Fantasy football rankings: Eric Karabell’s running back tiers

  • ESPN contributor on TV, radio, podcasts, blogs, Magazine
  • Charter member of FSWA Hall of Fame
  • Author of “The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments”

Most analysts’ fantasy football rankings have Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey in the No. 1 overall slot and some combination of the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott and Vikings’ Dalvin Cook after that, but this order fails to tell us if the differences in how we value the players is large or rather slight. I believe the answer is slight, that these stars belong in the same area of value, the same tier, if you will. That one is easy. You know what to do at the top of Round 1 and cannot go wrong with any of these four names, right?

OK, so what do you do in Round 6 when one might presume all the running backs and perhaps the wide receivers look, well, kind of the same?

A tiered positional system not only works well for decision making in fantasy football but, for me, it also lessens the stress, assuming I have properly prepared ahead of time. In any value game, really, one needs to realize where the dropoffs are in each section, and empirically and definitively, they are there. The goal is to study a set of rankings, whether yours or mine or whatever, and combine players into section groupings that define their perceived value and your interest level in them. Make things easier for yourself!

Here is a hypothetical, which really is not, because you know it is going to happen to you in nearly every draft: Time’s a wasting in Round 6 and you see several wide receivers that look the same to you — the same tier, if you will — but one running back stands out above the rest of his positional peers. A dropoff looms after this player. By that point, you might be into the flex-eligible portion of the draft, but you still want the best available player. Take the running back, because the value alters sharply after him, but not so much at receiver. Simple, right?

Without further ado, here are one writer’s thoughts on the myriad tiers at running back, with a wide receiver file to come soon. Obviously, look at 10 sets of analyst rankings and you will likely find a vastly different order of players, a stark reminder of how subjective all of this is. Perhaps you believe a Tier 8 running back belongs in Tier 5. Well, move him up! These are your drafts, so go with your opinions! The return on investment really can be significant by doing the work in advance, because much gets decided in such a short a time on draft day, so take it seriously.

Tier 1: Top of Round 1

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