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Robust RB Strategery - Part I

In his debut article for True North Fantasy Football (@truenorthffb), newest member of the TNFF crew Josh 'Smokey-Hell' Nelson and host of the @The_Smoke_Show Podcast, introduces his new series called STRATEGERY. In this article we take a look at the ROBUST RB theory and Smokey’s modified version of it.


Robust RB is a popular draft strategy this season in fantasy football. It involves loading up on the RB position in the initial rounds of a draft to gain depth and value before the talent level falls off too drastically in the subsequent rounds. Typically, you would draft a RB in Rounds 1 and 2, preferably grabbing safer top-end options such as Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliot or even Alvin Kamara in Round 1. Personally, I am off Christian McCaffrey at his current ADP of 1.01. If you look back at every historical best single-season performance by a RB, you find that every one of them experienced a significant regression in total fantasy points the following season. Priest Holmes in 2004 suffered a 48% reduction from his phenomenal season the year before!

In Round 2, you would draft a Joe Mixon, Josh Jacobs, or Leonard Fournette type of RB; ones who are in line for large touch volumes in their offenses with little to no competition. In Round 3, depending on how the draft has been steered and what values have fallen, you would draft another RB. Todd Gurley, Mark Ingram, and Chris Carson are the types of RBs who could be drafted in Round 3, who still possess high ceilings and whose ADPs are lower due to injury and/or age concerns. You could also switch gears and grab your WR1, or perhaps one of the big three TEs (Kelce, Kittle, Andrews)if you’re in a TE premium league.

The strategery behind Robust RB would tell you to continue to draft RBs in the next couple of rounds and build positional value. You could follow this strategy but at what cost? This is where I diverge from the Robust RB theory and retool it to a three-tiered strategery approach.


Tier One - Upper-echelon RBs under the age of 26

I recently participated in two superflex tight end premium drafts. In one of them, I drafted Alvin Kamara and Todd Gurley in the first two rounds and Saquon Barkley and Kenyan Drake in the other.

Tier Two - Established veteran RBs who have rookies as competition

With training camps being altered from what they normally are this year due to Covid-19, rookies are going to have a more difficult time acclimating to their new offenses and the NFL in general. RBs do need less time to assimilate than other positions such as WR and TE but even in a ‘normal’ season, it could take a rookie RB up to half a season or more to fully learn an offense, earn the trust of their coaches and garner more touches. This second tier will see names like Mark Ingram, Marlon Mack, and even a younger back like Kerryon Johnson, whose replacements could be nipping at their heels. These RBS are still fantastic talents, but the rookie buzz will cause their respective ADPs to decrease and you can grab this second tier of RBs in the middle rounds of your draft. In the examples below, I was able to draft Ingram and Mack to tier-one RBs Kamara and Gurley, as well as Mack and Kerryon to tier-one RBs Saquon and Drake.

Tier Three - Drafting rookie RBs in your rookie draft

As much as it pains me to pass up on the myriad of talented rookie WRs in this year’s class, my strategery relies on grabbing as many RBs as possible in the rookie draft. Throwing many darts in a rookie draft increases your odds of at least one of those RBs hitting. If more than one hit, you increase your depth at the position and own possible trade pieces to help you acquire players at other positions that you may need to improve on. Remember the words, “Grab RBs on their first contract, WRs on their second.” In the two dynasty league examples above, I was able to employ my tier three strategery in one league where I acquired many rookie RBs, but accomplished quite the opposite in the other league.

In the first league, I built upon my base of Kamara, Gurley, Mack, and Ingram with drafting rookie RBs JK Dobbins, D’Andre Swift, Joshua Kelley, Darrynton Evans, and Lamical Perine. This is quite a haul and none of them are guaranteed any level of success but you increase your odds of winning the lottery with more tickets purchased. I believe Dobbins, Swift, and Kelley could see some meaningful volume and playing time towards the latter half of the season. Evans and Perine are long term projects and a good end of the roster stashes to own. That gives me nine solid enough RBs of staggering ages across enough offenses to build my team around. On that same roster, I drafted Rex Burkhead, Chris Thompson, and Reggie Bonnafon to add to my RB depth.

In the second league, I sacrificed some rookie picks to land players like Saquon so I could have a generational talent as the backbone of my dynasty roster. In this league, I bolstered my base of Saquon, Drake, Mack, and Kerryon with Joshua Kelley in the rookie draft. Then I increased my RB depth by drafting Nyheim Hines, Peyton Barber, Rex Burkhead, Travis Homer, and Ty Johnson. All-in-all, 10 RBs making up a very solid core.


For anyone familiar with Watchmen, either the graphic novel by Alan Moore or the Zack Snyder movie, there is a character named Dr. Manhattan who perceives time non-linearly. He experiences the past, present, and future simultaneously, but only his own.

This is exactly the way we should perceive roster construction in dynasty leagues. Be cognizant of the past; whether that means the indicators of how players were used in their offenses in the latter half of last season, or of players that finished poorly and can be had at a value, like a David Johnson.

Be mindful of the present; rookie JK Dobbins will not be the Raven’s starting RB in game one this year versus Cleveland. For now, Mark Ingram is the leader in this backfield and has been a consistent producer year after year. yet can still be drafted at a decent ADP. Players like Ingram still have value, and if they fall in drafts, you need to pounce on them.

Always be thinking of the future, especially when it comes to a position as volatile as the RB one. Some of these players have a smaller career window than your team’s championship window and if you don’t have contingency plans through the depth of your roster, then you’re taking on more risk than necessary. Fantasy football success relies heavily on mitigating risk; if you can lessen yours, then you have a greater chance of winning that championship. Smart plays aren’t always the flashiest.

The main advantage of my three-tiered Robust RB Strategery is that you won’t have to sacrifice as many roster spots to RBs in the early to mid-rounds, yet it will still allow you to build amazing depth with mostly young talent at the position. What does this mean for the rest of your roster though? Will the pieces left at the other positions such as QB, WR and TE be enough for a championship team?

The answers to those questions and more will be found in my follow up article, Strategery: Robust RB - Part II. Be sure to check back at www.truenorthffb.com for it to drop soon!

Thanks for reading my first article with True North Fantasy Football! Agree or disagree with my Strategery? Let me know in the comments section or at @TNFF_Smokey.

Writer: Josh Nelson (@TNFF_Smokey)

Editor: Joe Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)