Draft Prep: The Zero-RB Draft Strategy
Happy Football Season. It is good to be back with you all talking about the sport we all love: Fantasy Football.
Believe it or not, the NFL season is fast approaching and with it your Fantasy Football drafts. I, along with others on staff here at QBList, are here to help you prepare as you head into your draft.
The topic of discussion today is a Zero-RB draft. I will be discussing what this strategy could look like for you, how long you should wait on your first RB, as well as the pros and cons of choosing this drafting method. While every league is dynamic and you know your fellow league members best, it is good to have several strategies in mind as you approach your draft, especially if you are in a league where the draft position isn’t decided until an hour before the draft begins. In other words, don’t have your draft strategy set in stone, but also don’t rule out a strategy, as it could be what works best for you depending on positioning and draft outcome.
All research done on QBList and in this article is based on 12 team PPR leagues with standard roster configuration (1QB, 2WR, 2RB, 1TE, 1WR/RB/TE, 1K, 1DEF, 7 Bench)
Side note: I will be releasing a Zero-WR draft guide later in the week, so make sure to check that out as well.
Why You Should Consider Zero-RB
The Zero-RB strategy is nothing new. In the years of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander, you would have been called crazy to implement this strategy. Back then, the running back was king and standard point scoring was the norm. As it happens, the makeup of the NFL has changed, along with what the fantasy football community deems as “standard.” Most leagues now employ, at the minimum, a half-PPR scoring system, if not a full-PPR system. This has led to the rise of top wide receivers. As fantasy has changed, so has the NFL. Gone are the days where there is a workhorse back on a majority of teams. In fact, there were only eight running backs who finished 2018 with at least 60% of the offensive snap share:
|Running Back||Offensive Snaps (%)|
While this is an almost foolproof indicator to success (thanks Dion Lewis), this goes to show that the workhorse is just not the same. Couple that with the fact that a whopping 32 running backs received at least 40 targets last year, this is a recipe for waiting on running backs and stacking your other positions.
Another theory for drafting WR-heavy early in drafts is because the RB position often carries the highest injury risk, so investing in pass catchers early allows for the most draft capital to be invested in safer assets. The saying goes, “You can’t win your league in the first couple of rounds, but you can definitely lose it.” This allows you to have a turnstile of high upside, pass-catching running backs to plug and play. Also, this lends to playing match-ups and gives you less of a sting if one of the horses goes down due to injury.
Why You Shouldn’t Consider Zero-RB
In case you thought this was a persuasive article on why Zero-RB is the golden path to success, it is not. I am merely here to inform you, and hopefully, give you another tool in your belt come draft day. As I said earlier, there is not a strategy that is perfect, but you also should not write off strategies, as having the most information could be the difference come draft day.
Now, there are instances, as with any strategy, that would lend you avoiding the Zero-RB draft strategy.
- You have a top 3 pick.
Please, for the love of God, do not mess up if you have picks 1-3. As of this writing, Ezekiel Elliot is not in official trouble with the NFL, so the top three picks in every draft in the world should be, in some order, Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffery, and Zeke Elliot. After those three, sure, take Davante Adams or DeAndre Hopkins, but please, if you have a top 3 pick, don’t get cute. This is not the strategy for you this year.
- Listen to your heart.
As I said earlier, only you know your league mates, and I won’t be in the draft room with you. If you want to fly me out or skype me in, comment below, but otherwise, I won’t be there. This is where the idea of not sticking with one strategy comes into play. Here is the scenario – it is the middle of the second round, and you are coming up to pick. You see that somehow Melvin Gordon or David Johnson has hung around, after a wild run of wide receivers. Patrick Mahomes and the top three TE’s (more on that later) are off the board. This is a scenario where you need to be flexible, and decide that taking the best player available, is better than taking TY Hilton. No offense to him, he is a great player, but there is too much value to pass up.
- League Settings.
Again, this article is based on the standard roster, in a 12 team PPR league. It makes sense, with the balance of this roster, to have this as a tool to use on draft day. However, sometimes league managers can get crazy and mess around with things. My wife would call this the creative date of the fantasy football world. There is nothing wrong with it, it just spices up the mundane and I get it. If you play in a league that is not a PPR, or has a higher number of RB starters required than WRs, then I would suggest finding a strategy that aligns with your settings. The Zero-RB strategy can work in a lot of league setups, but I would not recommend for a standard league that doesn’t give points for receptions. This drastically decreases the RB pool and you need to read my article about the Zero-WR strategy later in the week.
I’m In, Now How Should I Draft?
Great question, and I am glad you stuck around. After completing several mock drafts using this strategy, I found that there was great value from the 5th round, and on, in the running back market. Zero-RB targets will be discussed in an article that releases tomorrow, by our very own Paul Ghiglieri. I can tell you some great pieces that I found in rounds 6-9, were guys like Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, Tarik Cohen, and Jerick McKinnon. Other than that, I don’t want to spoil Paul’s article, so be on the lookout. However, what I am here to tell you is, what I have found to be the most successful way to employ this strategy, round-by-round. In a Zero-RB strategy, the idea is to wait on RB until the 6th round. The way that it should go is this:
Round 1: WR
Round 2: Big 3 TE(Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz)
Round 3: WR
Round 4: WR
Round 5: QB
Round 6-9: High upside, pass-catching RB
Round 7+: Best available
I’ll break this down. If you are going with this strategy, this is what I have found to give me the best outcome. The difference for me, in the RBs in rounds 5 and 6, is not substantial, which leads me to select the best available QB in round 5. This should still be a top-five caliber QB. The biggest standout of this strategy is that you have all of your major positions filled, so you can heavily focus on RB in rounds 6-9. Meanwhile, others are filling TE, QB and WR spots. The key to this entire strategy is landing one of the big three TEs in round 2. The fall off after them is huge, and I like them in the order that I have listed above. The last thing I will say is please…do not pick a kicker or defense, until your last two picks. There is simply too much upside to be gained from using higher draft capital on position players, rather than the Jaguars defense.
With all of that said, I hope you are as excited as I am, to start mocking, prepping, and drafting for a successful 2019 Fantasy Football campaign. Be on the lookout for my next Draft Prep article, where I will be looking at the flip-side in my Zero-WR Strategy article.
(Photo by Kyle Emery/Icon Sportswire)