Is the Zero-RB Draft Strategy Still a Thing?
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!
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. Click the image to zoom in or I'll list out my team at the bottom of the article. 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.
Buffalo Bills second-year running back Devin Singletary was my pick in the fifth. I was really pleased to get Singletary as my RB1. Singletary looked good when he played last season, and he has some bell-cow potential. In Round 6, I drafted Kareem Hunt. He may share the backfield in Cleveland with my favorite back Nick Chubb, and while that could look like a problem on the surface, there is no better person to share a backfield with than Nick Chubb. Ask Todd Gurley and Sony Michel, his old teammates at Georgia. Hunt played in seven games for the Browns last season, and he caught 37 passes while averaging 14 fppg in PPR. One thing I can say is that this team will have a ton of receptions. Another pair of running backs that I have interest in this year are Marlon Mack and Sony Michel.
Colts RB Jonathan Taylor, a favorite among fantasy fans, is one of the most-liked rookies in this draft. Everyone is assuming he'll have a huge year, but like any guy entering the NFL, he's not a sure thing, despite all his talent. So hedge your bets! Taylor is likely to be overdrafted because of his favorable situation, which makes Mack a value play. Colts insider Philip B. Wilson got this quote from Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich:
"There's definitely inherent respect for the starting returner in my mind," Reich said. "That's the way that I see this. Although, I think I used the phrase – I'd like to think that I used the phrase, when I said it or if I didn't say it, I heard someone else say it and I thought it was a good phrase, so I was taking ownership of it — that it was not the one-two punch but the one-one punch."
For those who have been following my work, you know there are certain players that I just can't seem to quit. I was actually approached in a Red Lobster once and asked if I still believed in Sammy Watkins; begrudgingly, I said yes.
New England Patriots RB Sony Michel can add his name to that list! I wasn't able to get him in this draft; Lord knows I was trying. He is a good target if you decide to employ a Zero-RB strategy after a down year in 2019. Last season, he was terrible and nothing more than a TD-dependent RB4. I'm blaming his offensive line and his injury issues. I like Michel to bounce back this season, and you don't have to pay a hefty price tag for him. This is a good fantasy team considering I purposely went in intending to draft with the Zero-RB strategy. I don't plan on going Zero-RB this year. However, if I fell into it, the board nudged me in that direction, and it came out looking like this? I think I could get this team to the playoffs!
QB Aaron Rodgers
RB: Devin Singletary, Kareem Hunt, J.K. Dobbins, Marlon Mack, Kerryon Johnson, Tevin Coleman
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Chris Godwin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Gallup, Emmanuel Sanders
TE: Darren Waller, T.J. Hockenson
K: Wil Lutz
D: New York Jets
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Is the Zero-RB Draft Strategy Still a Thing?
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.Subscribe for full article
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