In Part I of this series I suggested that those who cannot select a top three running back should attack the wide receiver position. This strategy formed from the theory that wide receivers outscore running backs while being available for selection at a later draft position. Let’s take a look to see if the statistical evidence continues to back this up.

Using Historical Data


To test my theory, I took the top 12 running backs and wide receivers from the last two seasons and compared their points per game averages. We’ll start with last season.

Note: I included the average of each position without its top three players because typically the top three running backs are the top three players off the board in each draft. I believe those three running backs greatly impact the perceived value of the running back position. Once those players are removed, the gap between running back and wide receiver scoring broadens.



Here are the top 12 running backs from last season, sorted by their points per game:

1Charles, Jamaal KCC38025.33
2Forte, Matt CHI339.321.21
3McCoy, LeSean PHI331.620.73
4Moreno, Knowshon DEN296.618.54
5Murray, DeMarco DAL259.418.53
6Bush, Reggie DET243.217.37
7Lynch, Marshawn SEA276.317.27
8Peterson, Adrian MIN235.716.84
9Vereen, Shane NEP134.516.81
10Bell, Le'Veon PIT217.916.76
11Lacy, Eddie GBP243.516.23
12Johnson, Chris TEN242.215.14
Average Without Top 317.05

From this table we can gather that RB1s average 18.4 points per game. This average drops to 17.05 after removing the top 3 running backs – the ones who are likely to be selected with the first three picks in PPR fantasy drafts this August. Let’s see how they compare with the top 12 wide receivers.

1Gordon, Josh CLE314.422.46
2Jones, Julio ATL110.722.14
3Johnson, Calvin DET304.221.73
4Thomas, Demaryius DEN31919.94
5Brown, Antonio PIT314.919.68
6Green, A.J. CIN306.619.16
7Blackmon, Justin JAC76.419.10
8Marshall, Brandon CHI305.519.09
9Bryant, Dez DAL293.418.34
10Jeffery, Alshon CHI284.617.79
11Cobb, Randall GBP106.117.68
12Decker, Eric DEN280.817.55
Average Without Top 318.70

While Jamaal Charles led all non-quarterbacks in scoring, the top 12 wide receivers averaged 1.15 more points per game than the top 12 running backs. When removing the top 3 running backs, this gap grows to 1.65. But maybe this is a one-year phenomenon- let’s check 2012:



Here are the top 12 running backs from 2012, sorted by their points per game:

1Peterson, Adrian MIN349.421.84
2Martin, Doug TBB312.619.54
3Foster, Arian HOU304.119.01
4Rice, Ray BAL283.117.69
5Richardson, Trent CLE254.716.98
6Lynch, Marshawn SEA271.616.98
7McCoy, LeSean PHI202.316.86
8Sproles, Darren NOS216.116.62
9Spiller, C.J. BUF258.316.14
10Morris, Alfred WAS254.715.92
11Charles, Jamaal KCC242.515.16
12Murray, DeMarco DAL148.414.84
Average Without Top 316.35

Compared to 2013, the RB1s as a whole averaged 1.1 fewer points per game. When you remove the top 3 running backs, the running backs averaged 0.7 fewer points per game. Let’s see how they compare with the top 12 wide receivers from 2012:

1Johnson, Calvin DET345.421.59
2Marshall, Brandon CHI334.620.91
3Bryant, Dez DAL302.718.92
4Green, A.J. CIN300.818.80
5Harvin, Percy MIN168.318.70
6Johnson, Andre HOU295.818.49
7Thomas, Demaryius DEN294.418.40
8Welker, Wes NEP290.418.15
9Wayne, Reggie IND27016.88
10Decker, Eric DEN269.416.84
11White, Roddy ATL269.116.82
12Jones, Julio ATL261.816.36
Average Without Top 317.71

Compared to 2013, the WR1s as a whole scored 1.15 fewer points per game. When you remove the top 3 wide receivers, 2013 outscored 2012 by 1 point. Still, we see the same trend of wide receivers outscoring running backs. In 2012, WR1s outscored RB1s by 1.1 points per game. If you remove the top 3 players at each position, this gap broadens to 1.36 points per game.



Over the last two seasons, we can conclude that the top 12 wide receivers outscore the top 12 running backs. When averaging the last two years, we find that WR1s average 1.13 points per game more than RB1s. After removing the top three at each position, the gap broadens to 1.5 points. While there’s a big drop-off at running back, the drop-off isn’t quite as large at wide receiver.

2012-2013 PPGAllWithout Top 3
WR Average18.9818.21
RB Average17.8516.70

Now that we’ve concluded who scores more points, it’s easier to explain my draft strategy. Since most owners are drafting running backs early, the wide receivers are typically being drafted later than their lower-scoring counterparts. For instance, if you look at Apex’s ADP (Average Draft Position) from last season, only two wide receivers were being drafted in the 1st round (Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant) opposed to a staggering 10 running backs.

When so many running backs are selected in the 1st round, there’s no value there. This trend even continues into the 2nd round; when last season, on average, six running backs were selected, compared to five wide receivers and one tight end. This allows savvy owners to snatch two or three of the top 12 wide receivers – which ultimately gives those teams a high probability of leading their league in scoring.