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Fantasy football draft strategies: Is RB-RB outdated?

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There's a lot we don't know every year in fantasy football, but one thing that is relatively easy to figure out is how the first round in most fantasy drafts is going to fall. This year, the big four running backs (Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte), the other top running backs with questions (Eddie Lacy, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, DeMarco Murray) and the dominant pass-catchers (Jimmy Graham, Calvin Johnson) typically round out the top 10. Of course, a quarterback or two could slide into that group, but for the most part those players are first-round locks in standard leagues. Which begs the question, what do you do in Round 2? The second round is chock full of explosive, talented players, but picking a certain way could drastically alter how the rest of your draft plays out, and how your team fairs all season long.

In today's episode of NFL Fantasy Live, the gang performed a second-round mock draft to help fantasy owners determine the top strategies for escaping the first two rounds with the best fantasy team possible. Do you take one of the top quarterbacks? What about grabbing the next best running back before options become even more thin? Or stocking up on big-time wide receivers and taking your chances later on middle round running backs? Every strategy was in play as Michael Fabiano, Adam Rank and Matt "Money" Smith alternated picks. Let's take a look at what worked best.

Pick 10: Rd 1 - Jimmy Graham, TE; Rd 2 - Le'Veon Bell, RB

This was Fabiano's pick, and an interesting way to go. Bell has undeniable talent, that's for sure, but he's also in what figures to be a more frightening timeshare than we originally thought. By bypassing wide receiver and quarterback here, Fabs will have to wait 18 more picks before selecting his top wideout. That scares me. For comparision sake, had he jumped on Manning or Demaryius Thomas here, he likely could have chosen from Alfred Morris, Andre Ellington or Zac Stacy with his picks in the third and fourth round. If you're picking at the tail end of the round in snake drafts, be sure to consider how long you'll have to wait to draft again before making selections. Personally, I would have waited on running back, as the jump from Bell to the three I mentioned above is not enough to justify and 18-pick difference.

Pick 9: Rd 1 - Calvin Johnson, WR; Rd 2 - Peyton Manning, QB

I like what Rank did here, as he now has the top wide receiver and top quarterback in fantasy. Whether or not they finish No. 1 in 2014 is up in the air, but these two immediately give him a positional advantage week in and week out. He can stock up on high-upside running backs in the next few rounds, resting on the fact that these two will likely put up monster numbers for him every Sunday.

Pick 8: Rd 1 - DeMarco Murray, RB; Rd 2 - Demaryius Thomas, WR

Murray comes with a little risk this year, as he has a sizeable injury history and Jason Garrett has been running his mouth about a "committee" in the backfield. This is why I like Money's selection of Thomas, who is about as consistent as wide receivers come. He's had over 1,400 receiving yards and 10-plus touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. Oh, and he's Peyton Manning's top (and favorite) target. Yeah, he'll be good again in 2014.

Pick 7: Rd 1 - Arian Foster, RB; Rd 2 - Dez Bryant, WR

Would anyone be surprised if these two both led the league in scoring at their position, or were huge disappointments? Foster has injury and quarterback concerns, and Bryant is one bad Tony Romo sack away from having Brandon Weeden as his quarterback. On the flipside, Foster figures to load up on touches as the centerpiece of the Houston offense and Dez has been nothing short of dominant the last three seasons, averaging just shy of 1,200 yards and just over 11 touchdowns per season during that span. Given the options available, I like this selection.

Pick 6: Rd 1 - Eddie Lacy, RB; Rd 2 - Brandon Marshall, WR

Pairing NFC North foes was smart here in that both figure to be very consistent scorers. Eddie Lacy finished sixth among running backs last season on a bum ankle and without Aaron Rodgers for the majority of his meaningful snaps. You know how Peyton Manning opens things up for his running backs? Expect the same situation for Lacy this season. Meanwhile, Marshall is painfully underrated at times as a top fantasy wideout. He's finished in the top five at his position the last two seasons, and with Alshon Jeffery emerging opposite him he'll be seeing less double coverage. This might not be the sexiest fantasy tandem, but these two will produce as consistently as any other duo in these first two rounds.

Pick 5: Rd 1 - Marshawn Lynch, RB; Rd 2 - Drew Brees, QB

This is my favorite time to draft a quarterback in Round 2, once the draft is nearing the turn back into round three. The gap between some of the remaining top wide receivers and the guys right behind them isn't terribly large, which means grabbing Brees or Aaron Rodgers makes a lot of sense. Beast Mode likely has at least one more great year in him, but backing up that risk (and his early holdout in camp) with Brees' 5,000-plus yards and 30-plus touchdowns is a smart and safe way to go.

Pick 4: Rd 1 - Matt Forte, RB; Rd 2 - A.J. Green, WR

Much like his underrated wide receiver teammate, Forte doesn't get enough credit in fantasy circles. At least he's considered one of the "big four" for 2014. Forte will put up big numbers for the Bears, and all A.J. Green has done in his three pro seasons is, well, put up big numbers for the Bengals. This is a formidable tandem, and sets Fabiano's team up for success in targeting the best avaiable player for the next several rounds.

Pick 3: Rd 1 - Jamaal Charles, RB; Rd 2 - Giovani Bernard, RB

Call this the all speed team. Both Charles and Bernard are threats on the ground and in the passing game, and pairing the high-upside but potentially risky Bernard with the fantasy point monster Charles is a savvy move. With these two running backs Rank can now safely target a top pass-catcher in the subsequent round or two to round out a the beginnings of a formidable starting lineup.

Pick 2: Rd 1 - LeSean McCoy, RB; Rd 2 - Aaron Rodgers, QB

With the top two quarterbacks off the board, Money opted to go quarterback and nab the last of the truly elite fantasy signal-callers in Rodgers. There's a risk that Fabiano could steal his next top option at wideout or running back with his next two picks, but as Money says in the video at the top the drop from Rodgers to the next quarterback was too large to risk losing him over that same span. Plenty of good wideouts and running backs will still be available when he picks again in Round 3.

Pick 1: Rd 1 - Adrian Peterson, RB; Rd 2 - Julio Jones, WR

It was a long wait for Fabiano to get back to his first overall selection, but Jones is a great consolation prize. Fabs now has a top running back and wide receiver, and can use his next pick to get another stud at either position, most likely at wide receiver. Jordy Nelson, Antonio Brown or Alshon Jeffery would all be great options at the beginning of Round 3.

Analysis/Conclusion:

Based on how this draft fell (again, using NFL.com ADP for the first round), only one team went RB-RB with their first two picks. That's a far cry from years past, and speaks both to the scarcity of top-tier running backs and the wealth of bonafide studs at wide receiver. It is not, however, an indictment of that strategy. Had the first round gone differently we might have seen more RB-RB pairings. As far as quarterbacks go, it should be common knowledge by now that the only three worth taking this highly are the three in this draft.

It's important to keep in mind that your own draft strategy should reflect both your position in the order as well as how your draft is progressing. Be cognizant of what players have gone, what positions the other drafters still need, and who is available to make the most informed decisions. Drafting is an inexact science after all, and perhaps that's why we all can't help but give it another go each fall. Until next time.

-- Alex Gelhar writers fantasy and features for NFL.com. You can follow him on Twitter @AlexGelhar. He is a true true Bo-liever in Eddie Lacy in fantasy this season.

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