When it comes to selecting your first-round pick in fantasy football, consistency is key. The first round is not the place to plague your roster with unnecessary risk.
With the changes taking place in the NFL—committee backfields, pass-heavy schemes—a running back may not be your best option in the first round.
Let's face it, the running backs that have the most value are the guys netting at least 20-25 touches per game (read: getting tackled 20-25 times per game). But with each tackle comes the risk of injury.
On the flip side, quarterbacks, wide receivers and—dare I say—tight ends take hits at a fraction of the rate of running backs. Hence, they are less likely to wind up on your bench with the dreaded "O" beside their name. So when you sit down for your draft and you're nerves are buzzing at their peak, make sure to calm yourself with our advice on what to do with your first-round pick.
Gone are the Days of the Workhorse
There's nothing worse for a Matt Forte owner than watching Michael Bush do a touchdown dance. Watching Bush vulture your touchdown forces you to stare at your computer and mumble profanities.
Rare is the workhorse running back—the every-down back that can run, catch and of course, retain the coveted goal-line work. There are only a few of these left in the league. The rest are practicing their sharing skills with the rock.
Unless you're able to land a true No. 1 running back—Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice—you're better off waiting a couple of rounds to build your virtual backfield.
Account for Injuries
When it comes to your draft, you need to think of your running backs the same way I think of having girlfriends. I don't shoot for one perfect 10; I have five good two's. Both ways you get to 10, but only one way gives you options.
Having options at the running back position is essential because of the myriad of injuries that exist at the position. Rather than wasting a top pick on a guy who has a good chance of being hurt, you can grab a quarterback or wide receiver who will be shelling out fantasy points each week.
Quarterbacks and wide receivers don't take nearly the amount of punishment as running backs. It's better to wait on a running back and snag a few solid options like Marshawn Lynch, Darren Sproles or even Reggie Bush in the second, third or fourth round.
Passing League Affects First-Round Choices
This past season, 10 quarterbacks eclipsed the 4,000-yard passing mark. Three of those (Drew Brees,Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford) tossed the rock more than 5,000 yards.
To put those numbers into perspective, in 2010 Philip Rivers led the league with 4,710 passing yards—in 2011, he would've finished fifth.
Here's another stat: There have been four quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 5,000 yards looking back just 10 years—three of them were from this past season.
NFL teams have de-emphasized the run game and have turned to airing it out. Next season, when you belly up to the table for your fantasy football draft, consider following the NFL's trend.
Look for a top passer before you establish your ground game.
Week 1 Health Status
Normally, preseason NFL games are boring and provide little value to fantasy football managers. I can still remember watching Chris Johnson struggle in the 2010 preseason averaging a measly 2.1 yards on 19 carries. I slid Johnson down my draft board only for him to break off 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns in the regular season.
Well, this preseason won't be a normal preseason.
There are seven running backs who are coming back from significant injuries and will test their injured body parts during the exhibition games.
Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Darren McFadden, Fred Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall and DeMarco Murray all will be "ahead of schedule" when it comes to their recovery. You can bank on such PR campaigns coming from their camps this summer.
Don't buy into the hype. Running backs coming off of injury are highly suspect to perform well. Yet another reason to pass on these guys as your top pick in 2012.
Fluke Season Another Reason
Can Marshawn Lynch put together back-to-back stellar seasons, or was 2011 a fluke? We happen to think "Beast Mode" was motivated by money being that he was in a contract year in 2011.
And then there's Reggie Bush. He broke out last season and passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his NFL career. More impressively, he averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Will he be a featured back? Has he established himself as a true running back in the NFL? Will he repeat those numbers for you in 2012?
Those are not the type of questions you want to answer with a top pick of the draft. Let him slide into the third or fourth round.
Neither are the questions that Chris Johnson poses to fantasy owners.
Sure, Johnson passed the 1,000-yard mark like Bush, but Johnson owners were forced to suffer through his pathetic efforts for most of the season. Will Johnson bounce back in 2012? Or will owners be subjected to more pinky tackles bringing down their top pick?
Leave those questions for another owner to answer.
Depth at Running Back
The trend to wait on a running back will hit fantasy football like a Beanie Wells stiff arm. That fact alone will push solid rushers to later rounds.
But even if you take the top 10 running backs off of the board, you still have guys like Steven Jackson, Darren Sproles, Ahmad Bradshaw and Fred Jackson. Each of these ball-carriers—among a host of others—have the ability to put up 1,000-yard seasons with multiple touchdowns.
If you pair a couple of the later-round running backs with an Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Calvin Johnson, your team will make it beyond Week 13 next season.
There are several reasons you'll want to wait on selecting a ball carrier in the first round of your draft. We gave you a few. Let us know if you have others.