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As fantasy football draft season approaches, many fantasy analysts have begun writing about their thoughts on the best draft strategy for the 2016 fantasy football season. Every fantasy draft can go a number of different ways, important things to factor are your league-mates, when your draft will take place, as well as many other variables.

One draft strategy that has become increasingly popular in recent years is the Zero RB strategy.

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The Zero Running Back Strategy

As a fantasy football player, I've utilized the Zero RB strategy primarily over the past three seasons and have generally enjoyed success when drafting this way. For those who are not familiar, Zero RB is a drafting strategy initially introduced by Shawn Siegele over at Rotoviz, where running backs are ignored in the early-mid rounds of fantasy drafts. These rounds are used to load up on wide receivers and perhaps a stud tight end.

The idea has been that the drafter waits until the mid-later rounds to start taking shots at running backs, while tirelessly working the waiver wire during the season in attempts to uncover a starting running back due to injury or a breakout performance from a back buried on a week 1 depth chart.

 

Will it Work in 2016?

The purpose here is not to extol the virtues of the strategy, but instead to analyze whether it will work in the 2016 season.

Over the past few years there's been a shift in the fantasy football landscape, running backs are increasingly hard to trust with so many teams going to a committee approach. Last season was perhaps one of the worst seasons for the early round running back. Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, C.J. Anderson, Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, and Jeremy Hill were all early picks and all disappointed to some degree for various reasons.

With so many fantasy owners getting burned by selecting a running back early, look for wide receivers to be more popular in the early rounds come draft day. In analyzing early ADP data on Fantasy Football Calculator, Antonio Brown is currently the first player coming off the board with Odell Beckham, Jr. with the third overall selection. In all, there are six wide receivers being drafted in the first round of a 12-team league. In comparison, there are five running backs and Rob Gronkowski going off the board in the first 12 selections.

One of the main reasons running back has long been king in the fantasy football world is their guaranteed number of touches. A bell-cow back can be counted upon to see at least 20 touches, and depending on game script, they may see even more. A wide receiver, on the other hand, can play an entire game and only see a handful of targets. If none of those targets are caught, fantasy players are left with a goose egg next to that player's name. This unpredictability is what makes star receivers like Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, and Antonio Brown so valuable. Top tier wide receivers bring consistent weekly production to an otherwise volatile position. Even with teams becoming more pass heavy, this is something that has not changed much and still makes elite wide receivers as valuable as ever.

 

In Summary

To sum up, starting out with a Zero RB strategy will continue to work in 2016. In my drafts, I will be looking to target two upper echelon wide receivers in the first two rounds of your draft. If you come out of the first two rounds with two out of the group of Beckham, Jones, Brown, Dez Bryant, DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson, A.J. Green, Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper or Mike Evans, that is a start that I will be very pleased with on draft day. With two wide receivers on your team, that shouldn't force you to go running back in the 3rd or 4th round, but if they are the best player available on your board, that is the move to make.

Just like with every season, fantasy players should approach upcoming drafts with an open mind and be prepared to deviate from what they had planned heading into the draft. An incarnation of Zero RB will definitely still work this season, but with the popularity of the strategy growing, there is a chance that the talent pool dries out a little quicker than in recent years. This may prevent you from drafting four or five straight receivers to open your draft, but starting your team with a pair of top 10 wide receivers is a great way to build a fantasy team in 2016.

 

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