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Born to Run - A Case for Going RB/RB to Start Your Draft


Zero RB discussion seems to rear its head every season. It can be an effective strategy, depending on when you are picking in your draft. However, there is another school of thought and that is Zero WR. While going into any draft with a pre-ordained strategy will lead to mistakes being made in your draft, it's important to understand the various strategies that can be employed.

The case for Zero WR is simple, running backs don't grow on trees. In seasons past, it looked as though the NFL moved away from the traditional bell-cow running back, towards committees of talent, and the injuries that they incurred. However, as the league zigs, it also zags and there seems to be a resurgence of the bell-cow running back. Players like Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley (although that might be limited with the recent concerns on his knee) have led to running backs being selected early in drafts once again.

That resurgence of running back, combined with the need for someone entrusted with a workload has led to eight of the first twelve picks being running backs according to Fantasy Football Calculator. So is there a strong case to go RB/RB in your drafts?

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Starting RB/RB

Running back is a position that can give you a huge advantage because outside of the quarterback they get the most touches in any given game. However, unlike other positions, such as wide receiver, where there are multiple players on the field at one time, running backs are the sole heir of those carries, so getting two solid running backs can give you a huge positional advantage. Looking back at Fantasy Football Calculator's ADP, you could end up with a combination like Barkley and Leonard Fournette while then being able to pick up Adam Thielen or Keenan Allen as your leading receiver.

Passing on RBs in the first few rounds will really hinder your team. There is the argument that you could select a late-round running back who breaks out, but it's best to lock up volume-driven players on good offenses, and then take more chances later on in trying to find this seasons Alvin Kamara or Phillip Lindsay.

Particularly in non-PPR scoring formats, you want to maximize the number of touches and opportunities that your players have. This type of scoring format means that you are not going to find too much success in having pass-catching running backs and top tier receiving talent, certainly not enough to offset the number of touches you are surrendering to owners who opted for heavy running back early in drafts. It's no coincidence that you see even more running backs at the top scorer's in non-PPR formats.

NFL teams are also opting for more dual-threat running backs. The days of the leading players at the position being the bruising between-the-tackles player (like Adrian Peterson at his peak) is over. The leading talents at the position now are quick on their feet, and able to break away if they are given space (either catching a pass or being given a handoff).

 

Surely I'll Struggle For Receivers?!

This season more than ever it seems that the effective offenses share the ball around, in fact, there are very few receivers that will be given a target share of over 30%. The only player to manage that last season was DeAndre Hopkins, which is the only time in the last four years that there has only been a single player to surpass that mark.

Furthermore, there are multiple receivers that have injury discount this season. Cooper Kupp and A.J. Green are two players who currently offer such discount in drafts. Injuries happen, and it's easy to forget the ability of these guys as they weren't high finishers in season-long rankings. That enables you to take advantage and get a good value on top WR talent. This season more than any other it seems to be a few elite options at the position (Hopkins, Davante Adams, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas) then a tier drop to a lot of players that aren't overly different in ability and opportunity.

 

Conclusion

While it is never a good idea to go into a draft with a pre-determined strategy, this season you are certainly able to stack at the running back position and not suffer too much at receiver. Due in part to a strong WR2 class, as well as there being fewer elite options at the position. Starting a draft with Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley, A.J. Green, and Robert Woods certainly is a good (and realistic) option for fantasy owners come draft season.

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