliver steady but no impactful scores. This owner already made a big push by moving Barkley in front of David Johnson and Alvin Kamara. Here’s a look at the Fantasy points for RB1’s over the last four seasons in PPR leagues:

I would consider any running back that scores over 300 Fantasy points as an impact player. A second RB that scores more than 250 Fantasy points in PPR leagues would be an edge at RB2. Did this owner draft five RBs that have a chance to rank in the top 12 at their position in 2018? Just for reference, here’s the player profile for each running back written at ScoutFantasySports.com:

Saquon Barkley (RB) – Over his last two seasons at Penn State, Saquon had 3,801 combined yards with 43 TDs and 82 catches. He projects as a three-down back with high value in scoring ability. Giants’ fans have to be excited by the addition of Barkley. He’ll threaten the second level of the defense with his speed if he gets a free run through the line of scrimmage while offering a dig step to set up linebackers and safeties for big plays. His vision is exceptional with the hands and route running to be a true three-down threat. If he had the Cowboys’ offensive line, Saquon would no doubt be a top three draft pick in 2018. Last year the Giants’ RBs rushed for 1,511 yards on 378 carries with only five rushing TDs. Their backs caught 105 of 139 targets for 608 yards and one TD. Eli will look to dump off many passes to the RB position when the pass blocking breaks down, which is going to happen a lot in 2018. Barkley will command a top tier RB opportunity even with a veteran RB roster. My floor is 300 rushes for 1,400 yards with 60+ catches for another 500 yards. I fully expect double digit TDs with more upside if New York’s offense clicks on all cylinders. Buy the hype and watch him deliver Fantasy championships with two possible upside matchups in Week 14 (@WAS) and Week 16 (@IND).

Think you can compete against some of the best minds in the Dynasty world?
Rules | Sign Up Now

Joe Mixon (RB) – In his first season in the NFL at age 20, Mixon gained 913 combined yards with four TDs and 30 catches while receiving 218 touches. He only had one game with more than 15 Fantasy points in a PPR league (Week 12 vs. CLE – 165 combined yards with one TD and three catches). The Bengals gave him staring carries in Week 11 (20), Week 12 (23), and Week 17 (18). Over his last five games played, Joe gained 385 combined yards with a TD and nine catches. In 2017, Cinci’s RB rushed the ball 339 times for 1,267 yards and six TDs while receiving 79 catches for 728 yards and two more TDs on 100 targets. Mixon has three-down ability, but he did struggle in his assignments in pass protection in his rookie season. Cinci should give him about 275 touches in 2018 leading to about 1,300 combined yards with eight to ten TDs and 30+ catches with much more upside if given a higher share of the offense.

Learn why Dr. Roto thinks this wide receiver is overpriced in his new offense!

Jordan Howard (RB) – The addition of Tarik Cohen and a shoulder issue deemed Howard a failed Fantasy investment in 2017 as a second-round pick. He finished with 299 touches for 1,247 combined yards with nine TDs and 23 catches. Jordan flashed his explosiveness in four games (23/140/2, 36/167, 15/125/1, and 23/147/2) with two other games of value (121 combined yards with three catches on 26 touches and 44 yards and two TDs. Unfortunately, Howard had short production in seven other games (9/7, 21/65, 15/54, 7/6, 13/38, 10/37, and 9/9). When on his game, Jordan has beast upside. He won’t be a huge factor in the passing games, which forces Howard to earn his keep with TDs and rushing yards. Possible 1,500 combined yards with double-digit TDs and about 25 catches. Last season the Bears’ RB rushed for 1,534 yards and 11 TDs on 377 rushes plus 97 catches for 718 yards and three TDs on 130 targets while having one of the worst offenses in the NFL. I expect him to be a nice value on draft day as an RB2 while expecting many peaks and valleys over the last season.

