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Running Back Arbitrage – Kerwynn Williams vs. Giovani Bernard


The expected value from using draft picks on running backs early in the NFL draft is probably negative. I’ve argued in the past that teams should probably take a lineman every time they’re thinking about taking a running back.  I’ll amend that statement now to say that when teams are using draft picks in the first three rounds they should draft a lineman every time they’re thinking about taking a running back.  After the third round, draft picks become worth substantially less and it makes sense to then start looking at running backs (I really liked the Seahawks pick of Robert Turbin last year).  The problem for running backs is that they are just one piece of the puzzle for the run game (there are five linemen that have to create running lanes) and the run game also isn’t as important as the pass game.

But that also doesn’t mean that you want to get the absolute worst RB you can find, it just means that with the strategy I lay out above, you’ll have to do some bargain shopping.  An NFL team that uses a 5th round pick to take Utah State’s Kerwynn Williams (per CBS) could try to get some of the upside of Giovani Bernard, but for about 1/10th the cost in draft picks.  That estimate is just based on taking CBS’ NFL Draft projection for Bernard as a 2nd round pick, looking at the Jimmy Johnson Draft Pick Value chart, and then doing the math on the difference between a 2nd and 5th round pick.

Bernard and Williams are extremely close on a number of measures per the table below.  I should note however, that Williams did not test very well in the agility portions of the Combine, which Shawn Siegele has written about.  I would even concede that Bernard’s quicks show up in his game and that might be a big difference.  But in the case of each back, you’re talking about a smallish player that has the downside of maybe only being a situational player in the NFL.  So that’s the kind of player that you should try to get on the cheap.  I’m not saying that Bernard is absolutely only a situational player.  Only that he has that downside.

From a fantasy football perspective, the most important information is still to come and that is where each prospect ends up.  Only then will it make sense to speculate on whether Williams’ might be a cheap version of Bernard in fantasy leagues.

Kerwynn Williams Utah State 195 4.48 2012 13 16.77 116.31 1.15 6.94 53.62 38.00 2,515.00 6.58
Giovani Bernard North Carolina 202 4.53 2012 10 18.40 122.80 1.20 6.67 49.00 23.00 2,481.00 5.87

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