It has been a given since our fantasy football forefathers were drafting the likes of Gerald Riggs and George Rogers: You win championships with running backs.
They get more touches so they score more touchdowns and pile up more yards. It's a simple concept, really, and it's why so many fantasy players select backs with their first two or three draft picks.
It just might be time to scrap that strategy, however, and embrace the greatness of the receiver - unless last season was among the flukiest of all time.
That may sound crazier than Emmitt Smith signing a contract with the Cardinals, but the proof's right there in the numbers. As a group, the top fantasy receivers in 2007 outproduced the top runners for the first time in several seasons.
And it wasn't all because of Randy Moss' league-record 23 TD catches. Three of the top five scorers last year were receivers. The top five receivers caught a total of 78 touchdowns, 18 more than the top five backs had on the ground. Eleven receivers caught at least 10 touchdowns, while only six backs ran for that many.
Two receivers racked up more yardage than leading rusher LaDainian Tomlinson had on the ground. In fact, the top five receivers had more yards than any ground gainer but LT.
That's a huge departure to the RB dominance of most years. In 2006, for example, the top six scorers were backs and six backs ran for more yards than NFL receiving leader Chad Johnson's 1,369. Six of the top seven TD scorers were running backs in 2005, five of the top seven the year before, and so on.
The shift comes partly from the increased use of three- and four-receiver offensive sets, partly because of rules that keep defensive backs from real physical defending, and partly because backs just aren't getting work like they used to.
Teams' cautionary use of starters and a glut of running back job-shares may be the primary suspects in last year's RB dropoff, and could be a reason for a repeat in 2008.
since 1999.
OK, OK, enough with the dizzying numbers.
Here's what it all means to you, the fantasy player, come draft day: For your first pick, probably nothing changes. You still want to land one of those dominant running backs first, because after the top dozen or so questions abound.
The second and third picks are when this strategy is really crucial.
It's important to break free from that instinct of mindlessly snaring a starting running back in the second and third rounds just because of their position. (I really could have used my own advice last year, when I was certain I had the steal of the draft with Thomas Jones in the third. ... The jeers from the rest of the league were my first indication that maybe I didn't.)
It's also key to remember the high-potential receivers in middle and later rounds, when many fantasy players are busy scraping through the dregs of the running back bin. Last year, for example, I wound up with Braylon Edwards in the 10th round, and a friend of mine got Wes Welker in the 11th.
The basic point is, this year you shouldn't automatically think you need a big pile of running backs to win.
With that pounded into your skull with all sorts of statistical evidence, here are a few other draft-day strategems:
-If you have a chance to snag one of the top six quarterbacks, do so. If not, wait as long as possible. No need to rush once the big boys are gone, because it's quite a drop-off from there.
-Don't completely ignore the job-share RBs. Those committees are certain to get smaller as injuries mount.
-Don't reach for rookies. Very few rookies have huge fantasy impact. They're worth taking, but not too early.
-Aside from the top couple of defenses, wait till your last few picks to get one.
-Always wait till one of your last picks to get a kicker. They're just kickers, for crying out loud.
-Beware the old guy with a great name. Sure, Ahman Green and Brett Favre were really something in 2008, but chances are slim for late-career monster years.
-Don't overthink the bye weeks. Too many people bypass good players because they don't want to make trouble on Week 6. Who cares? It's just one week.
-Beware your own prejudices. If you're a Browns fan, chances are you'll reach for Donte' Stallworth. Folks in Seattle may overvalue Julius Jones. Or, if you're like me and have an odd and perhaps unhealthy infatuation with Thomas Jones, you'll probably take him too early.

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