Sony Michel (RB) – Over four seasons at Georgia, Michel rushed for 3,613 yards with 39 TDs and 64 catches while splitting time with the impressive Nick Chubb. Over the last few seasons, New England has had a grinder type RB as their lead runner on early downs. Sony is a huge improvement in explosiveness with a great opportunity to score a TD a game. Over the last five seasons, the Patriots scored 19, 13, 14, 19, and 16 rushing TDs. Michel runs with vision, power, and acceleration while offering scoring ability anywhere in the red zone. His lack of opportunity in the passing game in college gives Fantasy owners minimal info on his value in the NFL. New England loves to throw to the RB position as an extension of the run game. In 2017, their RB caught 126 passes for 957 yards and a league-high nine TDs on 156 targets. My floor for Michel in 2018 is LeGarrette Blount in 2016 (299/1161/18 with seven catches for 38 yards). I expect Sony to receive between 275 and 300 touches for 1,400 yards with 15+ TDs and about 20 catches. If his hands and route running grades better than his resume, Michel may even finish with a top 10 opportunity at RB.

Think you can beat the elite? Just $299 to find out if you have what it takes to win the $50K grand prize!

Royce Freeman (RB) – In his four seasons at Oregon, Freeman rushed for 5,621 yards with 60 TDs while adding 79 catches for 814 yards and four TDs. He runs with vision and enough lateral quickness to create winning plays over any part of the line of scrimmage. Freeman runs with power and follow through at the second level of the defense. His speed (4.54) is about NFL average while lacking home run ability. In 2017, the Broncos’ RB rushed for 1,631 yards on 407 carries with only six rushing TDs. Their RBs caught 87 of 112 targets for 699 yards and two TDs. Freeman is going to be the early-down back in this offense with a chance to 300+ touches for 1,400+ yards. I expect about 25 catches in the passing game with a team-high in rushing TDs. He projects as a better version of C.J. Anderson who finished 273 touches in 2017 for 1,231 yards with four TDs and 28 catches. His style and opportunity have similarities to Jordan Howard while playing for a team that has a chance to play from the lead in many more games.

As you can see, I’m high on most of his choices at RB. The problem here is the extra RB that will sit on the bench and lead to some mistakes in lineup decision each week and the possible void at wide receiver.

In the Fantasy Football World Champions, a Fantasy owner can start four RBs (RB1, RB2, FLEX1, and FLEX2). Here’s a look at target Fantasy points in PPR leagues at all positions:

If this team’s third, fourth, and fifth RBs average over 10.3 and 9.00 Fantasy points in PPR leagues, he’ll be gaining Fantasy points over at least half the teams in the league. Assuming, his top two RBs can average 28.5 combined Fantasy points per game, this owner should have strength at four positions.

Now the downside, the WR position tends to deliver the widest range of scores over the long football season. If a Fantasy owner has too many similar players at WR, it will lead to a high volume of roster mistakes over the long haul.

For this team to be competitive, his top three WRs will have to average over 40 Fantasy points per game. Here’s a look at his options at WR:

Randall Cobb, Marquise Goodwin, Sterling Shepard, Courtland Sutton, Quincy Enunwa, Tyler Gabriel, Paul Richardson, and James Washington

Based on his option, he hopes to play his first three choices each week.

Randall Cobb should get a bump in opportunity in 2018 as the WR2 in Green Bay with Jordy Nelson moving to Oakland. His has WR2 upside if he regains even 90 percent of his 2014 form (91/1287/12). Right kind of gamble for a team cheating WR while playing in a high scoring offense.

Sterling Shepard was well on his way to a breakout season in 2017 if he played a full season. The injury to Odell Beckham did create the better opportunity. He’s a possession type WR who shows the ability to make big plays and score mid-tier TDs. I fully expect him to post a top 36 wide receiver season if he plays 16 games.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not as bullish on Marquise Goodwin, which is irrelevant here. Last year Goodwin averaged 10.54 Fantasy points in PPR leagues. If he has follow through in 2018, Marquise should fill the WR3 bucket.

