While there are probably an infinite amount of micro strategies we can employ in our fantasy football and best ball drafts, there are a few main roster constructions that drive the majority of strategy in terms of how we structure our teams.
It’s important for us to understand the pros, cons and nuances of all these different strategies. Everyone is going to have their personal favorites, but as drafters we need to be adaptable. There will be draft rooms that we get into where different strategies end up more optimal based on how the board breaks and our opponents are drafting. Any one of these strategies can win, as long as you structure them in a way that sets them up for success, so we need to have the knowledge to be able to do so.
Running back is just 1 of 4 positions, but we as an industry have an unhealthy obsession with the position, so we have decided to name each of the 4 core structures around how they handle the RB position.
These 4 structures are:
SuperHero RB is probably the least well-known name of the bunch, but it’s one of the two strategies that sit more so in the middle ground on how to approach running backs.
What is SuperHero RB?
We hadn’t quite found a great name for this one, but TJ Hernandez coined it SuperHero RB earlier this offseason, I thought that had a nice ring to it, so let’s roll with that. I know people want hyper specific and rigid definitions of these roster constructions, but I don’t think that’s super helpful. What is helpful is to understand the overall theme and goal of each of these strategies.
For SuperHero RB, the theme is pretty simple. I start two RBs in my starting lineup. The best RB options, as well as the only options with legendary upside, come from the early rounds. So I grab 2 early running backs in the first 3 rounds, and then wait on the position until much later in the draft (typically beyond round 9, often into the double digit rounds).
This gives me a little more flexibility than our Robust RB structure, but is still along the same lines in terms of some of the benefits. It also gives you a little bit more flexibility in the number of running backs you draft, since you’ve invested one less early round pick. 4, 5 or even possibly 6 running backs can work in this structure, which is mostly not the case for Robust.
Benefits of SuperHero RB
SuperHero RB attempts to take advantage of some of the same things as Robust RB while reducing some of the fragility and improving the top end quality of your other positions. Because there is a fairly clear drop off after a certain point in the early round RBs, it can be more beneficial to opt to add quality to your other positions alongside just 2 early round backs instead of 3. This allows you to add an elite option at another position while still getting the benefits of your 2 locked in early backs and also benefiting a little bit more from the fragility of the position with some later round RBs.
A nice perk of SuperHero RB is how well it suits any Best Ball draft format. If you’re in a playoff format like Underdog or a cumulative format like Drafters, it can be equally effective, which may not always be true for every single strategy.
That’s because you are simultaneously getting your “bankable” points at your 2 running back spots, while accessing the part of the RB player pool where the legendary upside comes from. You combine that with sacrificing less quality at other positions (like wide receiver) thanks to an additional early round pick used on a non-RB.
Finally, you get to access some of the upside in the fragility of the RB position with some of the cheaper backs to fill out your depth. You can benefit more greatly than a Robust team from someone like Alexander Mattison emerging via a Dalvin Cook injury because you have spent less draft capital at the position.
Risks of SuperHero RB
The risks of SuperHero RB are quite similar to Robust RB because you’re still making a very significant investment in the most fragile position in fantasy football. You added, say, a WR over that 3rd or 4th round RB, but you still spent your most valuable draft capital on the most fragile position.
You’re also investing in a position that is “replaceable”. In 2021, just two running backs averaged more than 18.8 half point PPR fantasy points per game. One was Derrick Henry who played just 8 games before getting injured. Most of the top scorers came from the early rounds, but they did not distance themselves from the cheaper backs that emerged. On top of that, as discussed in our “Playoff Upside” article for Best Ball Tournaments, come playoff time, many of the highest projecting AND highest scoring backs on a weekly basis are these late round contingent value backs (Rashaad Penny, Devin Singletary, Sony Michel).
As Pat Kerrane outlined in his Legendary RB Upside article last offseason, early round RBs have huge bust rates. We target them because that’s the area of the draft that has been historically proven to produce the legendary seasons (Todd Gurley, Christian McCaffrey, etc.), which is the biggest advantage in fantasy football. Targeting upside is great, but we may not even have 2 legendary seasons (we didn’t even have 1 in 2021), and you’re spending your most important picks on the position.
Lastly, one could argue that despite a very clear use case and path to winning, that SuperHero RB is sort of trying to middle the extreme strategies, and middling can often lead to intentionally lessening your edge. You’re not getting all the benefits of Robust RB and you’re not getting all the benefits of Zero RB, so are you maximizing the edges you’ve assumed to exist? It’s possible, but at least something interesting to consider.
All in all, SuperHero RB is an extremely viable strategy that largely tries to take the best of other very viable and more extreme strategies in an attempt to optimize around everything we believe to be a structural edge in Best Ball.