Project Halo's first blog was titled: Wide Receivers are the New Running Backs. The premise of the blog entry was that
A major paradigm shift, years in the making, has finally occurred in the NFL. The passing game has surpassed the running game to such an extreme degree in so many offensive systems that running backs are no longer the most coveted position in fantasy football.
This paradigm shift provides the primary reasoning for shifting the strategic focus of a fantasy team to quarterbacks and wide receivers, and away from running backs, in fantasy football drafts. Running back production is still required to win fantasy leagues, however. So when spending only a small fraction of your draft budget on running backs, which RBs provide the most bang for the buck?
Project Halo research has found the following:
1. Strong offensive lines drive running back production
2. Potent offensive systems that emphasize screen plays increase RB yards, receptions, and TDs
3. Most starting running backs missed games last year: Ronnie Brown, Brian Westbrook, Stephen Jackson, Shaun Alexander, Lawrence Maroney, Travis Henry, Willie Parker, Frank Gore, Joseph Addai, Larry Johnson, Brandon Jacobs, Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Bush, Jamal Lewis, Kevin Jones, Cedric Benson, and Lamont Jordan. Specifically, Ronnie, S-Jax, Salexander, Henry, LJ, Jordan, and Jacobs missed significant portions of the season.
Playing all 16 games has become a rare feat for a running back. As Ladanian Tomlinson once said, "there is only one Ladanian Tomlinson." This fact emphasizes the risk of injury inherent in the role, and in addition to the NFL's overall shift to the passing game, further devalues the position.
After reviewing the historical data, identifying trends, and examining the 2008 running back class, Project Halo crafted a winning running back acquisition tactic: Play the Lottery. Playing the running back lottery means acquiring inexpensive, explosive running backs playing behind strong offensive lines in potent offensive systems, who could become top 10 RBs in the event of an injury.
When the Powerball jackpot goes over $100 million ticket sales skyrocket. Similarly, when playing the Running Back Lottery, fantasy owners should run out and horde cheap running backs with maximum payout. Jackpot RBs to focus on include:
1. Committee backs, who would excel if given the lion's share of carries. Examples this year included: Chris Johnson, Jonathan Stewart, Ronnie Brown, Julius Jones, Selvin Young, Justin Fargas, and Sammy Morris.
2. Pure back-ups who will become the undisputed starter if the current starter were injured. Examples this year include: Chris Perry, Steve Slaton, Derrick Ward, Correll Buckhalter, Felix Jones, Darren Sproles, Rashard Mendenhall, and Brandon Jackson.
The running back lottery allows fantasy owners to focus exclusively on top ten WRs and QBs during the early rounds while still retaining a high probability of good to great running back production throughout the season. And after drafting top flight QBs and Wide Recievers, fantasy owners should stock their benches with five to seven RB lottery tickets. This tactic has proven fruitful in 2008, as just three weeks into the season, many have already hit: Stewart, Julius, Ronnie, Slaton, Perry, Mendenhall, and Sammy. Project Halo guarantees that more jackpots in week 4 so buy your tickets now!