2020 Fantasy Football Zero-RB Draft Strategy

by Bobby Shepherd
2020 fantasy football Zero-RB Draft Strategy

Maybe you're in 14 leagues across five platforms and you need to shake something up. Maybe you have a late first-round pick and you'd favor the consistency of an elite wide receiver. Or maybe drafting guys like Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, and David Johnson doesn't feel good. Regardless of why you're thinking about it, the 2020 fantasy football zero-RB Draft strategy is worth consideration.

As a man who drafted Julio Jones and Michael Thomas to help win a championship last year, I can attest to the fact that it can work. And while there is no substitute for the elite production of the top-5 running backs, consistency is key in the first round. Having a lineup of Joe Mixon, Miles Sanders, and Todd Gurley might get you a championship run. But if it doesn't pan out for them, you could also be stuck with dead weight dragging you down into a last-place finish.

But like all strategies, the key is to never commit and blindly follow to anything. The whole point of the strategy is to maximize the value of who you're pursuing. So if the value at the running back position should slip to you, don't be afraid to take it.

2020 Fantasy Football Zero-RB Draft Strategy

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Why You Don't Need An Elite Running Back

There are currently only a handful of workhorse backs with no major injury history. Which is why every draft will start out with the same 4 or 5 runningbacks going in no particular order. That is the way it should be done. However, after that, it’s up in the air who gets taken next.

There are red flags all over the late first round that most of us are willing to ignore. From Dalvin Cook's injury concerns to Derrick Henry's superhuman workload, and the uncertainty of Joe Mixon's team as a whole.

Alternatively, there are dominant wide receivers like Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams who have top-shelf QBs and little to no competition for targets. Their elite production is also hard to replace, and their consistent scoring is almost impossible to find in a skill position player.

It boils down in the end to one thing. Are you willing to ignore the questions surrounding the Bengals offense that is quietly waving a big red flag over Joe Mixon? Are you hoping that the Eagles actually use Miles Sanders the way that basic football logic dictates that they do? Are we betting the season that recurring knee issues won't flare up for Dalvin Cook?

Or do you feel safer betting on Julio Jones and Travis Kelce doing the exact same things they've done a year in and year out?

Who Do You Actually Draft Early?

Elite Wide Receivers

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I'm sure even the most inexperienced reader doesn't need me to explain why receivers are important. The truly elite receivers, particularly in PPR formats, tend to have consistency and potential ceilings that are very hard to come by in later rounds.

Having a stable and safe floor to begin a draft is a great way to increase your risk tolerance late in drafts. In other words, all of the boom or bust options become safer bets when you can count on consistent points at the receiver position.

If you need any help figuring out who the best options for any positions are, take a look at our 2020 staff rankings.

Elite Tight Ends

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The most desolate position in fantasy sports. There are basically only four or five quality options. Then there are usually four or five guys who we expect to do well but can't really bank on. The problem here is a steep drop inconsistency after only a few players.

Last year, only 10 tight ends managed to average double-digit scoring in half-PPR scoring formats. And of those 10, only eight managed to play at least 13 games. After those eight players, the consistency and production seem to fall off a cliff.

For reference as to how important the elite options can be, last year the TE1 Travis Kelce scored 205.8 .5PPR points. That would have good for WR12 just barely behind Allen Robinson and ahead of Mike Evans.

Austin Hooper the TE6 scored 154.2. Which would have been good for WR33 right between Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley.

Jason Witten the TE12, scored 108.4 Half-PPR points. That would have good for WR56 narrowly beating out Mecole Hardman and just shy of Hunter Renfrow.

To further solidify my point, Travis Kelce would have been the RB9. Popular sleeper pick Mike Gesicki would have been the RB39. There is no better way for me to convince you I'm right than by saying Kelce outscored Alvin Kamara, while an incorrect "sleeper pick" can be expected to put up Royce Freeman numbers.

Elite Quarterbacks

Elite QBs are the least important of the three positions. There is enough consistency and upside on the back end that there isn't much of a need to reach for guys like Mahomes and Jackson.

