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Posted: Thursday August 16, 2007 2:31PM; Updated: Tuesday August 5, 2008 11:36AM

Drafting to build a winner

Why the Stud RB Theory continues to be a success

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By Michael Nazarek, Special to SI.com, FFMastermind.com

I first wrote about my fantasy football draft strategy back in 1995. In nearly every year since, I'd updated the article, but 12 years later I think it's time to start anew. The basic strategy I've employed in nearly every fantasy draft since 1988 hasn't changed much at all. There have been wrinkles added here and there, primarily due to specific fantasy scoring rules or due to the ebb and flow of talent at key skill-position players in the NFL. But any way you look at it, the gist remains the same. The "STUD RB" Theory is a proven winner for more than a decade, and I still swear by it. Other fantasy "experts" preach different strategies such as Value-Based Drafting System (VBD) or a STUD WR Theory. But if you take a detailed look at the odds of success, you'll find that nothing compares to drafting STUD RBs early and often. Let's take a detailed look at the theory itself and you'll see what I mean.

The "STUD RB" Theory

First, the primary rule of the "STUD RB" Theory is to grab a top-notch fantasy-producing running back with your first draft pick and another in the second round. The choice of running backs is simple. In most fantasy leagues, the running back position produces the most consistent high-scoring players in the game. Unless your league has very unusual rules, that statement still holds true today. How does a running back do it? A featured back in the NFL will touch the ball 20-plus times each game.

Unlike starting quarterbacks, who touch it just as often, featured running backs are somewhat a scarce commodity. Some like Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk and Curtis Martin have recently retired. Then there are the teams that choose to use two-back systems, such as New England, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Denver, Oakland, Dallas, Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans. Some of these teams will switch to one primary back in 2007, but only a few of them will do so. That leaves only about 22-25 teams with a solid primary ball-carrier. With most leagues requiring fantasy teams to start at least two running backs each week, owners who manage to grab two of those top 22-25 running backs will have a significant advantage over their competition.

What about leagues that include a point-per-reception rule? Does that alter the STUD RB Theory? Should you draft a top wideout before your second RB? In most cases I'd still say no. However, if you near the tail end of one part of the draft (assuming you draft in serpentine fashion) and the wideouts are going fast in the second round and you can easily grab a STUD RB early in the third round, then taking a wideout late in the second isn't such a bad idea. How does this rule effect the RBs themselves? Basically, it enhances the value of those backs who catch more than 40 passes each season. Players such as Brian Westbrook and Reggie Bush should be moved up on your rankings list, likely making both of them top-10 RB choices, Westbrook for sure. But the gist of the STUD RB Theory remains the same no matter the scoring system (99 percent of the time). Simply put, you really can't go wrong with drafting two STUD RBs in your first three picks, and/or three STUD RBs in your first four.

With the internet explosion since 2000, more fantasy football players know just how important RBs are to the game. As a result, most fantasy owners are following this theory to the letter. What happens in most fantasy drafts with experienced owners? Nearly EVERYONE drafts a RB with his or her first pick. But that's OK. The secondary rule for hardcore STUD RB Theorists consists of drafting a THIRD RB before the fifth round of your fantasy draft. This is an especially important part of the theory if your league not only starts two RBs but also employs a flex player (RB, WR, or TE). Nothing can be more intimidating that starting not two, but THREE top-25 RBs every week of the fantasy season.

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