Here’s an interesting fact; over the last four years, the average distance separating the 5th best WR from the 10th best, the 10th best from the 15th, and the 15th from the 20th is a mere 1 fantasy point per game in each case – well, 1.18, 1, and .87 to be precise. The case is similar with RBs, but not quite so close. Over the last four seasons, the 5th best RB averaged exactly 2 fantasy points more per game than the 10th, who averaged 1.56 more than the 15th, who averaged 1.25 more than the 20th.
As you read my list of the top 12 RBs for 2013, I want you to keep one very important thing in mind. Player rankings and lists are entertaining. They are useful insofar as they provide perspective by placing individuals within the context of their peers. But, player rankings should never be used as a draft guide on their own. They should always be used in conjunction with knowledge of those same players’ average draft positions (ADP). For example, I rank Steven Jackson and Maurice Jones-Drew as the 9th and 11th best fantasy backs for 2013 respectively, but if their average draft positions suggest that they will be available to me in the 3rd or 4th round, there’s no way I’m making either player the 9th or 11th RB off the board. Take guys where you have to, not where they’re ranked. With that said, it is possible to pursue fantasy value to a fault. If you really want a guy, and know you’ll be cutting it close by waiting, sometimes you just have to go and take that plunge. A fantasy draft is a bit of a balancing act, but if you know who you want, and have a pretty good idea of when you have to take them, you should find yourself a good step ahead of the competition. With that out of the way, I give you the list.
The knock against Steven Jackson has always been that he doesn’t score enough. He’s exceeded 8 touchdowns only twice in his career, and the last time he did that was way back in 2006. But can we really blame Jackson for that lack of scoring production? After all, the Rams offense has been so putrid over the last few years that the last time any Rams player exceeded 8 touchdowns was in 2006, when Jackson and WR Torry Holt scored 16 and 10 times respectively.
Prior to his unceremonious replacement by Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, Alex Smith was on his way to a career year. Based on the numbers he compiled in the 49ers’ first eight games, had Smith retained his starting job for the entire season, he would have thrown for 3,312 yards and 24 touchdowns, with only 10 interceptions. Not too shabby really, but also not all that fantasy relevant. Those stats would have given him approximately 240 fantasy points for the season, only good enough to make him fantasy’s 14th best QB.
When you draft a top-tier QB in the first two rounds, your object is to establish the highest week-to-week fantasy point baseline possible. If you choose to forgo that weekly scoring advantage, you should do so either with an eye toward building strong positional roster depth, or because you feel that a particular non-top-tier QB is capable of near-top-tier production. For example, let’s say that you believe Eli Manning, because of his subpar 2012 performance, will be available to you in the 8th round of your 10 team fantasy draft (picks 71 to 80). Let us further assume that you have decided to draft a TE no earlier than the 11th round (picks 101 to 110). Finally, let’s say that your league uses a fairly standard starting roster format – 1QB, 2RBs, 2WRs, 1TE, 1Flex, 1D/ST, 1K – with 6 or 7 bench slots. What does this particular draft strategy do for you?