2018 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2018 Fantasy Football Zero RB Strategy

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The Zero RB strategy has fallen out of favor in the Fantasy Football world. This year you’ll hear most experts talking about going running back heavy in the first few rounds. But value needs your consideration when drafting.

Value becomes immense when all of your competition focuses on running backs and lets elite receivers slip to you early on.

2018 Fantasy Football Zero RB Strategy

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Why you don’t need an elite RB

In recent years, it has become more and more common to see teams employ a backfield committee. Well, the same thing has happened to wide receivers. Between deeper receiving cores and pass-catching running backs, individual receiver stats across the league have predominantly been in decline. As a result, there is a similar demand for dominant receivers as there are workhorse backs.

Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen of the Vikings represent prime examples of limited ceiling receivers. Neither one has really become the main option over the other. As a result, they limit each other. On the other hand, guys like DeAndre Hopkins dominate their team target share and consistently provide big points.

Now of course, no one in their right mind is saying not to draft a running back with a top-four pick. But in the first round turn when faced with the options of RB2 or WR1, I say take the value and go for two top 5 receivers. There is a surprising amount of consistency at the running back position available late in drafts.

Early Round Targets

Top 10 Wide Receivers

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Yeah, I know it’s obvious. I’m not listing them all individually because everyone pretty much knows who they are.

If you never played fantasy football or even watched a football game, you can check out the wide receiver ranks our experts put together here.

You need at least two top 10 receivers to do this strategy right. Which ones you select is a decision that is hard to mess up. Whether you prefer Keenan Allen or Julio Jones, you really can’t pick wrong.

Elite Tight Ends

My favorite part of Zero RB is it allows you a prime opportunity to draft a big name tight end. I, as many of us, can attest to the pain of late round tight ends.

Nothing is worse than hoping Tyler Kroft can cover the two or three points you need for a win. Then C.J. Uzomah snags the touchdown instead. To avoid headaches and losses, I find it best to invest the capital for a good tight end.

Gronk, Kelce, and Ertz are worth what they cost. If you prioritize the tight ends, it can give you a major advantage over a team stuck with hoping Tyler Kroft gets the touchdown pass this week.

Elite Quarterbacks

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Quarterbacks are the lowest priority, but when ignoring running backs, you still can’t neglect them. Top tier quarterbacks can still be difference makers in fantasy football.

While the difference between top tier and late rounders can be negligible, any difference is still a difference. Players like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson also tend to do much better against stronger defenses than mid-round targets often do, so their output tends to be quite reliable.

Again, this is the lowest priority position. If Zach Ertz falls to you, definitely take him over Rodgers. Plenty of dependability remains for holding out later on for quarterbacks – even if the scoring does drop off.

Mid-round Targets For Stability

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Lamar Miller, 45th overall ADP

Lamar Miller has been fairly polarizing among fans. Some hate him and some love him, but I believe he can be the steal of the draft.

While Deshaun Watson was healthy last season, Miller was an RB8 in PPR formats. If Watson can remain healthy, for most if not all the season, Miller should be a mid-range RB2.

Royce Freeman 48th overall ADP

Freeman seems to be a rookie running back set to have a productive fantasy year. Unlike most of the other rookies, he has a clear path to the dominant share of touches in his backfield right out of the gate. While his offense as a whole has many question marks, his volume should be regular and reliable enough to be a matchup-based starter.

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Marshawn Lynch 65th overall ADP

Lynch has gas left in the tank. He looked good in limited reps this preseason and Gruden talks a lot about how he wants to run the ball “like it’s 1998.” It’s unlikely that Lynch returns to his old dominant form, but with all running backs, volume is key. He could easily see RB2 numbers this year.

Mark Ingram 52nd overall ADP

If you can live with the struggle without a fifth-round pick for a month, Ingram is an excellent choice. If you take Ingram’s PPR season totals from last year and apply the average to a 12 game season, he would have scored 208.5 points. That would have been enough points to outscore Jordan Howard and Devonte Freeman.

Later Picks With High Upside

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Kerryon Johnson 67th overall ADP

The Lion’s rookie looked exceptional this preseason even against starting defenses. However, the crowded backfield keeps his ADP rank very low. The threat of LeGarrette Blount stealing goal-line touches and Theo Riddick working most third downs means Johnson has a very low floor.

If he becomes the workhorse some believe he can be, his ceiling could be enormous. Johnson could have anywhere from RB4 to low-end RB2 value.

Carlos Hyde 72nd overall ADP

Hyde proved that he can post good numbers when given volume. With Cleveland looking like an entirely new team, the only question is will Nick Chubb limit his opportunity this year. Better fantasy analysts than I have tried and failed to predict the plans Hue Jackson has had in the past.

If Hyde can secure goal-line work and early-down carries, he could easily outperform his draft price. On the other hand, if Chubb takes away snaps, Chubb himself has low-end RB2 upside with a low RB3 floor. With this uncertainty, Hyde could be unstartable.

Rex Burkhead 74th overall ADP

When on the field, Burkhead has proven effective. He had eight touchdowns in 10 games last year and that with a healthy Dion Lewis.

Injuries are a concern with Burkhead, but there remain very few options this late in the draft with his upside. If he stays healthy, Burkhead will have regular RB3 production with RB2 upside.

Players Worth Reaching For

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Tarik Cohen 83rd overall ADP

Last year, with one of the worst offensive play callers in the NFL, Tarik Cohen was a top 30 back. With the same quarterback, Cohen made the most of his limited touches in this shared backfield.

Now factor in a new head coach who shows play-calling genius, plus an entire year for Trubisky to develop, and Cohen is primo for big numbers.

I could see Cohen producing regular RB2 numbers with possible RB1 upside due to his work with the return game. I would happily reach for Cohen in the 7th round.

Matt Breida 154 overall ADP

I personally don’t trust Jerick McKinnon to do well in his lead back role. Whether you agree with me or not, Kyle Shannahan has also proven to be able to support two fantasy relevant running backs. So while McKinnon drafts somewhere in the third round, Breida could prove a better value given his late-round ADP.

With a possible Tevin Coleman like role, Breida could range in production week-to-week anywhere from RB4 to RB2. Breida is an immediate must start if McKinnon misses time. Given all this I would take Breida 13th round.

Jordan Wilkins 163 overall ADP

Nyheim Hines showed ball security issues in the preseason and Marlon Mack has an injury for the second year in a row. Wilkins has a legitimate chance to be a starter – which is uncommon to find this late in the draft.

He is, however, unproven against starting defenses so he may underwhelm, yet is worth the late round pick he costs. I would monitor his ADP in the next few weeks as it is likely to rise, but right now I’d feel comfortable with him around the 12th to 13th round.

The Takeaway

The Zero RB strategy is all about player value. When presented with the likely choice of dominant WR1 or a slightly less valuable RB2, the best choice is to draft the receivers.

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But no strategy should be considered perfect. If running backs fall to you later than expected, then absolutely draft them. My only advice is to not feel like you have to fill out the running back position at the expense of other talent.


Visit the F6P Fantasy Football Draft Kit Page for more advice to prepare for the 2018 season.

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About Bobby Shepherd

Bobby has played fantasy football since he was first tall enough to reach a draft board. He eats sleeps and breathes stats and is always excited to share his findings.

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