We’re starting to stack our fantasy football draft board here at Football Relativity. We started by identifying this year’s truly elite players and came up with a fantastic four of running backs. We worked to identify the top QB and ended up with a surprising conclusion.
So we have four running backs (but no quarterbacks) in the elite tier (which we’ll call Tier 1A going forward.) The question now is whether any receivers merit inclusion in this level.
To me, there’s only one candidate at receiver – Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald. He’s the top receiver on every draft board I’ve seen, and he’s coming off a four-game playoff performance that was the best I’ve ever seen. He has had over 1400 yards and at least 10 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, and he seems to just now be truly coming into his own.
So it has to be at least a consideration to include Fitzgerald among the truly elite players in fantasy football this year. In other words, after the first four backs, would you be more comfortable taking a back who is a half-step down (someone like Steven Jackson, LaDanian Tomlinson, DeAngelo Williams, etc.) or taking Fitzgerald and getting the best receiver around?
The numbers indicate that Fitzgerald can’t be included in the top 5. While he has been crazy productive, he has an average of 9 1/2 touchdowns per season. (He missed 3 games in 2006, which skewed his average down from 10.) That’s great receiver production, but it’s hard to equate with a running back who, even in Tier 1B, should be a 12-15 touchdown guy. So the numbers say leave Fitzgerald on the board a little longer.
But before we make the decision, we should look at this next group of runners to look at their downside. Fitzgerald is a safe pick. He is money for at least 10-12 touchdowns, and if he really is emerging, 16 to 18 is at least on the table. The running backs we’re considering here – Jackson, Tomlinson, Williams, Chris Johnson, and Brandon Jacobs, along with maybe Brian Westbrook, Steve Slaton, and Frank Gore – all have more downside. The downside may be injuries (Jackson, Gore, Tomlinson, and Westbrook all have some history) or shared duties. Any of these players could end up with 15 touchdowns in a best-case scenario, but the worst-case scenario is kind of scary. That makes Fitzgerald a little more attractive at No. 5.
In the end, though, the numbers win out for me. I can’t put Fitzgerald with the Fantastic Four in Tier 1A. Instead, he will be in Tier 1B with at least some of the running backs we’ve mentioned. So how do we make sense of that clump? That’s for a future post to decide.