Fantasy Football is nearly here, and the biggest question for Pittsburgh Steelers fans is who to draft first.
With the summer wearing on, it is time to start preparing for fantasy football drafts. In most mock drafts, it has become a trend for the first few picks to be the top running backs. The concept of supply and demand ringing true in this strategy because there are only so many running backs worth owning (typically one per team) as opposed to wide receivers where teams typically have two or three worth considering.
But over the years it has also shown that elite wide receivers create a big gap between their fantasy production and that of the next tier of wide receivers. Add that fact with the typical fantasy starting lineup using three wide receivers in their starting fantasy lineup and you can see why some people prefer to draft wide receivers early.
With these competing philosophies, the only thing that is clear in fantasy football is that the way to win games is to get players who score the most points. If that’s the case, who should you take with your first round pick: an elite running back or an elite wide receiver? In this instance, we’re going to look at the two Steelers superstars that fit the bill of an elite running back and elite wide receiver, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
When comparing Bell and Brown, you might think that picking between the two elite players will not create a drastically different result for your team’s success. But the truth of the matter is, one or two points per game can spell the difference in a fantasy football championship and missing the playoffs altogether.
When you look at the mock draft on NFL.com from earlier this week, you can see that the writers agree with the notion that running backs reign supreme in draft priority with four running backs (including Bell) being taken before Brown.
But what is the reason for this priority? Aren’t the insiders worried about Bell losing out on touches to Connor and Samuels? What about his perceived drop off in production? Were they accounting for the loss of Bryant as a deep threat?
Unfortunately, they did not expand on the rationale behind their picks, but I think last season’s numbers provided by Fantasy Data will help me explain why they drafted the way they did.
When you take a look at last year’s fantasy numbers in standard non-PPR leagues, you can see that four running backs were ranked above any wide receiver in arguably the most important aspect, points per game. Bell, being one of the top four scoring backs, averaged 2.1 more points per game than Antonio Brown who had the top spot among wide receivers.
When you expand these numbers to the top 12 scorers between running backs and wide receivers, there are ten running backs compared to only two wide receivers (Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins) with Hopkins ranked 9th.
So yes, Antonio Brown is undoubtedly a top fantasy wide receiver, but if you get a choice between Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, the answer is clear, you take your chances with the elite running back.