That said, while I'm not reporting on football news until transactions start happening, I'm going to be talking about fantasy football still. I want to have something similar to a ESPN's draft kit full of information, ready for everyone to get ready to draft across a bunch of articles that can help everyone from newbies to ten-year vets like me. It's obviously impossible to debate overall rankings on players until free agency happens, but there are still things to discuss. There are players who have fairly set values because of their overall stable offenses. Most of the major players on teams like the Eagles, Packers, and Colts for example are all locked up through next year, so I'll be able to talk about those types of players. And of course, I can always do what I'm doing today and discuss draft strategy. Now that the draft has happened, we know the talent that will be there in the league. Free agent shifts will change opportunity for individual players, but it's fairly easy to see which positions are deep, and which are shallow.
Today, I'm going to be writing about my favorite draft strategy year in and year out, and one that should be more prevalent with everyone this year due to the weakness at the running back position...The Marshall Faulk Strategy
What is The Marshall Faulk Strategy?
The Marshall Faulk strategy is simple, but first I know that there are a handful of thirteen year-olds out there who just went "Marshall Faulk Strategy? The guy on the NFL Network has his own draft strategy?" They may know that Faulk is a Hall of Famer because he was elected just this year, but they are too young to remember when Faulk was the best all around back in the league. Faulk had four straight seasons of over 2000 all purpose yards and more than 10 touchdowns from 1998-2001 including 26 touchdowns in 2000 and 21 touchdowns in 2001. It was an amazing four season stretch that occurred over the same time period that the internet was booming and making fantasy football into a game that everyone could play. So when a name was needed for a strategy that was all about running backs, naming it after the clear number one running back was the obvious answer.
So what is this simple strategy? Draft a running back in the first round regardless of draft position (though hoping to get the first pick and Faulk). Then draft another running back in the second round...And then another in the third round. Then after that, you look to fill out your wide receivers and quarterbacks in rounds four through six based on the flow of the draft. Then the Faulk strategy gets pretty open ended, though personally I like to come back with another running back in the seventh round when everyone is filling out their tight end position.
The idea here is that running back is the scarcest position in fantasy football. You could take a quarterback or a receiver in round three, but while everyone is scrambling to fill their roster, you should be able to get another good running back to add to yours. Good running backs are gold in fantasy football. While some would tell you that running backs get injured all the time in an attempt to discourage you from taking three, it should really encourage you. Even if none of your running backs get hurt, someone else's will and your extra back will be a great trade chip.
Where did it go? Did they come up with something better?
Over the last few years, it has become cool to offer up other draft strategies. Most fantasy writers want you to notice them for being different. Rather than offer you the Marshall Faulk strategy like they should, for the last few years most writers have been offering up different "unique" ideas. However, all these unique ideas really break down into two categories.
Some will tell you that you should draft a quarterback in the first round, citing the fact that quarterbacks score more points than any other position. They neglect to discuss the fact that most leagues start just one quarterback, which makes the position less important to fill early. They also don't mention that NFL teams all play just one quarterback, while the running back by committee is running rampant throughout the league. There are thirty-two clear cut starting quarterbacks every year, as opposed to maybe fifteen or twenty full time starters at running back. And they also don't mention the fact that generally, the number one running back has a greater difference between him and the twentieth ranked running back (the "worst starter" in a ten team league) than the difference between the number one quarterback and the number ten quarterback.
The rest will try and tell you that you can't miss on grabbing a stud receiver in the early rounds, claiming that there are less studs at receiver than running back, but the studs at receiver are more consistent. They wont mention that those stud receivers actually have less separation than even quarterbacks between the best starter and the worst starter. They also wont mention that last year, the best starting receivers scored less than any of the top ten running backs. And they will totally ignore the fact that the receiver position is far more volatile week to week than the running back position. Dwayne Bowe, the number two receiver last year (according to NFL.com scoring), actually had two weeks where he started games scored zero points for your fantasy team. A stud running back is going to give you points every single week.
Don't let them fool you. Year in and year out... The Faulk Strategy should be your default maneuver.
So why is it "back" this year?
It's back this year for three reasons. The small first reason that it is back, is that I'm going to be pimping the Faulk Strategy all summer long. I'm going to make sure that everyone i reach is aware of the Faulk Strategy and it's benefits. The bigger second reason is that Running Back is shallower than ever this year while Quarterback and Receiver are deeper than they have ever been.
Take a quick trip to the NFL.com fantasy rankings or the early ESPN rankings (click on the results tab) and take a look at the depth at all three major positions this year. Even if I didn't already tell you that RB was shallow this year, It's fairly obvious when you look at the guys who are the highest ranked non-starters at each position.
If you miss the top ten quarterbacks, that's totally fine. You can still be picking up Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, or Matt Ryan/Schaub depending on the list you look at. All of those guys, save the injured Stafford, were top eleven quarterbacks last year and scored between 60 and 70 less points than the top quarterbacks.
If you move over to receiver, you see similar results. Obviously you'll end up with at least one top twenty receiver and have a shot to grab two even if you go three deep at running back to start, but even if you miss one, the guys outside the top twenty are still solid. You can be getting Mario Manningham, Brandon Marshall, Percy Harvin or Michael Crabtree even if you wait. That's two (real life) number one receivers and a pair of elite number two receivers. Another group of players that scored between just 60 and 70 less than the top receivers.
Then look at the running backs. If you can't get two top twenty running backs, things go sour fast. Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis is going to be losing touches. Cedric Benson doesn't actually have a team, and in his best year averaged just 4.2 yards per carry. Felix Jones is supposed to get more touches every year, but that has yet to actually happen. Ryan Grant is coming off a major injury. Mark Ingram is in the murky Saints backfield. Fred Jackson is a good third running back, but thats it. The 22nd best running back scored 100 points less than the second best running back (Chris Johnson), and 200 points less than Arian Foster.
Running back is the most important position in fantasy, but it's the shallowest this year. Don't get caught napping. If you follow the Marshall Faulk Strategy, you'll have no problem grabbing three top twenty running backs for your team.
Don't Forget The Flex
Most fantasy websites standard scoring now feature the flex position. And that is the third reason why the Marshall Faulk Strategy should be back. In basically every league now you are eligible to start three running backs, so when you follow the Faulk Strategy and draft three running backs, you can play all three week in and week out.
Of course you could start a receiver in your flex, but if you do that means you failed to find enough quality running backs. All of the top eleven running backs scored more than any wide receiver. The seventeenth best running back was LaDanian Tomlinson, and he scored more points than every receiver outside of the top ten. Running backs are strictly better than receivers for fantasy.
Between the positional shallowness and the prevalence of the flex, there is absolutely no reason to not be following the Marshall Faulk strategy. Ignore what everyone else is trying to tell you and just draft your three running backs to start the draft, and use their consistency to cruise to your fantasy title.