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Three Ways You're Screwing Up Zero RB... and How To Fix Them


In 2016 Zero RB was the dominant draft strategy for most fantasy football players. For many drafters the strategy fell flat on it's face and they gave up on it after one try.

The strategy itself is sound, and even in the outlier running back year of 2016 it was still successful. The issue is most drafters had no idea how to use Zero RB correctly and drafted completely hopeless teams that never had a chance of winning.

In this article I am going to cover three common mistakes I see with Zero RB drafters and how to fix them in order to win your fantasy draft.

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You Draft Zero RB In The Wrong Leagues

Look, I love Zero RB. I will use it every chance I can. But even I know when to stay away and use a different strategy. Each league is different. They have different roster constructions, scoring rules, waiver rules, etc. To many times last year players employed a Zero RB strategy in leagues that had no business using Zero RB.

So what leagues would I never use Zero RB in? Most standard scoring leagues for starters. Not getting that extra point per catch really hurts wide receivers in standard leagues. Even in the age of passing running backs still dominate in standard leagues. In 2015, which was a dismal year for running backs, 25 backs scored at least 10 PPG in standard compared to 22 wide receivers. In 2016 those numbers were 27 to 13! Wide receivers just aren't

as valuable in standard leagues, that is why PPR was created in the first place.

I also wouldn't use Zero RB in any league where I started the same amount of running backs as wide receivers regardless of scoring setting (unless you're in some crazy league were wide receivers are PPR and running backs aren't). If you are in a league were you are starting 2 running backs and 2 wide receivers you need to get running backs early due to positional scarcity. Even if you draft three or four stud wide receivers you can only start two. If you wait on running backs and are left with low floor players your two wide receivers can't overcome that, even in PPR.

The best leagues for Zero RB are PPR scoring leagues were you can start A MINIMUM of 3 wide receivers, preferably four or five. Even better is when you are only required to start one running back. I am in a PPR league that has multiple flex positions and you can start between one and five running backs or wide receivers. In that league I load up on wide receivers hoping to score five top 15 wide receivers and wait on running back. Then I just play weekly matchups with my running backs and hope for a solid outing. Even if my running back completely busts it's OK because they are only one of nine starters.

This works the other way too, sadly, were I see drafters in wide receiver heavy PPR leagues taking running backs early because they think "I have to get a stud running back." This is just as bad as drafting Zero RB in a league that doesn't favor it. You are building a team that has little hope of winning. Choose a strategy that works best for the league you are drafting in.

 

You Ignore RB Value Because You're Busy Drafting Low-End WR

Just because you have decided that a Zero RB strategy is the best for your league doesn't mean you have to ignore running backs until the 5th or 6th rounds. It's OK to take a running back early if there is an amazing value on the board. If your choices are a likely WR2/3 or a stud running back who has somehow dropped, take the running back. You can always spend the next few rounds loading up at wide receiver again.

Now I wouldn't take a stud running back over a receiver I thought had WR1 potential, but if I was in the third round and I was looking at Demaryius Thomas (WR, DEN), DeAndre Hopkins (WR, HOU), Alshon Jeffrey (WR, PHI), and DeMarco Murray (RB, TEN) you can bet 100 times out of 100 I am grabbing Murray. He has top-five running back upside and you can't pass that up.

It doesn't even have to be a stud either. If I am in a PPR, two running back, three wide receiver league I am likely taking a running back in the first four rounds unless I am just in love with the wide receivers that are available for me. If I can get a solid running back in rounds three or four I will gladly take that over a questionable wide receiver.

There will be times were I take a running back early and times were I don't. It just depends on the value that is available. But don't ignore value just to stick to a strategy. It's great to have a plan before the draft but you need to be flexible when a better option is available to you.

 

When You Finally Draft RB, You Pick the Wrong Ones

As Zero RB drafters we tend to fall in love with pass catching backs. But these are not the type of players you should target, at least not at first. The real success with Zero RB is when you pair multiple stud wide receivers with two safe-floor running backs. These safe running backs keep your team afloat until you hopefully hit a home run with a waiver wire pickup or one of your bench players becomes his teams starter.

Running backs like Frank Gore (RB, IND), Jonathan Stewart (RB, CAR) and Terrance West (RB, BAL) are not sexy, high ceiling players, but they have little to no competition for touches and give your team a nice weekly floor. If you can get a running back who is likely going to see 15 touches every week you should take that over a high ceiling, low floor pass catching back who may only see 5-6 touches at best.

As you get into the later rounds this is when you want to start drafting the pass catching backs, especially if they are likely to inherit a starter role if injuries occurred. Players like Duke Johnson (RB, CLE), C.J. Prosise (RB, SEA), and Shane Vereen (RB, NYG) are the perfect late round Zero RB choices. Each could easily become league winners if injuries happen ahead of them. They aren't the type of players I want to rely on week after week, but they have potential to be big time fantasy starters.

 

Conclusion

Before employing a Zero RB strategy make sure it is a strategy that fits your league. If it doesn't, use a strategy that does. If you do use a Zero RB strategy don't feel like you have to ignore running backs forever and don't try to hit home runs when you finally do draft running backs. You should be hitting home runs with your wide receivers, let your running backs provide the floor. Reach for the home runs later in the drafts and you'll be on your way to winning more often in 2017.

 

More 2017 Fantasy Football & ADP Analysis