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Four Reasons Why Zero WR Is Not A Viable Strategy in 2016

I am one of the many fantasy writers who loves the "Zero RB" strategy. My colleague Matt Terrelle wrote a great article about how the strategy, which focuses on ignoring running backs until at least the fourth round (though the round in which it is acceptable to start taking RBs is a point of contention), will continue to work in 2016. The strategy is a good one; avoid a position of generally more risk, and load up on your wide receivers and tight-ends.

In an effort to replicate that popular trend, the Zero WR strategy has also popped up in 2016. You can search the phrase and find other sites who swear it could be the strategy to help you win in 2016. A "Zero WR" strategy isn’t the sort of rigid call-to-buck tradition that “Zero RB” was, but more of a call to consider picking the players with the bigger and better upside. A “Zero WR” strategy, if done correctly, means going with players who may have huge games for you, but don’t deliver every single week. I’m staying away from anything that can even be called “Zero WR”, and here’s why.

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"Zero WR” Is A Misnomer

Can I be candid with you for a moment? A few hours of reading has shown me that the fantasy community has been using “Zero WR” too loosely. Once you’ve clicked on any article that declares it’s the strategy for 2016, you’ll realize that most writers will hedge their bet as soon as they move past the byline. They aren’t saying “no wide receivers until round four” the way they may have with the original strategy. They are suggesting that running backs in early rounds have a bigger and better upside compared to wide receivers drafted in at the same ADP. Often they are right, but that’s not a strategy as much as it corresponds with how you specifically rate players. It can more reasonably be called “pick the best player at the position”. Zero RB relates to staying away from a position until a certain point, while Zero WR pertains to the upside of a certain position.


It Misses The Point of the Original Strategy

This article was not meant to be a full on praising of the Zero RB strategy, but in hindsight it’s a strategy that worked for a pretty understandable reason. The genius of this strategy is baked into the 2014 trend of taking a trendy running back first, or sometimes taking two trendy running backs first. Left over were wide receivers, who tend to deliver more consistently from week to week. The strategy took advantage of that consistency, and tried to catch those big performers at running back as they were coming up and getting that opportunity. The stories of Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams, and Danny Woodhead in 2015 were about very big “highs” and really crushing “lows” every single week. If you feel like you can’t get multiple players at RB or TE to give you any sort of consistency, why stay away from a position that can?


Neglecting The Position (Even Slightly) Is A Mistake

No one will blame you if you choose a running back before a wide receiver in the first round, but for two rounds? According to RotoBaller’s calculation of ADP’s from Yahoo, CBS and ESPN, you would be left with the following WR’s at the start of the 12-team, third round draft: Mike Evans (27th among his position in ESPN standard scoring last year), Demaryius Thomas (13th, with a new quarterback), Keenan Allen (injured last year), Amari Cooper (24th), etc etc. These aren’t just randomly picked, either! These are the guys with the highest ADP outside of the second round. Fantasy, as always, is a matter of preference, but I couldn’t see myself going forward with any of those players as my WR1.


The Players Aren’t There

Don’t peak! How many running backs and tight ends do you consider to be sure things in 2016 (meaning that they will be a top-10 scorer at their position, guaranteed?) Is it five? Six? Seriously, take a second and count for yourself how many players you would actually wager on for 2016. In our RotoBaller rankings, we have four running backs and one tight end in a “First Tier” location, meaning we believe they are the absolute best group of guys at their position. This is compared to nine wide receivers. Yes, I love the potential of players like Lamar Miller in the second round, but he is one of the many highly rated RBs out of the first tier that I have questions about, as he moves to a new team and new coaching strategy. He, like many others, is simply not good enough to provide for my team.

“Zero WR” isn’t a strategy that will, hopefully, catch on. In an era of fantasy play where so many people have lost their seasons due to an errant injury or some bad luck, consistency and depth shouldn’t ever be ignored in favor of a more bombastic potential. There are plenty of experts, many smarter than me, saying it should at least be considered. Hell, even we did it, and RotoBaller helped me prove my point. Zach wrote that in 2015 he kept coming away with very consistent and stable running backs…. DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Hill and Justin Forsett.


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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.


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