In fantasy football drafts, you get a lot more wiggle room in the later rounds than you do at the top. You can draft a player you like a full round ahead of his average draft position (ADP) without incurring much of an opportunity cost. With players spread across more rounds, there's also more room for players to be significantly under- and over-priced.
In the first couple of rounds, though, margins are thin. The difference between the fifth running back on the board and the ninth is only 5.6 spots. If you want to guarantee that you land one of these elite backs, you have to be willing to spend your first round pick on them.
The top group of backs this season is fairly well-defined. Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott are strong, proven fantasy studs, and they form a tier of their own, going on average as the first four players off the board. After that is when things start to get interesting, with 5 other backs going in the top 12 picks. That tier involves many more question marks and includes Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette andMelvin Gordon.
Gordon is going at the end of that group, with an ADP around the 12th overall pick (1.12), but he's the most proven of the five, the rest of whom are rookies or second-year guy, and he looks an awful lot like one of those top-tier backs. As such, there's reason to believe that he should be the first one off the board, not the fifth.
Photo by Phil Roeder