The fantasy football debates surrounding the No. 1 overall pick are never about which position should be off the board first.
Those discussions are always about which running backs will be taken first no matter if you play in an eight-, 10- or 12-team league.
Christian McCaffrey has been one of the first names mentioned in the No. 1 overall pick conversation over the last few years, but he has significant competition for that position in most leagues for the 2022 NFL season.
Jonathan Taylor’s fantastic 2021 campaign vaulted him to the top of fantasy football rankings. The Indianapolis Colts running back could end up as the most selected No. 1 pick once all fantasy drafts are completed.
If you do not have the luxury of landing the No. 1 pick, there are still quality running backs who will be left in the first round.
Most of the first-round picks in leagues of any size will be running backs because they are so valuable in fantasy football, but there is always one person in your league who thinks they can outthink everyone by not picking a running back in the first few rounds.
1. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis
2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina
3. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota
4. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee
5. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
6. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati
7. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland
8. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh
9. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
10. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota
11. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City
12. D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit
You can never have too many running backs on a fantasy football roster.
A stable of five or six running backs is needed at the start of the NFL season because there are so many variables that come into play over the course of 17 games.
Star players will get hurt, some starters will lose their jobs, and unheralded stars will come out of nowhere and turn into fantasy football darlings.
Injuries are the most concerning issue with top-tier running backs for fantasy football managers. The last thing you want to see is a first-round pick go out for the season or for like 8-12 weeks, but that almost always happens to someone in every league.
McCaffrey carries the biggest injury concerns among the top-tier running backs, but when healthy, he is the most valuable part of the Carolina Panthers offense. That is why, despite playing 10 games in the last two seasons, McCaffrey sits only behind Taylor on most preseason fantasy football rankings.
The best way to prevent your roster from being wrecked by one injury is to draft depth in the later rounds. Preseason projections are not perfect, but you should have a good idea by the end of August which players are getting significant reps as No. 2 running backs or which starters on struggling teams could be fantasy difference-makers.
There will always be surprises, like Cordarrelle Patterson becoming the Atlanta Falcons’ lead running back in 2021, but there is enough depth out there where you can stash one or two running backs on your bench in any fantasy format to prevent an injury from damaging your whole season.
Even if an injury does not occur, you can have four or five running backs to mix and match throughout the season based on matchups or recent form. The more options, the better when it comes to the most important fantasy position.
There is always one person in fantasy football leagues who thinks they are smarter than everyone else and can use an alternative strategy to get an advantage in the draft.
From personal experience, it does not work out. You need top-tier running backs to survive in fantasy football. You do not want to be scouring the waiver wire every week or to be working the right trade combinations to improve your team in Week 3.
If you go the non-running back route in the first round, it has to be for one of a few players. Cooper Kupp, Travis Kelce, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase fit that billing.
Once you pick one of those players, you should pivot back to running back to grab someone like Aaron Jones, Saquon Barkley or Javonte Williams to solidify your RB1 spot.
Expecting a third- or fourth-round fantasy pick to be your No. 1 running back is a risk that rarely pays off. There is a reason why the top-tier running backs are in a category of their own.
The specific wide receiver or tight end that you want may not be around in the third or fourth rounds after your first running back pick, but there is enough quality across the league where you can find good options at those positions without sacrificing the high volume and large point totals that come from the top running backs.
And whatever you do, please do not pick a quarterback in the first round. Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert will all likely be around in the second round or beyond. Do not reach for a quarterback in the first round if you pivot away from running back. Focus on a wide receiver or tight end instead.
One of the biggest trends in fantasy football drafts is the run on a specific position in the mid-to-late rounds.
Usually this trend is reserved for kickers and defenses. Once one person selects a kicker or defense, at least a few people follow with picks from the same position.
The kicker run will probably be started with either Justin Tucker or Evan McPherson. If you can’t land one of them, do not fall into the trap of the kicker run. You can find a serviceable kicker in the final two rounds of your draft.
The same rule can be applied to defenses. The 1985 Chicago Bears and 2001 Baltimore Ravens will not be on the field in 2022, so you do not have to spend a mid-round draft pick on a defense. Wait until the rest of your roster is settled.
These are the two most notable positional trends, but it can apply to quarterback and tight end as well.
Once you get past the top-tier players at QB and TE who will be drafted early, there is not much of a difference between the available players. Instead of succumbing to the peer pressure of a positional run, stick to your personal strategy and find the right time to take players at any position.
For example, you could find a third or fourth running back or wide receiver while everyone else panics about which kickers are available.
If you stick to your own personal team needs, the draft will go a lot smoother and you may have a better roster than most people in your league.
The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.
The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.