I see the upside in some of his bench WRs, but I also see the possible low output in some games if this Fantasy owner is forced to play any of them before seeing an increase in playing time. I’m sure there will be some roster churn at WR when some wide receivers emerge in the free agent pool early in the year.

Both his starting options at QB and TE look to grade at the backend of the top 12 options at each position. This Fantasy owner failed to add needed depth at QB if Jimmy Garoppolo fails to live up to his expected value.

Trey Burton is a sexy breakout TE, but his upside is only the back end of the TE1 options in 2018. His second TE option is more a flash player who may have a bump in value if Tyler Eifert fails to get back on the field.

I don’t expect this team to win the league as the backend of his roster cannot deliver enough upside to add to his foundation of RBs.

If I started my team with his first four RBs, I would make these changes to improve my chances.

In round 5, I would draft Cory Davis over Royce Freeman. Davis has breakout upside, and he’d naturally slide into the starting lineup at WR.

In round 7, Even with weakness at WR, I would take a high position at TE by drafting one of these three TEs (Evan Engram, Greg Olsen, or Jimmy Graham). My take on the draft flow led to some value in the seventh round at TE.

In the 9th, I’d be extremely tempted by Mike Williams due to his breakout upside but would also consider Cam Newton. I know Newton’s floor (top 6 QB) and his potential upside. The final decision may come down to how much a Fantasy owner ranks the QBs behind him. I’m giving this Fantasy owner the selection at Jimmy Garoppolo as his starting QB pushing me toward Williams as my fourth WR.

After ten rounds, I have four studs at RB, two potential breakout WRs, one solid TE, and two steady WRs.

In the 11th and 12th rounds, I’m looking for a second strong QB or TE while keeping an open eye on the talent at WR.

Because I know future draft picks, it makes it easier to piece together the back end of the roster. Here are my remaining picks to finish this roster:

  • Round 11 – Jack Doyle
  • Round 12 – Ben Roethlisberger
  • Round 13 – Michael Gallup
  • Round 14 – Patrick Mahomes
  • Round 15 – Eric Ebron
  • Round 16 – James Washington
  • Round 17 – Willie Snead
  • Round 18 – Jonathan Stewart
  • Round 19 – Defense
  • Round 20 – Kicker

My changes in decision making would improve the depth at QB and TE while adding plenty of upside at wide receiver.

I did struggle to find the proper added depth at RB. This team could take one injury at RB. As the live drafts get closer, I would consider adding the handcuff on early downs for both Jordan Howard and Sony Michel to help protect two of the RB positions.

Every Fantasy owner has an opinion, which makes each draft a different dynamic. The goal of each Fantasy owner is to make better decisions in draft structure in drafts. Most of us are just getting to the drafting playing field, so we are at the mercy of finished drafts to help improve our draft plan.

I’m going to look at a couple of more teams in this draft to see if one team gained an edge by the changed draft flow or if another RB strong team executed properly to finish his roster.

Are you a Die-Hard Fantasy Football Player? CLICK HERE to Start Your Road to the 2018 Fantasy Football World Championships.

Shawn Childs
About Shawn Childs 532 Articles
Shawn Childs has been a high stakes Fantasy baseball and football player since 2004 where he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). In early years of the high stakes market in Fantasy baseball, he was ahead of the curve in player evaluation, draft value, and free agent bidding setting up four top-five finishes in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has four AL-only Auction titles, one NL-only title, and five Main Event titles plus an overall title in 2012 at RTFBC (netted $10,000). This success led to an induction into the NFBC Baseball Hall of Fame. His success in the high stakes market led to a career in providing Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Football content. On the football side, he’s competed and won in all different formats – auctions, draft championship, main events, and high-dollar leagues. He won 2nd place overall in the 2014 Most Accurate Salary Cap Expert contest at FantasyPros.As a dual-sport player, it was natural to transition to the daily games where he is a “swing for the fences type of guy.” Childs has appeared in one FanDuel NFL Live Final and one DraftKings NFL Live Final, a season-ending tournament which led to a couple of chances to win over $1,000,000.