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In today's draft strategy piece, we are going to take a look at what do if you have a sense that the majority of your league is going to use a Zero RB strategy. In case you aren't familiar with Zero RB, it is a strategy where the drafter selects wide receivers in the first five or so rounds of a fantasy draft and waits until the middle or late rounds to stock up on running backs.

Usually this strategy requires the drafter to take chances on backup running backs with unclear roles. Many well-known fantasy sources are pushing drafters to take wide receivers early in drafts this year, therefore making the middle and late-round running backs a more valuable, and in turn, a more difficult commodity to acquire. This year I believe that drafting an early stud tight end will be the key to out-drafting Zero RB teams. Below I am going to outline two draft plans centered around this idea which will allow you to put together a strong fantasy team without using Zero RB. Just for a point of reference, all ADP data is from Fantasy Football Calculator and we will assume you are playing in a 12-team PPR league.

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How To Combat Zero RB Strategies

You have probably heard this idea before, but if the rest of your league is drafting using the Zero RB strategy, it will be time to zig while they zag. Remember a few years ago when Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham were argued as viable first round draft picks? The argument was that they offered such a significant positional advantage over the rest of the league's tight ends?

It is time to consider locking up one of the top two tight ends in the draft again this year, except substitute Jordan Reed for Graham. The best thing about Reed is he won't cost a first round pick like Graham used to, the Redskins tight end is coming off the board in the fourth round of drafts right now. Let dive into a draft strategy that I think is going to be really successful this year that doesn't require ignoring running backs.

 

Plan One

Let's call this one the Gronk plan. Gronk is currently pick 2.01 in 12-team PPR leagues, meaning if you have a later pick in the first round in snake drafts, this is the route for you. Go ahead and take your stud wide receiver at the end of the first round. High upside WR1s such as A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, and Allen Robinson should all be available toward the end of the first round. Select your favorite of those three and lock him in.

Of the trio, I prefer Green, Robinson, and Bryant in that order, but this is truly a matter of preference which one you go with. At this point, you are going to target Gronk in the second round. Keep in mind, this is the first time in a while that you have a chance at getting Gronk outside of the first round in fantasy drafts. If Gronk gets scooped up before you pick in the first round, don't panic, simply skip ahead to Plan Two.

If you do get Gronk, the next several rounds will be dedicated to drafting the best available running back or wide receiver. In the third round, there's tons of value to be had at running back and that's the position I'd be targeting unless a receiver I can't pass on slips. Doug Martin, C.J. Anderson, LeSean McCoy, Eddie Lacy, and Thomas Rawls all will see the majority of the carries for their respective teams and have solid RB1 ceilings. As far as quarterbacks go, I'm not even thinking about getting a quarterback until the ninth or tenth round. Solid signal callers like Tony Romo, Derek Carr, Phillip Rivers, and Tyrod Taylor are some of my preferred targets at this point of the draft.

If you follow this plan you should have a strong starter at running back, wide receiver, and tight end after the first three rounds. The fourth round can be considered somewhat of a bonus pick. Take the best available wideout or running back to bolster your team. After the fourth round, continue to target wide receivers and running backs to fill out your team.

Look for pass-catching running backs in time shares (Gio Bernard types) and second wide receivers in explosive passing offenses (Sterling Shepard/John Brown types). If it's me drafting, I'm not even thinking about getting a quarterback until the ninth or tenth round. Solid signal callers like Tony Romo, Derek Carr, Phillip Rivers, and Tyrod Taylor are some of my preferred targets at this point of the draft and I'm likely to wait as long as possible and take whichever of those four is on the board last.

Example team (assuming drafting at the end of the first round):

QB - Tyrod Taylor
RB - Thomas Rawls
RB - Gio Bernard
WR - Allen Robinson
WR - Eric Decker
WR - John Brown/Sterling Shepard
TE - Rob Gronkowski

 

Plan Two

This plan is for the owner who doesn't have a shot at Gronk in the second round. The idea above is to get Gronk, but not pay for him in the first round, which may or may not be possible. Let's say for Plan Two you are picking in the middle spots of a 12-team draft.

Start the first round the same way as outlined above, with your favorite of Green, Bryant, and Robinson. There's also a slight chance DeAndre Hopkins is still there if you prefer him to the others. I love the wide receiver value in the second round, with several star wideouts with WR1 upside available. You should have your pick between Keenan Allen, Brandin Cooks, Mike Evans, Alshon Jeffery, and Amari Cooper. Jordy Nelson is also currently going in the second but I'm fading him at those prices.

In the third round, as mentioned above, the running back values are great so use that round to select one of the backs outlined in Plan One. In the fourth round it will be time to strike and snatch up Jordan Reed. Reed has as much upside as Gronk at a two-round discount. As a matter of fact, Reed actually outscored Gronk on a per game basis last season, 17.4 points per game to 17.0. Lock Reed in at the tight end position and then proceed drafting the middle rounds as outlined above, waiting until the ninth or tenth round to grab a quarterback.

Example team (assuming drafting in the middle of the round):

QB - Tyrod Taylor
RB - Doug Martin
RB - Duke Johnson
WR - A.J. Green
WR - Mike Evans
WR - John Brown
TE - Jordan Reed

As always, fantasy drafts are fluid, but these teams are definitely attainable based on current ADP data. The best idea is to take part in a lot of mock drafts to get an idea of what your team will look like.

Try getting Gronk early and see if you like what you team looks like at the end. See if you can snag Reed in the fourth and still be happy with your squad. Even if you don't follow the plans exactly, hopefully this article gives you some food for thought if the rest of the league is using the Zero RB strategy.