Running backs have always been the top value in fantasy drafts. Even with the growing popularity of PPR leagues, running backs still dominate the early rounds of drafts. Let’s look at the top 15 players taken in 2015 at their respective positions, running back and wide receivers, and see exactly how those players have done so far.
The players are listed in order of their ADP by an accumulation of draft stats from multiple websites. Fantasy Pros offers all of the data used for the ADP, and the scoring is PPR based. Players currently on injured reserved were excluded from the points per game rankings.
1. Le’Veon Bell (IR) 18 PPG
2. Adrian Peterson (10th) 15 PPG
3. Jamaal Charles (IR) 19 PPG
4. Eddie Lacy (t-39th) 7 PPG
5. Marshawn Lynch (t-20th) 11 PPG
6. CJ Anderson (t-39th) 7 PPG
7. Matt Forte (t-4th) 16 PPG
8. DeMarco Murray (t-4th) 16 PPG
9. Jeremy Hill (t-31st) 9 PPG
10. LeSean McCoy (t-12th) 13 PPG
11. Justin Forsett (t-12th) 13 PPG
12. Lamar Miller (t-4th) 16 PPG
13. Frank Gore (t-15th) 12 PPG
14. Mark Ingram (t-4th) 16 PPG
15. Melvin Gordon (t-39th) 7 PPG
1. Antonio Brown (t-4th) 20 PPG
2. Dez Bryant (t-37th) 11 PPG
3. Julio Jones (1st) 24 PPG
4. Odell Beckham Jr. (t-7th) 19 PPG
5. Demaryius Thomas (t-11th) 17 PPG
6. Calvin Johnson (t-16th) 16 PPG
7. AJ Green (t-9th) 18 PPG
8. Randall Cobb (t-24th) 14 PPG
9. TY Hilton (t-24th) 14 PPG
10. Alston Jeffery (t-2nd) 23 PPG
11. Brandin Cooks (t-24th) 14 PPG
12. Mike Evans (t-31st) 13 PPG
13. DeAndre Hopkins (t-2nd) 23 PPG
14. Jordan Matthews (t-24th) 14 PPG
15. Emmanuel Sanders (t-16th) 16 PPG
Data I have found over the past 4 to 5 years has shown no reason to believe injuries occur more often to running backs than wide receivers, but the variance in ADP to on-field production has shown wide receivers are the safer bet to take early on in your drafts. This sample does not definitively prove anything, but so far in 2015, only 2 of the top 15 receivers in ADP land outside the top 25 in PPR scoring at their position, compared to running backs having 4.
Using Fantasy Pros rest of season rankings, the 13 healthy running backs listed have 5 players over 10 spots further than their ADP, while the 15 wide receivers have 3. 10 spots is a somewhat arbitrary number, but it gives you a picture of how far these players have fallen in their positional ranking projections.
Winning and losing a fantasy league takes luck, but you can gain a slight edge with the right moves in your draft and throughout the year. It’s not a significant difference, but a difference worth considering when you go into your drafts in 2016.