How to Dominate Your League with Zero RB

Chris Sanzo explains the merits of the Zero RB draft strategy and gives you a round-by-round outline for your upcoming drafts.

Zero RB has gained more popularity and notoriety as fantasy football continues to grow. I don’t want this to be another Spider-Man origin story scenario, but here’s the quick rundown if you’re unfamiliar with the concept. Zero RB is an alternative draft style that maximizes the scoring potential of your non-RB positions and mitigates risk with drafting value in your backs. By not addressing the RB position until later in the draft, you manufacture your own advantage through other positions. Simply put, if you’re drafting 6th and see you see five RBs go before you, don’t get too hyped to have the objectively 6th best start. Close the gap by taking elite tiers of production at other positions early while securing value later.

 

Let’s Talk Specifics

 

Rewind the clock all the way back to 2020. By ADP, the first 15 drafted players featured 12 RBs. However, only three of those RBs ended in the top 15 Flex players in PPR scoring, and only four in total. The entire list is Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, and then David Montgomery with an ADP of 61. When the final scoring ranks are expanded to the top 60 players, it does not get much better. Only 21 of the top 60 flex players were RBs but only 8 of those 21 were taken in the first three rounds.

If you started RB/RB in 2020, the chance to have two top 60 players was incredibly unlikely. The only common combo that would have hit was Cook/Aaron Jones; more often were combos such as Ezekiel Elliott/Nick Chubb, CMC/Chris Carson, and Josh Jacobs/Kenyan Drake (hehe). That… did not go so well. 2019 was overall a slightly better year for RB as they occupied 8 of the top 15 Flex. The caveat is that only four RBs chosen in the top 15 made that list. CMC, Zeke, Chubb, and Cook were the only RBs to get drafted and finish in the top 15.

 

How to Implement Zero RB

 

I will warn you up front, there will be nuances that will require you to mold your draft properly. It is not just a universal copy/paste method. Zero RB requires you to understand your league scoring, the other managers in the league, and draft position. DO NOT USE THIS METHOD IF YOU ARE DRAFTING IN THE FIRST TWO PICKS. Draft CMC and Dalvin Cook. If you do not, you are passing the advantage to the next lucky drafter and setting yourself up for a more extreme disadvantage than if you had drafted from the 6th spot.

For the purpose of this exercise, let’s use that 6th spot as our current draft position. This pick gives us some flexibility to adjust as we proceed but eliminates the ease of back-to-back picks. Ideally, the start I’m looking for is 4 WRS, 1 TE, and 1 QB. This allows me to build off either the WR1 or TE1 and back it up with a top 5 QB. In the 7th is when everything changes and I start hunting down RBs. Something important to note before the fun stuff, you do need to be able to adjust during the draft if needed. Remember, nuance. This is where having a tier system in place can help you pivot. You don’t want to draft 10th round talent in the 7th after the league shifts values and overdrafts RBs early. It’s ok to dip into the earlier rounds for RB if necessary and still not suffer drawbacks because the league is giving up its advantage and really that’s what this is about, maximizing value in your picks and turning disadvantages into advantages.

 

As Promised, the Fun Stuff

 

Now we’ll see what this looks like in practice by mocking with ADP (and personal preference). Seeing this process unfold should smooth out any lumps.

Round 1: Davante Adams – We have our blueprint and we’re on the clock with the 6th pick. Let’s assume that 1-5 were some order of CMC, Cook, Kamara, Zeke, and Henry. Rather than already drop a tier in RBs, we take the WR1, Adams. He is the consensus WR1 and 2nd overall scorer from 2020. With a focused and motivated Rodgers returning, the pair should line up for another big year.

Round 2: DeAndre Hopkins – Ideally, the next 12 picks after Adams will feature 7 RBs and leave us with a trio of DK, DHop, and Calvin Ridley (CRid?). Two picks on the board and we very well could have the 2021 WR1/WR2 on the team.

Round 3: George Kittle – Securing one of the big 3 is preferable, but if he’s gone we’ll stick with wideout and look for the best available at the tier; Terry McLaurin, Allen Robinson, or CeeDee Lamb would work. Then go ahead and grab T.J. Hockenson or Mark Andrews in a couple of rounds.

Round 4: Julio Jones – If you prefer Tyler Lockett here, I understand completely. This is more looking ahead because in the 5th I’m looking at target monsters like Brandon Aiyuk, Jerry Jeudy, or Tee Higgins. Julio will get 100+ targets in that offense and I want a guy capable of WR1 numbers here.

