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The Million Dollar Question - RB or WR in 2018?

What’s up fantasy Jabronis?  I’m taking a stab at answering the biggest question of all: What is the meaning of life? Is there life on other planets? What does wearing pleated pants in today's age say about you? Nope. You’ll have to ask el Camello or Raphstradamus about the pants.  But I am here to help you answer the ultimate question in fantasy, “Will RBs or WRs dominate 2018?”

I LOVE Wide Receivers. I have always gone WR heavy early in drafts and was a major proponent of the ZeroRB methodology. But as I wrote last year, ZeroRB was eviscerated in 2017.  Come 2018, many of you will go RB heavy in early rounds.  Others will be cute, thinking you can exploit that trend and get amazing WR value early. “Julio Jones and Michael Thomas on the turn! Holy s*** I’m a genius!”

Well, let’s see what factors are influencing 2018 and where I think your fortunes will land come playoff time.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!


Factors Pointing Towards a WR Resurgence

Injuries and Retirements The WR and QB world took some tough hits in 2017, which certainly had an impact on WR performance.  It is only common sense that we can expect some benefit from a healthier 2018.  The most notable names on the injury list were Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Sam Bradford, Carson Wentz, Odell Beckham Jr., Julian Edelman, Allen Robinson and Cameron Meredith.  As for retirement, the two big names were Tony Romo and Steve Smith.  There’s no need to go into stats to understand the enormous impact on WR production affected by Rodgers, Luck, Watson and Beckham Jr. Going down.  2018 should prove very different should all these players stay on the field.

Star Emergence – There is an opportunity for a new class of QBs to join the Usual Suspects in 2018.  We did see Jarod Goff and Carson Wentz emerge in 2017, but we’ve got guys like Patrick Mahomes and Mitchell Trubisky to be excited about in 2018.  We will also get a full season of Jimmy Garoppolo. Obviously, strong QB play has the largest impact on WR fantasy success.  As for WRs, I feel the WRs with an opportunity for immediate impact are DJ Moore, Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Michael Gallup, Anthony Miller and Dante Pettis. I do believe that the second and third-year players will make a bigger splash:  Corey Davis, Kenny Golladay, Mike Williams, Zay Jones, Cooper Kupp, Juju Smith-Schuster, Chris Godwin, Dede Westbrook, Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson and Sterling Shepard.  I’ll put a very honorable mention in there for Josh Gordon (you know the scenario).

Positive Regression – We saw some drastic regression in 2017 from QBs like Andy Dalton, Eli Manning, Dak Prescott, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr and Joe Flacco.  There were also frustrating seasons for AJ Green, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Amari Cooper, Sammy Watkins, Jamison Crowder, Randall Cobb, Kelvin Benjamin and Jordy Nelson.  So, there is a lot of room for bounceback within these names.

Defensive Schemes – This is pure speculation, but you have to imagine that defenses are motivated to scheme against the run and RB receptions after seeing what took place in 2017 in order to shift the tide back.


Factors Pointing Towards Continued RB Dominance

DB Prowess – I believe this topic is the most transformational and yet has been vastly underreported.  From 2007 -2011, teams drafted an average of 4.8 Defensive Backs in the first round.  From 2012-2017 that average grew to 6.4.  2017 was widely considered one of the greatest DB classes of all time, setting a record in the modern era with 19 DBs in the first two rounds.  In this year's draft we saw much of the same with  DBs being the most represented position receiving 48 selections.  Dominant defensive backfields are more prevalent than ever in today’s age.  The 2017 class isn’t going anywhere and the 2018 draft looks like it will just further fill remaining gaps.  No wonder QBs threw to RBs more than ever, with an 11% increase in RB targets despite David Johnson being injured!

The Draft – The 2018 RB draft class is stellar, led by Saquon Barkley.  There are at least eight potential impact RBs coming to an already productive 2017 class.  You know the names:  Saquon Barkley, Derrius Guice, Rashad Penny, Nick Chubb, Royce Freeman, Kerryon Johnson, Sony Michel and Ronald Jones ll.  Last year saw Leonard Fournette, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Kareem Hunt and Christian McCaffrey show early success.  That’s a lot of talent and some exciting play to look forward to in 2018.

Positive Regression and Injuries –Lev Bell held out and got off to slow start, David Johnson and Dalvin Cook were injured and Ezekiel Elliot had a year burdened with drama.  Add those names to the previous paragraph and Holy Moly we are in for a treat.


The Verdict

It’s difficult for me to say, being such a wide receiver fan, but I think we are in store for another dominant running back year.  Team defensive backfields continue to improve and the young RB talent is just too overwhelming.  Of course, there are plenty of omissions in my logic:  New players will get injured, regress, emerge etc.  But I labeled what I feel will be the most powerful influencing factors for this upcoming season. I think RBs will drastically outperform WRs again.  You may be able to make up for some of it with tremendous WR value in the early rounds, but it will be imperative to switch back to RBs fast. And for those ZeroRB truthers, I believe you will be doubling down on a weak hand.

Best of luck to all you readers.  I’ll be sure to follow up on this throughout the season.  Find me @BrettMitchellFB on Twitter.


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