If you have been casually listening to fantasy podcasts or paying attention to fantasy football media, you may have heard of the “Zero RB” strategy. Of course, you can’t have a team with zero running backs. What this strategy suggests is that you severely downgrade running backs in your draft and focus on other positions with your early picks.
What Is Zero RB?
The idea behind the popular zero RB strategy is to essentially avoid the running back position in the first few rounds of the draft. Part of the reason behind the popularity of this strategy is an increase in the amount of PPR leagues over standard scoring leagues. PPR (point per reception) leagues devalue rushing stats in favor of wide receivers who catch a lot of balls. In a PPR league, if you properly execute a zero RB strategy, you may drastically increase your chances of winning the league.
The key to zero RB is optimal execution. The idea is that with so much attrition at the position and backups stepping into new roles, it can be easy to find cheap production from the running back position. Wide receivers are believed to be more predictable with their production. So while running backs may still outscore wide receivers, many more highly-drafted running backs will bust than wide receivers.
Skill Means Less for Running Backs
A skilled wide receiver needs two things in order to succeed: success against the man covering him and a competent throw by the quarterback. A running back is much more reliant on other factors to be successful. The success a back has is highly dependent on how good their offensive line is and what kind of scheme the offense runs.
Even the most skilled running backs can have pedestrian stats if their offensive line is not opening up any holes. On the other side of the coin, an average running back can put up huge numbers if he has an elite offensive line and a coach calling the right plays. While wide receivers are also reliant on play calling and offensive line play, it is to a much lesser degree.
While zero RB is a popular strategy that has proven to be effective when executed at a high level, it can also be a dangerous strategy. There is nothing worse than having a collection of no-name running backs with borderline production potential. Zero RB can win you your league, but it can also very easily lose you your league if you do not hit on the running backs you do pick.
Zero RB is a strategy that should be selectively used. For example, if you have the last pick of the first round and no good running backs are available, rather than reach for one, you can zig when everyone else is zagging. Take a wide receiver and pair him up with another elite receiver or tight end. If you fill out your other positions early in the draft, you should have the opportunity to draft running backs in the later rounds when your league members are busy catching up on wide receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks.
But if you do happen to have a top-five pick, you should not pass up on running back out of duty to a strategy. Instead, employ the one RB strategy. Take that one bell-cow back to be your workhorse and then focus on strengthening every other position. If you can hit on just one running back sleeper, you could end up with an elite team.
Hit on Your Sleepers
To execute zero RB correctly, you must hit home runs on your sleeper running back picks. These picks will be anywhere after the first three rounds. You will have to have a list of multiple potential backs that you believe to be undervalued if this strategy is to be pulled off successfully. If you do not hit on these picks, your season will be over unless you can win on the waiver wire.
Dominate the Waiver Wire
Every year there are backup running backs that go undrafted and are freely available on the waiver wire at the start of the season. By the end of the season, many are still worthless, but others can be league-winners.
Take Alvin Kamara, for example. Kamara is an elite running back that has been drafted in the top-five picks in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. In 2017, though, he was a rookie third-round pick that was barely being drafted at all. And many people that did draft him ended up dropping him early in the season after not getting much work. But all of a sudden, Kamara exploded in the New Orleans Saints offense. In a matter of weeks, he was a must-start fantasy star for many teams that went on to win championships.
Those championships were won mainly as the result of one unbelievable waiver wire pickup. It isn’t easy to dominate the waiver wire, especially in fantasy football. But by consuming as much knowledge as you can and following the right people, you can put yourself in a position to dominate the waiver wire to your fullest potential.