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Will the Zero-RB Draft Strategy Work in 2020?

Planning on implementing the zero-RB draft strategy in the early rounds of your fantasy draft? SI Fantasy analyst Corey Parson explains how it can be done, as well as what the end results may look like.

Is Zero-RB Still a Thing?

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The Zero-RB draft strategy dates back to about 10 years ago. It gained a lot of steam about five years ago when many first-round RBs sustained injuries. In recent times, most fantasy football owners have gone away from it. There are a few different ways to go about the Zero-RB strategy.

The most common one is to disregard the running back position for the first four or five rounds of your draft. There is also a three-round model called a modified Zero-RB. You shouldn’t enter a draft with one set strategy in mind. Experience and practice will determine how you react and strategize a draft. It all depends on your league and what the stakes are. If I’m playing in a 12-team league with the homies from college, it’s highly unlikely that I would use any Zero-RB strategy. If I’m playing a national tournament with the hopes of knocking down an overall prize, there is a chance that I could use the strategy should the picks play out that way.

If you are going to start your fantasy football draft by overlooking running backs for four rounds, you better make sure they are available when you finally decide to dig into what would be a depleted player pool. The strategy can work, but you can’t go into it blindly!

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Let’s walk through the negatives:

You have to practice it thoroughly from your draft spot. It’s not going to work well in some spots (you willing to take Michael Thomas with the No. 1 pick?). It won’t work if multiple people in your league are doing the opposite (loading up on RBs and creating a two-deep run at the position). You will have to be great on the waiver wire. There are strengths and weaknesses to every strategy so you have to let the strategy come to you should the draft break this way.

Fantasy players who use Zero-RB are playing a points game. The logic is to have top point-getters at every position except for running back. For example, if you can land three of the top 15 wideouts, a top TE, and a top QB, that could make your team hard to beat. Draft boards shake out differently from year-to-year and draft-to-draft, so you have to know which backs to target to pull it off. Furthermore, you have to hope those backs hit, and your stud players have to do their part! There’s always luck involved.

I decided to use the Sports Illustrated Mock Draft Simulator, which is free to use and a great tool for practicing your mock drafts. I wanted to show you guys how it can be done. You can also submit your team if you like it and it’s entered into the Mock Draft World Championships, which is a free-to-enter best ball contest for the upcoming season. There are all sorts of cool prizes you can win, including the Ultimate Fantasy Football Experience.

So to put together a Zero-RB team to break down what it would look like and demonstrate which running backs I could land. I was assigned the sixth pick, and as you can imagine, my top three receivers started very well. I selected DeAndre Hopkins, Chris Godwin, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. There is a good chance all three of these guys can at least finish in the top 15 at their position, especially if Smith-Schuster has a bounce-back season. With my fourth pick, I selected Darren Waller, the Raiders breakout tight end last season. Now that I have my core point scorers, it’s time to pray that there was enough left at running back.

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