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Fantasy Football Index publisher Ian Allan answers your questions about fantasy football. Click here to submit a question.

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Mailbag for July 6, 2024

Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition: Double-dipping on Detroit's running backs. Weighing Deebo's durability against Mike Evans' age. When to target a running back in a one-back Superflex league.

Question 1

As a general rule, I know you're not opposed to pairing teammates on a roster if numbers indicate its prudent. But in a 12-team, TD-only league (8th overall pick), would pairing Gibbs and Montgomery with my first two selections be pushing the limits to a degree that makes you uncomfortable? Doing so provides nice injury insurance, but obviously caps weekly scoring potential. I'm torn.

Adam Rich (Oshkosh, WI)

To those in more traditional scoring formats (especially PPR) taking Montgomery in the second round will seem way too early. But Adam is playing in TD-only. I’ve been playing in such leagues for close to 40 years, and it’s a different animal. Forget about 100-yard games, receptions and whatnot – all that matters is who puts the ball in the end zone. And Montgomery, while not flashy, is a premium player in such a format.

Per our projections, Montgomery will finish 10th among running backs in touchdowns in the upcoming season. He’ll finish a couple of touchdowns ahead of all tight ends, and he’ll outscore all but two wide receivers. That’s what I get after pushing around the numbers.

Particularly at running back, usage and effectiveness around the goal-line is pivotal. It’s tough to score touchdowns from long range, so you want to be collecting the backs who’ll be getting plenty of carries around the end zone – only 36 percent of rushing touchdowns last year came on plays longer than 5 yards. Montgomery isn’t as explosive or dynamic as Jahmyr Gibbs, but he’s more of a hammer, making him the favorite to finish with more carries and touchdowns on short plays around the goal line.

The Lions have a high-powered offense, and they rely heavily on the run around the end zone. In the last two years, only five running backs have had seasons with 20 carries in the 5-yard line, and the Lions have two of those backs (Jamaal Williams in 2022, and Montgomery last year).

15 CARRIES INSIDE THE 5 (last 2 yrs)
YearPlayerAttYdsAvgTD2Pt
2022Jamaal Williams, Det.34401.2141
2023Gus Edwards, Balt.24391.6121
2023Joe Mixon, Cin.21271.370
2022QB Jalen Hurts, Phil.2114.792
2023David Montgomery, Det.20281.491
2023Raheem Mostert, Mia.20201.0120
2022Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.19221.290
2023Kyren Williams, LAR18402.291
2023Christian McCaffrey, S.F.18201.190
2023Tony Pollard, Dall.1816.931
2022Joe Mixon, Cin.17191.160
2022Dalvin Cook, Min.1716.960
2023QB Jalen Hurts, Phil.16181.1130
2023Austin Ekeler, LAC16171.150
2023Derrick Henry, Ten.1614.970
2022Miles Sanders, Phil.15302.070
2022Saquon Barkley, NYG15271.870
2022Derrick Henry, Ten.15241.6100
2023Kenneth Walker, Sea.154.350

With you holding the 8th and 20th picks, I would think the strategy of a Detroit Double Dip would definitely be a strong one. I think both Gibbs and Montgomery will be really good backs in your format. Should there be an injury, there will be the negative of losing one of your top two selections, but the positive of the remaining player being turbocharged while elevated into more of a featured role.

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Question 2

My draft is still more than two months away, but I’m already stressing over Deebo vs. Mike Evans as my 5th keeper (other 4 are Hurts, Henry, Pacheco and Tyreek). TD-heavy scoring system, with rushing TDs worth 10, receiving TDs 6. That makes Deebo’s rushing production appealing, but there’s the injury risk. Evans is more consistent, but there’s no rushing production, plus the age issue to consider. Thoughts?

Eric Pryne (Vashon, WA)

The rushing is a real thing. Samuel ran for 8 TDs in 2021, and since that time they’ve consistently used him as a change-up threat as a ball carrying. He’s scored 8 of the team’s 47 rushing touchdowns the last two years. I would think he’ll be running for 3-4 touchdowns (more, should McCaffrey get hurt).

But Samuel isn’t used extensively as a pass catcher, especially around the goal line. He’s been in the league for five years, and in each of those seasons, he’s caught one touchdown pass inside the 10-yard line. Over the last four years, they’ve gone 8 of 16 passes to Samuel when inside the 10, with 4 TDs. Evans in the same time span has caught almost six times more touchdowns in that part of the field. (In the last four years, they’ve gone 24 of 41 when going to Evans, with 23 touchdowns.)

Evans is over 2 years older, but he wins the durability battle. He’s missed only 9 games in his career, averaging 15.4 games per season. Deebo has missed 14 games in his six seasons, averaging 13.2 games per year. With his physical playing style, he tends to pick up injuries more often than others at his position.

Ultimately, this looks like one of those situations where you take a guy and hope for the best. My numbers suggest Samuel will be a slightly more potent scorer, but that Evans (with the likelihood of a few more games) will finish the season with a few more total touchdowns.

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Question 3

Years ago our PPR fantasy league changed the roster construction to allow teams the option to start a WR3 over a RB2. We are also a Superflex league. My philosophy has always been to take a stud QB in round one, a stud running back in round two, and then grab all of my receivers later. That means missing out on one of the elite wide receivers. With that in mind, how would you attack the first 4 or 5 rounds of the draft based on our roster configuration?

Ed Schrantz (Fredonia, NY)

I see the conclusion, but I don’t understand the reasoning behind it. Why would you want to lock into taking a running back in the second? I think that would give you a good chance of selecting somebody along the lines of Jonathan Taylor, Isiah Pacheco, Kyren Williams or Derrick Henry (you’re not getting McCaffrey, Bijan or Breece).

CeeDee Lamb, if my projections are accurate, will score over 100 more points than any of those backs. Ja’Marr Chase will score over 70 more, and five other receivers likely will finish with more points. So why not keep your options open? You need select only one running back that you’re confident you can count on, and I think there will be one that will show up as undervalued in the third, fourth or fifth round. (Or maybe you like what you see at running back in the second – we’ll see.)

I understand the itch to go after a quarterback early. On my list, I’ve got the top 4 at that position being worth over 100 more points than the 20th quarterback (and in Superflex, everyone will be starting two quarterbacks). Depending on how the others are picking, you may even choose quarterbacks in the first two rounds. Lots of ways to go, and ultimately the path is determined by a combination of your board and how the others in your league behave.

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