By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Going into this season, I advocated repeatedly that ignoring the running back position for the first few rounds of your draft was the way to go. Only one running back in 2015 crossed the 300 point threshold while six wide receivers crossed the same threshold. This year? The opposite occurred. Five running backs topped 300 points – one even crossed 400 points – while only one wide receiver hit that mark this season.
Of course, if you listened to my advice, you could have found decent value at the running back position while grabbing a solid number one, a number two who turned into a one, and maybe a bounce back candidate or rookie who surprised everyone, including yourself. But we can’t all draft Antonio Brown number one, nab Jordy Nelson in the second, take a flier on Mike Evans or Brandin Cooks in the third, and still manage to find DeMarco Murray in the fourth and Melvin Gordon in the eighth. Or can you?
Maybe that was a fantasy, pun intended. Or maybe the flip in scoring takes us back to a simpler time, when we all just load up on running backs again. Are you ready to return to the old? I’m not.
Let’s look at this from a different angle. Of my preseason top 10, Julio Jones (2nd) missed two games; DeAndre Hopkins (4th) dealt with the enigma that is Brock Osweiler; A.J. Green (5th) missed six games, seven if you count week 17; Keenan Allen (6th) missed the season after tearing his ACL in week 1; Allen Robinson (7th) dealt with the regression of Blake Bortles and teams scheming to stop him; Brandon Marshall (8th) dealt with the quarterback carousel that was New York Jets signal-callers; and Dez Bryant (9th) missed three games and struggled to find chemistry with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.
A plague of inconsistency. It happens every year. The best get beaten up, the breakout candidates miss by a year, and injuries around those players affect their overall performance. We call that life. But there were some surprises this year though. A return to stardom by Nelson and Evans; T.Y. Hilton stepped up with the return of Andrew Luck; Doug Baldwin showed last year wasn’t a fluke; and Larry Fitzgerald showed he isn’t done yet.
But while everyone wants to crown running backs as king again and say the position is making a comeback, let’s take a closer look. Sure, five running backs topped 300 points. If you include those five, only 13 running backs total topped 200 points. Guess how many wide receivers did that in 2016? 19. All this year proved is the disparity in the tiers of running backs. Maybe the best of the best at running back are more valuable than the best at wide receiver. But you’re likely going to win a league with quality and quantity at wide receiver, which is far easier to come by.
Below are how the WRs of 2016 finished. Point totals cover weeks 1-16 and scoring is in Club Fantasy format:
|2||Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||296.2|
|23||Terrelle Pryor Sr.||CLE||197.0|
|34||Steve Smith Sr.||BAL||179.5|
|49||Ted Ginn Jr.||CAR||149.7|
|62||Will Fuller V||Hou||122.8|