I get it. You want a receiver.
Regardless of which running back you drafted early last year, there's a good chance that they left you wanting more, if not crying yourself to sleep on a weekly basis. Le'Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, and Marshawn Lynch got hurt. C.J. Anderson, Eddie Lacy, DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Hill, and Alfred Morris all often looked like they would have been benched on their Saturday morning co-ed touch football team - actually Morris wouldn't even have made the team. Matt Forte had the least rushing yards of his career and tied for the least receptions. LeSean McCoy just had a simply weird season, plus you got to watch Karlos Williams steal nine of his touchdowns. The only early selection that you would have been happy with was Adrian Peterson, but he's not human so we're just going to keep on movin'.
Since probably 95% of fantasy owners got burned by one of the players mentioned above last season, many are going into their drafts salivating over the idea of drafting one of the top receivers in Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., or DeAndre Hopkins.
I'm all for locking up running backs early this year. You can make the argument that running backs are much more likely to get hurt and/or bust - and it's true - but that makes getting a top-flight running back even more crucial.
Now to my easy number one.
Le'Veon Bell suffered a torn MCL in Week 8 against the Bengals in 2015. In his first five games, he posted a very respectable 511 rushing yards along with 22 receptions for 123 receiving yards and three touchdowns (all rushing). If you extrapolate those stats to the rest of the season, he would have finished with 1431 rushing yards, 62 receptions, 344 receiving yards, and 8 touchdowns, good for 228 standard league points and 290 PPR (point per reception) points in just 14 games - keep in mind that silly Bell got suspended for the first two games.
Where does that stack up?
Devonta Freeman led 2015 RBs in standard fantasy points with 230, so Bell would have finished just below him at 228. Same goes for PPR: Freeman had 303 points, and Bell would have finished behind him at 290. In a 16 game season, Bell would have posted 260 in standard and 331 in PPR, both of which would have been the highest totals for running backs by a large margin.
If you want to do weird, illegal things and combine Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams into one pink-dreadlocked-super-human named PIT RB, that creation would have finished as the number one running back with 262 standard points and 326 PPR points - oddly similar to Bell's 16 game season projection (insert winky face).
Simply put, Bell is a maniac. His production is a huge reason why he is my number one overall player heading into 2016, but the draft landscape has a lot to do with it as well.
I'm going to fast forward to the possible available players in the fourth round of a 10-team league - starting with the 31st pick. This is what you may see in terms of available running backs and wide receivers according to FantasyPros ADP:
31: Demaryius Thomas
32: Keenan Allen
33: T.Y. Hilton
34: Carlos Hyde
35: Matt Forte
36: Kelvin Benjamin
37: C.J. Anderson
38: Julian Edelman
42: Latavius Murray
43: Randall Cobb
45: Doug Baldwin
46: DeMarco Murray
47: Jonathan Stewart
48: Jeremy Maclin
49: Jarvis Landry
50: Jeremy Hill
Take this with a grain of salt because obviously these won't necessarily be the running backs and receivers available starting at the 31st pick in your draft.
Ask yourself when looking at this group of players: what position would I want to enter this round needing?
If it's a running back, you get to choose among Hyde, Anderson, Murray (x2), Stewart or Hill. Hyde, Latavius Murray, and Stewart are the only running backs there towards which you could even feel a sliver of trust. Hyde's situation is a complete mystery to me, Murray was oddly unproductive last year (though I expect better), and Stewart is actually the number two running back on his team behind Cam Newton.
If it's a receiver, you get to choose among Thomas, Allen, Hilton, Benjamin, Edelman, Cobb, Baldwin, Maclin, or Landry. All of those players are the number one receiving options on their respective teams, aside from Cobb and possibly Edelman.
The point is that running back is crazy shallow while wide receiver is crazy deep. I'd rather take a chance on a stud RB early - ideally Bell, but it doesn't have to be - than take a chance on one of these impending garbage fires in the later rounds.
And, yes, I'm taking Bell in Standard and PPR with no regrets.
Don't get me wrong. The wide receivers are great, and I also have them ranked very highly. I just want you to take off the blinders and realize that you don't need to take a receiver first. Waiting on running backs could very possibly end up hurting you. There will be running back casualties, but if the stars align and you get a good, durable one, you're golden.
I know a lot of readers are very passionate about using the "Zero RB" strategy, but unfortunately I'm not part of that crowd (yet). Let me have it in the comments section or on Twitter @DonaldGibsonFF.