Drafting RB or WR…that is the question

If you’re going to concoct yourself a draft strategy, surely you’ve already considered the extreme risk associated with drafting running backs.

In 2015, 33% of the Top 15 pre-season RBs suffered season-ending injuries. In 2016, that number stayed relatively constant at 27%. Now tell me, is a 70% success rate enough to warrant a first round pick? That call is probably up to you.

To look further into this issue, we analyze more than just the injury risk, we’ll look at points per game. Again, we’re going to focus only on Top 15 RBs, most of which get consumed before the 4th round of any draft. This is where the meat is, where most people spend the most time, and the most frequent topic of water cooler conversations.

We’ll use the chart below to analyze.

First let’s look at points. It’s not surprise QB’s get you the most points, followed by RB’s and then WR’s. So you should draft a QB first? Not necessarily.

The gap between the Top 5 QB average and the Top 15 QB average is 2.7 points per game. For RB’s this number is 3.6 and for WR’s this number is 1.7.

What this tells us is that snagging a Top 5 RB is more important than snagging a Top 5 RB or WR. So you should draft a RB first? Not necessarily.

Analyzing risk is an important factor. Looking at the Top 15 rankings for RB’s, there’s a 27% chance that they’ll sustain a season-ending or season-disrupting injury. That number is only 7% for WR’s and basically 0% for QB’s.

So what all this means is that you should balance a variety of factors. If your philosophy is RB-heavy, then by all means snag a Top 5 because the gap between elite and non-elite is significant. This is justified because there are 15 WR’s that will all perform well and 10 QB’s who can all be trusted as well.

However, if your philosophy is QB-centric, you can be fairly certain that injuries won’t hinder your season, so grab the guy you want. Treat RB’s as expendable commodities, and snag some quality WR’s in the process.

Lastly, the WR-centric approach allows teams to endure minimal injuries, but there is greater risk in sacrificing an early pick. The difference between Top 5 and Top 15 is minimal. Ignoring the 2017 exceptions like Antonio Brown, you are sacrificing a much more valuable RB or QB in order to grab a WR, who in all likelihood will perform about as well as someone ranked 5-10 spots lower.

Strategies vary. Risk varies. Your competition varies. As Olmec says, the choices are yours and yours alone.