NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Getty Images

Drafts this year will be no different than those in the past: Running backs are going to be popular. But this season, even the people who don't like taking running backs early are admitting it's a good idea to take running backs early.

The reality is that there are right around 23 different rushers considered majority-workload players for their teams. Many of them have upside as pass-catchers, and most have the opportunity to rack up a solid number of touchdowns. Those running backs make up the first four running back tiers, and they are going to fly off the draft board.

The majority of Fantasy drafters love locking up their starting running back spots with these types of backs. You might already know you're one of them, which is fine. But in case you're not sure if you want to invest heavily in running backs, consider the following checklist:

  1. Look over the players in the first five running back tiers in PPR (first four in non-PPR). If most or all of them are guys you could see yourself starting, you could probably get away with spending just one of your first four picks on a running back. Conversely, if you don't like as many names, then you've got to chase the running backs you do like with your first two, maybe three picks. This a personal preference thing for every Fantasy manager, but my instinct is to take running backs early on. 
  2. Check out the rushers in the sixth tier in PPR (fifth in non-PPR). If the thought of willingly starting any of them makes you violently ill, then you know you should prioritize running backs with your early choices.

There's also the concept of passing on running backs entirely with most or all of your first four picks to stock up on elite talents at other positions. In such a case, your roster might have a core of Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs, DK Metcalf and Lamar Jackson. That's nothing to sneeze at, but think of what's left at running back if you choose that route. Are you cool with starting Kareem Hunt and Melvin Gordon in Week 1 knowing that both won't have the roles you remember them having? 

Some people love this strategy, called Zero RB (because you literally draft zero RBs with at least your first four picks), but in a year where stud running backs are actually plentiful, Fantasy managers shouldn't have to commit to such a strategy. Giving the rest of the league an edge over you at the most sought-after position doesn't sound like a winning strategy to me. 

An alternative is to draft one running back early, then fill up on other positions before coming back to running backs in Round 5 or later. At least you'll have one top-tier hero tethered to your lineup while you hope to luck into another with your other picks and waiver moves during the year. There are enough running backs with some modest upside to make this work, but it's not a perfect plan. 

The other piece of advice is to draft a lot of running backs, period. Remember, this position tends to score more than their counterparts, people love trading for them, injuries can change their values quickly, and you need to start at least two of them every week.

Also, the league's move to a 17-game schedule is yet another reason to bulk up. Coaches will devise a plan to keep their running backs fresh by installing some sort of "pitch count," even for the top stars in the league. You'll see two-back tandems more often, though it shouldn't affect the premier guys as much as others who aren't as explosive. Combine that with the normal wear-and-tear running backs deal with and we will all find more running backs stumbling into reliable pockets of playing time once the season unfolds, even if it's just for two or three weeks.

DAVE'S FAVORITE STRATEGY: Take at least two running backs with your first three draft selections and plan on grabbing a third running back from the third or fourth tiers if one is available in Round 4 (and especially if it's Round 5). Then collect at least three more running backs the rest of the way. 

Running back PPR tiers (updated 9/1)

Running back Non-PPR tiers (updated 9/1)

So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.