Everybody has a different strategy when it comes to fantasy football drafts in redraft leagues. The oldest adage was to take a running back with your first pick. Some would stack up on running backs and bite the bullet at wide receiver in hopes of landing a late sleeper or snagging a bloomer off the waiver wire. Some people swear by drafting a quarterback in the later rounds while others look to land a rock of a quarterback in round 1 and start him every week aside from that players' bye.
The effectiveness of your strategy comes down to two things. One, How are the other people in your league drafting? Are they taking running backs by the truckload early on? Are they opting for No. 1 wide receivers in the later portion of Round 1 after the level of running back talent dips a bit? Their actions will determine the best course of action for yourself. This is why it's so important to never be too married to one specific strategy as it can really change based on how your league drafts. Being able to adapt effectively is how the human species survived, and you must do the same if you expect to be competitive in fantasy football. I know — that was deep, right?
The second thing that comes into play is the rules of your league and how your positions are set up. Most leagues follow the QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, Flex, TE, DEF, format and if that's the case in your league, then running back is definitely where you want to be looking first.
Why drafting a running back first is still the preferred method
When it comes to drafting a winning team, you have to stock up on the position that carries the highest reward and is in the shortest supply. The top three fantasy running backs in 2014 scored 282, 272, and 253 fantasy points respectively. The top 3 receivers scored 251, 223 and 221 fantasy points. Of the top wide receivers, 41 of them scored at least 100 fantasy points. Of the top running backs, only 28 of them scored over 100 fantasy points. That alone should be enough to tell you that drafting a good running back is more important than any position on your team. They score more and there's less quality in point totals among that position.
The numbers were also similar in 2013. That year, 33 running backs scored at least 100 fantasy points. For receivers that season, 38 of them achieved that feat.
Also, the majority of teams continue to prefer a running-back-by-committee style and true feature backs are so few and far between that you almost have to adapt an RBBC style yourself if you expect to do well in your league.
Some may argue that because the NFL has become such a pass-oriented league that it makes sense to start drafting receivers higher. They also might've gotten caught up in last year's rookie phenomenon where three first-year receivers registered over 1,000 yards receiving. It might even be sexier to see your fantasy wide receiver score a lot than your running back. It's important to not get sucked up into this if you want to be consistently good within your league though.
Just to be clear, I'm not saying drafting wide receivers late in the first round is a bad idea. I'm saying drafting two wide receivers straight is often considered highly risky because you're gambling on the idea of drafting a quality running back in the later rounds. I've seen the WR-WR strategy work in redraft leagues before, but in every instance I saw there were special circumstances involved that allowed that fantasy owner's lesser quality running backs shine.
For example, one player who won a league I was in last year drafted Jordy Nelson and Dez Bryant with his first two picks. Both players turned in career seasons. He even lucked out at the WR3 spot drafting Golden Tate, who was another WR that posted a career year thanks in part to Calvin Johnson struggling with injuries for a majority of the season in Detroit.
At running back, he drafted a slew of players he hoped would blossom including Jeremy Hill, Le'Veon Bell and Mark Ingram. I know some people are shocked he managed to get Bell after drafting two wide receivers first but people fail to remember Bell's ADP (average draft position) was No. 23 overall and he was the 12th RB drafted on average. Looks crazy now considering he was the No. 2 running back in fantasy last year behind only DeMarco Murray.
So essentially, that fantasy owner took a gamble and it paid off. Giovani Bernard ended up going down with an injury and Jeremy Hill got his opportunity to start in a run-oriented offense and he also finished among the Top 10 in rushing yards last season. So the WR-WR strategy definitely can work, I just don't trust the idea of this year's 12th-best fantasy running back and a rookie backup both becoming fantasy stars again.