With the opening day of the 2022 NFL season set to begin in just over 3 months, it is officially time to start preparing for your fantasy football draft. And while there are plenty of different tactics, one fantasy football draft apporach is frequently seen as more controversial; the zero RB strategy. Used almost exclusively in re-draft leagues, a zero RB strategy is the ultimate high risk/high reward approach to a fantasy football draft.
Exploring the Zero RB Strategy
Typically, in most fantasy football drafts, running backs are usually the first handful of picks in the draft. However, a lot of risk is associated with using a first round pick on a running back.
As many football fans already know, the biggest detriment to a successful fantasy football season are injuries to your top players. Unfortunately for running backs, their position is the most commonly injured position in the sport amongst fantasy football positions. In the past few seasons we have seen the following running backs drafted at the top of the first round battle devastating injuries: Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry and Todd Gurley. Meanwhile, even backs that aren’t lost for the whole season, can still have injuries impact their performance, like Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliot last season.
While other positions do also experience injuries, it’s better to be safe in those early rounds.
The next reason for thinking about a zero RB strategy is to avoid the dreaded running back by committee approach utilized by so many teams. If you take a high end back with your first pick in your fantasy football draft, you run the risk of seeing handcuffs like Tony Pollard, Alexander Mattison, Jamaal Williams and A.J. Dillion siphon carries and touchdowns away from your star player.
A Quick Peak
Finally, the last reason to potentially avoid taking a running back in the first round in a fantasy football draft is how quickly the position peaks and how rapidly star running backs decline. Even a running back that has been successful for their early career, will likely start to take a step back around the 5th season. As a result, NFL teams frequently bring in additional talent to the position to help lessen the load.
Utilizing a Zero RB Strategy
If you are thinking about implementing a zero RB strategy for your fantasy football draft, typically look to draft these positions in these rounds.
First 2 Rounds
Current ADP has the following 7 running backs going before any other position. Instead of trying to guess which one might be the best and running the risk of getting the worst of that group, instead take your top wide receivers (or Travis Kelce) in the first two rounds. Even better, if you hold an early pick, try trading back in the first round. This year, guys like Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs and Kelce will be there for you to take two amazing pass catchers.
While others worry about a low performing or injured back, getting a high floor receiver ensures your team will always be generating points with your best players.
Rounds 3 – 4
Some drafts will see a person using the zero RB strategy draft a back as early as the third round, and that’s okay! Once you get out of the first couple of rounds, if there’s a running back that you think is ready to break out, thats a perfect time to strike. Players like Antonio Gibson, David Montgomery, Zeke and Cam Akers are all going right around the third, if you want some stability at the position, they all are potentially good fits. Note: Zeke scares me a bit personally
However, if you decide you still aren’t ready to take a running back in your draft, grabbing another pass catcher (or two) is still a great option. Mike Evans, A.J. Brown, Tee Higgins and Keenan Allen are all going in the third round in recent ADPs.
Using a zero RB strategy you have the ability to leave the first four rounds of your draft with a roster including, Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill, Higgins and a tight end, looking at Darren Waller or Kyle Pitts .
Rounds 5 – 10
In my opinion, for a zero RB strategy, these are the most important rounds in a fantasy football draft. As early as the 4th round I might start targeting a quarterback but you can usually still get a high end QB1 at this point. With your other picks, you are going to go from zero RB strategy to all running back strategy, and maybe one more wide receiver.
Start taking your chances with players like those coming off of injuries (Travis Etienne or J.K. Dobbins) young players still trying to break out (Clyde Edwards-Helaire) or top rookies like Breece Hall and Ken Walker III. Here the thinking is buying as many lottery tickets with the hopes that one or two breakout.
Remember, it was only a couple of years ago that Antonio Gibson lasted into at least the 8th and James Robinson went undrafted. Both ended up playing like top-10 fantasy options for most of the season while guys like C-Mac and Saquon were lost early to injury.
Do you use a zero RB strategy? Who are you targeting in your fantasy football draft? Let us know in the comments below!