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Robust RB Draft Strategy 2024

Last Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Back in the day, running backs dominated fantasy football—Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes, Edgerrin James. These backs were the best of the best in the 2000s and were the difference makers in my fantasy leagues growing up.

The first round of your fantasy draft at that time might be almost exclusively running backs with only a select few wide receivers being selected. Only the best WRs might be picked like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, or Marvin Harrison.

Times change, as do scoring systems. The NFL is more than pass-happy; it’s become pass-ecstatic.

Today, you might find a near even-split between RBs and WRs in Round 1—along with tight end extraordinaire Travis Kelce.

However, due to positional scarcity and the sheer volume of productive WRs, it may be best for you to consider a different strategy.

What is the Robust RB Draft Strategy?

A robust or heavy RB draft strategy involves selecting a running back in each of at least two rounds to begin a draft. There’s no hardline rule, but it could be two running backs in the first three rounds or three in the first four rounds.

It is a contrast in strategies to those who implement the popular “Zero RB" strategy, where a drafter may wait many rounds before selecting their first RB.

The robust RB strategy is intended to capitalize on a scarcity of dominant running backs in today’s NFL and in an attempt to corner the market, the selection of multiple excellent RBs would provide a scoring advantage over those with more questionable or more inconsistent running backs occupying the RB2 and flex starting lineup slots.

📈 Draft the best running backs using our fantasy football rankings.

Running Back Scarcity

Note: All scoring mentioned in this article is PPR.

Nearly 20 years ago, back in 2003, there were nine running backs who topped 1,700 all-purpose yards. In 2022, there were three: Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey, and Nick Chubb.

Back in 2003, Holmes and Tomlinson scored 445 and 443.84 PPR points, respectively. A running back with 400-plus points has happened once in the last five years (McCaffrey in 2019).

With fewer epic scorers at the running back position, the position’s scoring scarcity creates point-differential advantages.

For example, James Robinson, the RB50 last year, scored 88.6 fantasy points. Meanwhile, Richie James, the WR50 last year, scored 132.5.

The takeaway being there are more potential points scored by the WR50 on draft day than the RB50. So you want to secure the running back position earlier since the scoring decline occurs more rapidly as RBs are drafted in comparison to wide receivers.

Robust RB Strategy Risks & Rewards

Anyone who’s played fantasy football knows that the risk with running backs is the potential for injury. Last year’s top-drafted RB was Jonathan Taylor and he missed five games. Other notable backs who missed significant time included Breece Hall, James Conner, Cordarrelle Patterson, Rashaad Penny, J.K. Dobbins, Elijah Mitchell, Javonte Williams, and the list goes on.

The reward in drafting heavy at the RB position is insurance in case of injury. The inevitability of injuries bolsters the strategy of having strong RB depth.

A roster that can absorb the loss of a top player minimizes the potential damage done - especially if it is possible to secure a handcuff to your team’s top RB.

Robust RB Strategy Sleepers & Busts

A big part of fantasy football preparation is seeking out sleepers and avoiding busts. The following players are from our fantasy football sleepers and busts articles.

Sleepers

StaffQBRBWRTE
Frank AmmiranteSam HowellKendre MillerTerrace MarshallTrey McBride
Jeff HicksSam HowellAlexander MattisonMichael GallupSam LaPorta
Lance PattonDeshaun WatsonCam AkersTerrace MarshallCade Otton
Matt De LimaKenny PickettKhalil HerbertGeorge PickensDalton Kincaid
Pat PickensAaron RodgersZach CharbonnetGeorge PickensDarren Waller
Sam WagmanJared GoffAntonio GibsonJordan AddisonDalton Kincaid
Scott EngelJordan LoveZach CharbonnetJalin HyattJuwan Johnson

Busts

StaffQBRBWRTE
Frank AmmiranteAaron RodgersIsiah PachecoTee HigginsEvan Engram
Jeff HicksAaron RodgersNajee HarrisDeebo SamuelDavid Njoku
Lance PattonTua TagovailoaJames ConnerDeebo SamuelEvan Engram
Matt De LimaDeshaun WatsonJosh JacobsTreylon BurksKyle Pitts
Pat PickensJustin FieldsRhamondre StevensonDavante AdamsT.J. Hockenson
Sam WagmanTua TagovailoaTravis EtienneDeebo SamuelGeorge Kittle
Scott EngelAaron RodgersJames ConnerMike WilliamsEvan Engram

Robust RB Advice & Tips

What is a robust RB draft strategy?

The robust RB strategy is intended to capitalize on a scarcity of dominant running backs in today’s NFL and in an attempt to corner the market, the selection of multiple excellent RBs would provide a scoring advantage over those with more questionable or more inconsistent running backs occupying the RB2 and flex starting lineup slots.

What is the difference between zero RB and robust RB?

A zero RB draft strategy is skipping the RB position early in a fantasy football draft. It means often waiting four or five rounds before taking your first running back. A robust RB draft strategy means taking multiple RBs early during your fantasy football draft.

How do I construct my roster when drafting with robust RB strategy?

Ultimately, the end result should be similar to any other draft strategy. However, in theory, since a robust RB roster would have strong starting running backs and a top backup, it may be unnecessary to have an abundance of depth.

With a focus on top running backs, it may be beneficial to only have one or two backup RBs. Instead, you can opt to use, depending on your roster size, more bench spots on other positions, especially wide receivers.

Author

Matt De Lima

Matt is a sports content editor at The Game Day with more than 10 years experience in the fantasy and betting spaces. He is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award finalist with previous experience working for Sports Illustrated, Full Time Fantasy, FFToolbox, 4for4, and RotoExperts. Born and raised in California, Matt now calls southern Maryland home. He is a Virginia Tech alumnus and a life-long 49ers, Lakers, and Dodgers fan.

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