Welcome back to another article for The Fantasy Detective series, where in this edition we will take a look at whether you should prioritize RBs or WRs in fantasy drafts.
To investigate this, I went back to my draft simulator and designed two strategies that were nearly identical, the difference being their first picks (one took a RB and the other took a WR). I then repeated the process but with one taking a RB 1st and 2nd and the other taking a WR 1st and 2nd. I simulated drafts with these two strategies in a 10-team PPR league (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX) 1,000 times each and plotted the distributions for each strategy’s average player WAR following each simulation. The results are shown below.
The results are pretty disappointing. The strategies line up very closely–neither is definitively better than the other. In fact, all four strategies result in 5.6 average player WAR!
If we take a closer look at the top 50 players in fantasy win percentage (which directly calculates to WAR) for each position, we see that the RB position is a bit more volatile. The variance (sum of how far each number is from the mean) of the top 50 WRs sits at 18.2 WAR (standard deviation of 1.5 WAR), as the variance of the top 50 RBs sits at 25.1 WAR (standard deviation of 1.8 WAR). You’ll also notice that there is a quicker drop-off from the top players in WRs (ranks 5-20), but after the top 20, the RB position drops off much quicker.
I tried out a couple of adjusted strategies, taking a WR first (to get the highest draw for the position) and then stocked up on RBs the three rounds following–the results were not great for this either–no matter how you mix it up, they all pan out close to the same.
When it comes down to it, RBs and WRs are both incredibly important in fantasy and neither one stands alone as the most important to target on draft day. If anything, it is advisable to secure your FLEX and backup RBs before your FLEX and backup WRs, to avoid the large drop-off with RB WAR.