Running back was universally considered to be the most important position in fantasy football for a good portion of the past decade and throughout previous fantasy football history. During the 2018 season, five regular ball carriers had a snap count share of 79% or more, according to FantasyPros.
By the 2022 season, that number was reduced to one, as Saquon Barkley saw 80% of the snaps for the New York Giants. Perceptions about lead running backs shifted in the last few fantasy football seasons, as timeshares and committees have been increasingly featured by NFL teams.
Running backs no longer purely dominate the first round of fantasy football drafts because the heavy workload RBs are now a rarer find. Plus, many fantasy managers have been burned by major injuries to top RBs in recent years.
The “Zero RB Draft Strategy” has gained plenty of momentum over the past few fantasy football seasons. Knowing who to nab later in drafts while also being vigilant on waivers are essential approaches to making the strategy succeed.
What is the Zero RB Draft Strategy?
The Zero RB Draft Strategy places a higher emphasis on the other skill positions, while often prompting drafters to wait until the fifth round or so to take their first RBs. Instead of drafting RBs in the first four rounds, fantasy players target value and sleeper types, and pass-catching specialists are also considered in Points Per Reception (PPR) and Half-PPR formats.
The thought process behind the approach is to load up on wide receivers, top tight ends, and quarterbacks, as you can find RB gems later to complement your sure-fire starters at the other positions. Injuries, timeshares, and coaching changes can shift player outlooks at RB at any time.
If you are not drafting in the top half of the first round, the Zero RB Draft Strategy is even more strongly recommended, as you won’t have a true shot at drafting the elite RBs. Instead, you can load up with prime picks from the other skill positions.
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Which Running Backs to Target Using Zero RB
When employing the Zero RB Draft Strategy, you will often be looking outside the top 20 players at the position. In that range, you may be able to grab Rachaad White as an RB1, who should be a versatile lead RB for Tampa Bay.
James Conner, the featured back for Arizona, should also fall into that range. Isiah Pacheco will likely be the top RB for the Chiefs again, and published reports have already indicated that Antonio Gibson could be an intriguing useful dual weapon for new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
Value targets include Damien Harris, who can be a goal-line finisher for the top-rated Buffalo offense, and Samaje Perine, a candidate for a healthy amount of touches with the Broncos.
Target the Miami RBs to see who emerges, with a lean to Jeff Wilson Jr. and Devon Achane, and take a shot on Seattle rookie Zach Charbonnet, who may be utilized enough near the goal line and on passing downs.
Jamaal Williams may also see an expanded role with New Orleans if Alvin Kamara faces any league discipline.
Cleveland’s Jerome Ford could possibly take over some of Kareem Hunt’s past workload. Late-round fliers to possibly gain larger roles at any time include Elijah Mitchell (49ers), Gus Edwards (Ravens), Israel Abanikanda (Jets), Zamir White (Raiders), Tyjae Spears (Titans), and Chase Brown (Bengals).
Zero RB Strategy Risks & Rewards
The apparent risk of employing the Zero RB Strategy is relying on players with more uncertain outlooks, especially early in the season. You will have to be aggressive on waivers if your top drafted RBs look like misses after a few weeks, and the free-agent approach only works ideally if the league uses a Free Agent Budget rather than rolling waivers.
The reward is having a roster stacked at other positions. One can conceivably come out of the first two rounds with two No. 1 WR types, and have a great-looking WR corps if all three of the first picks are at that position. Pairing up Patrick Mahomes with Travis Kelce or Josh Allen with Stefon Diggs is also possible.
No drafting approach comes without its risks, but the Zero RB Draft Strategy can certainly work for you as it did for others last season. Those who rostered Miles Sanders, Kenneth Walker III, Jamaal Williams, and Jerick McKinnon can confirm the potential success of the strategy.
Zero RB Advice & Tips
Can Zero RB Strategy work in standard scoring leagues?
The greater majority of fantasy football players now seem to lean toward PPR formats. In those types of leagues, you will be able to have better depth of Zero RB Strategy selections, as dual-threat and pass-catching types gain extra value.
Standard scoring league drafters will be aiming for RBs who have heavier workloads and better goal-line rushing potential. Those sorts of RBs are found early on, so the Zero Draft Strategy won’t work well in a standard scoring format.
What is the difference between Zero RB and Robust RB?
The Robust RB Draft Strategy urges fantasy players to build around running backs in the early rounds. It is the opposite of the Zero RB Draft Strategy.
Using this approach, fantasy leaguers will take two or three RBs to open their draft, and then attack the other skill positions.
The Robust RB Draft Strategy aims to pick off as many top players at the position as possible to have advantages at RB over opponents, while also attempting to steer clear of more risk at the position.
How do I construct my roster when drafting with zero RB strategy?
The Zero RB Strategy points to nabbing the top WRs in the first few rounds and attempting to assemble a standout crew at the position. Plan to draft two WRs in the first two rounds unless you can get Kelce, who functions as a WR type at the thinnest position in fantasy football.
If you take a WR in the third round, the core build of the team may feature two WR1 types as your top two starters, and a WR2 type as your third WR3, giving you a strong projected trio.
Picking a top QB or TE in the fourth round or so will be a primary focus depending on the flow of the draft. Start considering QBs and top TEs as soon as the third round and make a move for one no later than the fourth round.