NFL football games are often won between the trenches, but fantasy football championships are born at the running back position. Bonafide stud running backs are crucial to league-winning rosters — that's why RBs are currently flying off the board in the first two rounds of Underdog best ball drafts.
It's no secret who the league’s top dogs are in fantasy — Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry — but the talent falls off quickly outside the first few rounds.
That doesn’t mean we should avoid the position after the heavy hitters, though. There’s value to be had with middle- to late-round running backs; you just need to know where to look.
I’ve collected a sample of 67 running backs since 2017 who were drafted outside the top 24 (or went undrafted) and outproduced their ADP in PPR formats. The goal is to find common themes among these league-winning running backs — like Mike Davis and James Robinson — and apply the findings to the upcoming 2021 season.
Most productive RBs drafted outside top-24 since 2017 (PPR)
|Mark Ingram II||NO||2017||RB25||RB6|
|Duke Johnson Jr.||CLE||2017||RB38||RB11|
Every year, several running backs drafted outside the top 24 finish the year as fantasy RB1s in PPR scoring. But identifying and drafting these backs is easier said than done.
To start, we need to look at when these specific backs were taken in drafts to find out if there's a sweet spot for RBs primed to smash their expected outcomes in a certain ADP range.
Fantasy Finish and ADP
The sample size includes running backs drafted outside the top 24 who beat their ADP. But breaking them into subsets of ADP ranges offers a clearer picture of the best value spot at the RB position.
The RB3 range (RB25-RB38) presents the greatest hit rate for fantasy running backs to return a mid-range RB2 (RB16.8) finish. That’s not Earth-shattering news — undervalued starting RBs are often selected in this range. There are also plenty of RBs in crowded backfields and backs who offer serious pass-catching chops.
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