Is QB more important than RB in Fantasy Drafts?
However, those days may be over.
I took a look at all the rosters in my league last year and found some interesting statistics among everyone's QB's and RB's. I analyzed the numbers based on the six teams that made the playoffs against the four teams that didn't make it. All the numbers are based on my league's scoring settings, which you can look at here.
The first thing that caught my eye was that the starting QB's of teams that made the playoffs, on average, outscored the non-playoff teams by 124.95 points over the course of the season. Where top quarterbacks used to put up similar numbers to the low-end QB1's, there is now a striking difference between the elite and the mediocre. This is in large part due to several teams, such as the Packers, Saints, and Patriots, adopting a new pass-happy approach that is becoming more and more popular in the NFL. When quarterbacks have more opportunities to make plays, the top-tier becomes further separated from the second-tier.
That number alone may not be extraordinarily compelling, but compare it to this: playoff teams' top-drafted running backs only averaged 78.52 more points than the non-playoff teams' top-drafted backs. In addition, 3 of 6 playoff teams (including the two teams in the championship) waited until the second-round to draft their first RB, while only 1 of 4 non-playoff teams did so.
Another intriguing statistic came when looking at teams' second-drafted running backs. Playoff teams were actually outscored by non-playoff teams by an average of 24.85 points. Some teams attempted to load up at RB and wait to get a QB for a better value in the later rounds, but it didn't seem to work for them. It seems to make more sense to go after a QB earlier, and wait to get a better value on a RB later.
But if you're losing value at RB2, where do you make up for it? Well, aside from the fact that you'll be gaining a ton of value at the quarterback position, you're going to want to dig deep into free agency every Tuesday. Running back is the most important position when it comes to the waiver-wire. Between injuries, committee approaches, and Mike Shanahan backfields, there are always free agents to target. As well as free agents, there is way more sleeper appeal for RB's than there is for QB's. Among the six playoff teams in my league, only one team started a quarterback who wasn't drafted as a QB1 (Cam Newton). However, plenty of playoff teams rode their sleeper RB's to the postseason...
Looking at free agent pickups and players drafted in the final four rounds (of a 17 round draft), the playoff teams' top six were Michael Bush, Roy Helu, CJ Spiller, Willis McGahee, Pierre Thomas, and Beanie Wells. The non-playoff teams' top four were Ben Tate, Montario Hardesty, DeMarco Murray, and Jackie Battle. The non-playoff teams were outscored by an average of 68.83 points in this category, just 10 less than in the top-drafted RB category.
The days of waiting until the middle-rounds to draft Matt Schaub while you stack up on your skill position players are over; you need an elite quarterback. This isn't to say that you can't take a running back or wide receiver in the first or second round, but if you miss out on one of the top five or six QB's you're at a severe disadvantage. I'd still suggest picking among Foster, Rice, and McCoy if you have one of the top three picks, but there's a huge drop off after those three and a deep pool of solid RB's, so taking someone like Aaron Rodgers over a Maurice Jones-Drew type player may be the way to go.
In summation, make sure you get an elite quarterback, even if it means waiting a round to get your RB1 or RB2.