We have all heard the phrase “Next Man Up” when it comes to the real NFL. Players are expendable in the league but also in Fantasy Football too. Ninety-seven different players had 10 or more touches in a game last year which averages out to over three per team. In today’s pass heavy and Running Back by Committee NFL, 10 touches is a pretty full day. Let’s examine how that “Next Man Up” mentality works in Fantasy Football.
Lamar Miller Effect
Nobody is a better survivor in Fantasy Football than Lamar Miller. Each year it seems that his team tries to move another player ahead of him on the depth chart but he manages to win the battle. Miller has been a worthy starter in Fantasy Football when you look at his year end point rankings because, while he is a bit of a plodder, he manages to play lots of games. But the reason Lamar Miller is always being challenged is because he is a very average running back. He is also very average in Fantasy Football. Over the past 2 seasons he has scored 10 plus points in Point Per Reception (PPR) formats 67.9% of the time, which is just about half a percentage above the league average. When D’onta Foreman was released by the Houston Texans the Lamar Miller believers said, “I told you so.” But the Texans quickly added Duke Johnson and the smart folks in the class know Damarea Crockett continues to move up the depth chart too. Lamar Miller is an intriguing value at an Average Draft Position of RB29 in the 6th round because he might hold off the competition again but there will always be a next man up chasing him.
Once I get past the bulk of my bye weeks for my starters in Fantasy Football I load up on backups for my starters from their teams instead of holding on to marginal players who filled my bye week needs. Since my starters at running back usually come from strong offensive teams it makes sense to have the next man up even if the answer to who is next man up is a little uncertain. Last year as a Kareem Hunt owner I also loaded up on Spencer Ware and Damien Williams as insurance once it made sense to get rid of my Fantasy role players. Instead of having two wide receivers on my team that wouldn’t get a chance to play over my stud starters this strategy made sense. No matter who was running the ball for the Chiefs I wanted that guy scoring points for me and even more important NOT scoring points for my opponent. Once Ware got hurt he got discarded for a backup piece of the Chargers backfield. If you have invested in the players on a top offense it makes perfect sense to load up on the next man up too.
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Dalvin Cook Effect
Early in the Fantasy Football season I am very selective about who I handcuff especially if roster size is limited. But if a top draft pick that I take has a history of missing games, I will usually grab his backup right away if it is obvious who will take over. Last year with my few investments in Dalvin Cook, this meant I was also an owner of Latavius Murray. While Murray has some skills as an NFL running back I don’t think anyone would say he has more talent than a healthy Dalvin Cook. While Murray’s Consistency Rating of games over 10 or more points was much lower than Cook’s, he only had 2 games where he had under 7 points in PPR scoring. Those results are much better than some random running back grabbed off the waiver wire and his 60% Consistency in games Cook didn’t start was better than other late round running back choices on weaker offenses and close to league average.
If you make it through the season without losing one of your top three running backs on your Fantasy Football team to injury, you must be living right to be so blessed by the Fantasy Gods. Even your top players in Fantasy Football are replaceable. While it doesn’t make sense to handcuff an average running back, it does for a running back on a top offensive team. In addition to the examples shown above we should all have the CJ Anderson performances at the end of the season for the LA Rams in our memory forever! Fantasy Football titles are won and lost by a player’s understanding of the Next Man Up philosophy in football.