Round 5: Jerry Jeudy – 100+ targets and now has Teddy Breidgewater throwing catchable passes his way. Hard to see a negative that comes from that QB situation for Jeudy.

Round 6: Russell Wilson – I have him as my QB3. The Schotty cuffs are gone. Russ. Can. Cook.

 

Roster Recap Before RBs

 

QB – Russell Wilson

RB

RB

WR – Davante Adams

WR – DeAndre Hopkins

TE – George Kittle

FL – Julio Jones

BE/FL – Jerry Jeudy

Who says no?

 

Which RBs Should I Target? 

 

We’ve now seen the first 6 rounds unfold and it’s clear this team is going to do some real damage. Choosing the 7th round is obviously not random as you’ve seen. It reflects the tiering of value that reflects specific skill sets and/or situations and provides workable discounts. You aren’t getting Najee Harris here, but it’s still early enough that we can get legitimate RB2 returns for a fraction of the cost. In terms of turning ADP into tangible value to highlight my point, the difference between RB24 and RB30 was just 10 points. The ADP spike between them was 24 picks. That means someone paid 2 full rounds of value for just 10 points. This is what managers refer to as the RB Dead Zone. After round 3, you really aren’t getting the return to justify the cost. Unless of course, the cost is exactly what you’re looking for because you didn’t heavily invest in early RBs. We’re going to attack the Dead Zone because the fluctuation in value here is negligible, negating the risk other managers placed on the position.

Now it’s time to buckle down, set our focus, and draft some backs. All of my preferred targets share one thing; A clear path to production, regardless of the other backs on the roster or their current position on the depth chart. Standalone value is a must because otherwise you’re drafting handcuffs and you want to limit the number of obstacles a player needs to exceed their values. Many times this can be a pass-catching back, but it doesn’t need to and in most cases, is not the ideal candidate.

Earlier in the offseason, while everyone was grabbing Travis Etienne in the 5th, I was happy to take James Robinson in the 8th. That’s not to say he is a better back, he just had a safe floor because of the guaranteed path to touches, and could at the very least share goalline work. If he caught passes, that was just gravy.

Players like A.J. Dillon and Gus Edwards are a couple of my favorites that share a similar path as JRob. If the RB in front of them goes down, their expanded workload could elevate them to RB2 status with a shot at returning RB1 value, but it isn’t necessary to succeed. For a position that year to year showcases its fragility, you want the shortest path to being at least their team’s RB1. Below is a list of targets that I want based on ADP. Ideally, I’ll get four of these to head my squad.

 

NFCC Filtered ADP from 8/23 – Current

7th– Damien Harris, Michael Carter, Melvin Gordon

8th– Zach Moss, Ronald Jones, A.J. Dillon

9th– Kenyan Drake, Jamaal Williams

10th– Tony Pollard, Gus Edwards

11th– Nyheim Hines

12th– None

13th– Rhamondre Stevenson, Kenneth Gainwell

 

Back to the Fun Stuff!

 

We have the first 6 picks, we have our structure in place, and we have our targets. Let’s finish this up lightning round style and see what our finished product looks like.

Round 7- 15: Damien Harris, Ronald Jones, Kenyan Drake, Gus Edwards, Elijah Moore, Rashod Bateman, Kenny Gainwell, K, DST

Quick note for Moore and Bateman- I will commonly draft rookie wideouts with considerable upside in the double-digit rounds since the floor for my WR room is so high already. Don’t add anyone you can’t perceive hitting back-end WR2 PPG numbers by the end of the year.

 

Finished Product

 

This is what we’re rolling out in Week 1.

QB – Russell Wilson

RB – Damien Harris

RB – Ronald Jones

WR – Davante Adams

WR – DeAndre Hopkins

FL – Julio Jones

TE – George Kittle

K – Tyler Bass

DST – Carolina Panthers

BE – Jerry Jeudy

BE – Rashod Bateman

BE – Elijah Moore

BE – Kenyan Drake

BE -Gus Edwards

BE – Kenny Gainwell

 

I’ll ask one more time. Who says no?

 

(Photo by MSA/Icon Sportswire)

One response to “How to Dominate Your League with Zero RB”

  1. YaBoy says:

    That team is garbage. Good luck with 8th place.

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