Fantasy Football Mailbag: Thursday 8/25/16

If your league targets running backs early, should you seek receivers or try not to miss the boat on running backs?

Fantasy football research never stops, and offseason news can really complicate things, especially when coaches talk up second- and third-string players. That's where our fantasy football mailbag comes into play.

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Now, let's answer some questions.

This is a really heads-up question, Isaic. There's a significant movement toward drafting receivers early, due in part to the fact that receivers bust at a lower rate than running backs. And in PPR leagues where you can flex receivers, it makes sense to gobble up more and more of them because they produce more points than running backs do, in general, over the full year.

If your league is going to target running backs early instead, you can let them, as late-round pass-catching backs such as Theo Riddick and Charles Sims can help bridge the gap while your elite receivers lead your team.

So, if you're in a PPR setup, you're better suited to take receivers early on in the first place -- and especially if running backs are going off the board at a higher-than-average rate.

In standard leagues, though, running backs tend to outperform receivers on the high end (roughly the top 20 or 24 at the position), so loading up on receivers may not be the best option even if they fall to you -- unless we're talking game-changers Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham. In the same breath, if your options are either from the A.J. Green/Dez Bryant tier or running backs in uncertain situations such as C.J. Anderson (for a random example), then it may not be wise to pass on good wideouts for the sake of grabbing a running back.

The most important aspect of drafting is to be flexible and alert to how the draft is unfolding. That's why I like the idea of putting players into tiers, which our draft kit can do for your specific league.

If you're on the clock and Dez Bryant is the last elite receiver on the board to you but seven or eight running backs are in the same tier, take Dez and hope that one of those backs sticks around for your next pick. When you know that positional runs rule your draft, tiering is even more valuable than usual for that reason.

I'm pretty confident in saying that Matt Ryan is the right choice over Derek Carr even if Julio Jones is already on your squad. Carr is being drafted as the QB12, according to Fantasy Football Calculator, and coming off the board in the middle of the ninth round in 12-team leagues (pick 9.07). Ryan, on the other hand, is the QB19 (12.06).

Our projections have that pretty much flip-flopped, marking Ryan as the QB11 this season and Carr as the QB19. Last season, Ryan led the Atlanta Falcons to the 11th-best passing offense, per our advanced metrics. Carr's Oakland Raiders ranked 16th.

Individually, Ryan was the ninth-most efficient passer among 37 quarterbacks with at least 200 drop backs by our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back metric with a score of 0.19. Carr's 0.06 ranked 25th and fell well below the NFL average of 0.11. Additionally, Ryan's drop backs added expected points to the Falcons' scoring 53.42% of the time, second-best in this group. Carr's clip of 44.21% ranked 27th, suggesting that his play was boosted a bit by big gains rather than the consistent plays that Ryan achieved.

Ryan was significantly better, and with better red-zone production, he should flirt with the top-12 at the position in fantasy points. Carr's 2015 production, according to our metrics, might have been a bit inflated.

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