This is the year of the wide receiver.
I understand, a reliable running back is what every fantasy champion has, maybe even two. In this day and age, however, teams are deploying running back committees. In 2015, there were 25 teams who deployed a running back committee where each running back played at least 200 offensive snaps. In addition to that stat, seven of the 25 teams mentioned deployed a committee in which three running backs played at least 200 offensive snaps.
Care to guess what 7 teams did not have multiple running backs play 200+ snaps? That list includes Carolina, Dallas, Indianapolis, Miami, Minnesota, Oakland, and San Francisco. The only running back on those teams considered to be worthy of the first overall pick would be Adrian Peterson, and even then I wouldn’t do it.
I get it: snaps do not equal fantasy production. However, 78% of the league named a starting running back and paid him starter-type money, then ultimately gave nearly 40% of the offensive plays to his backup, or even the backup’s backup!
If a player is only going to be on the field 60%, why is he so important? My fellow writer argues that this is the exact reason that you need the stud running back as the first overall pick, a la Le’Veon Bell. I respectfully disagree. Running backs are so easily replaced that it’s too risky to spend the first overall pick on a running back.
For example, before the injury to his shoulder, Mark Ingram was a top 7 fantasy running back. Once he was placed on the season-ending IR, Tim Hightower, who hadn’t played a significant amount of downs since 2010, rushed for 327 yards on 84 carries with 4 touchdowns in the final four games of the season. I understand, you can’t predict injuries. However, the running success that the majority of teams have isn’t a result of the running back’s skill level; it’s a result of the system.
If it’s the system that is making the running back better, who is to say that they won’t be replaced or split time? Who’s to say that DeAngelo Williams doesn’t take away carries, receptions, and TDs from Bell who is coming off of a knee injury?
Antonio Brown finished the 2015 season with 136 receptions for 1,834 yards and 10 TDs which equals 243 standard fantasy points and 389 points in PPR format. That is a 24.3 points/game for PPR, even with a handful of sub-par performances with Michael Vick starting in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger.
Don’t forget that Brown is just getting better too, as he has recorded new highs in receptions, targets, and yards each of the last three years. Pair that with at least 8 TDS each year, and you can see why the star wide out is the number one pick for me.
Make the smart pick at number one; take Antonio Brown.