But when you're skipping early RBs there is still a need to chase upside. Having a guy like Dak Prescott average five more points a week than Philip Rivers could be the difference-maker in any given week.

If you play in Superflex or 2QB leagues, having two elite options can be a difference-maker. Nothing says consistency like Dak and Russell Wilson, while your league mates are stuck banking on a good week from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Mid-Round RB Targets for Stability

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Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens

Are we afraid of J.K. Dobbins? Last year Ingram was a top-10 back with only 202 carries and still managed 1018 yards and 10 TDs. Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards combined for over 300 carries, over 1900 yards and nine TDs.

There is enough regression to go around the whole backfield that Ingram has become a steal at his current ADP. That's the truth no matter how many runningbacks you draft up to that point.

Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns

Nick Chubb is still the guy, and Hunt has his work cut out for him competing for touches. But the pass-catching role seems to be solidified moving forward.

Last year in only eight games, Hunt exceeded his 2018 targets and reception totals. If we double his stats to predict where he would have been ranked if he played a full season, he would have been the Half-PPR RB21. In PPR leagues, he would have finished just ahead of James White as the RB18.

With his current ADP at RB29 in PPR scoring leagues, Hunt seems to be getting drafted at the cost of his floor and is worth reaching for.

Sony Michel, New England Patriots

You don't have to like it.

Opportunity is the name of the game. And one thing we can count on for the Patriots is a solid defensive showing week in and week out. So the run-heavy clock management style of offense is likely to continue.

Damien Harris is also a decent late-round flier worth considering for anybody who's willing to risk the Bill Belichick backfield headaches.

Running Backs With Upside Worth Chasing

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Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

The new Todd Gurley? Maybe, but not likely. But certainly worth a late 6th early 7th round pick.

There is no mathematical evidence that can make you believe the Rams struggles are over. Bill Belichick not only crushed their spirit in the Super Bowl, but he also gave a blueprint to beat the Rams time and time again. Now, you either trust in Sean McVay or you don't.

But if Akers can get the majority of the touches, he can easily return value. He might be an RB2, he might be an RB6, but he's worth the speculation at this point.

Ke'Shawn Vaughn/ Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gone are the days of the high flying, two turnovers on a good week, all or nothing style of Bucs offense. We welcome you now to the wonderful world of slow-paced, run-heavy, hyper-efficient Tom Brady style football.

Bruce Arians is a wild card if I have ever seen one. Good luck to whoever has to figure out what he's going to do in any particular week. But one of these players, under the proper conditions, could become a reliable fantasy starter.

For whatever it's worth I'm putting my money on the veteran Jones to get the first crack at the starting job. But at the same time, I'm not putting too much money on it.

Duke Johnson, Houston Texans

Following the terrible trade that sent Hopkins out of town, I know what you're thinking. Not only is it relatively clear that Duke isn't the best running back on his team. Duke isn't even the best running back with the last name Johnson on his team.

In response to your reasonable doubts, I propose the following possibilities

  1. After the worst trade in the entire history of bartering, Bill O'Brien will give David Johnson the ball at every opportunity and he'll be an undisputed RB1 and everything will work out well.
  2. After the worst trade in the entire history of bartering, Bill O'Brien will give David Johnson the ball at every opportunity and he'll continue to suffer from injuries, giving Duke Johnson the chance to be the Kenyan Drake of 2020
  3. After the worst trade in the entire history of bartering, Bill O'Brien will have an evenly split backfield to maintain his tradition of completely wasting the potential of every one of his players

As a gambling man, I'm taking option #3. As a man of reason, I'm acknowledging that there's more weighing against David Johnson than Duke. As a fantasy football player, I'm taking the risk and spending the 13th round pick on Duke Johnson.

Damien Williams, Kansas City Chiefs

I know that Pat Mahomes campaigned for Clyde Edwards-Helaire. But Andy Reid is still the play-caller and I'd bet money that his tradition of never playing rookie running backs will continue.

Now the only question is, should we forgive Williams for a disappointing performance last season? Injuries and inconsistencies in workload plagued him all season. And LeSean McCoy's unexpected arrival certainly didn't help much either.

But now instead of getting a potential flop for a late 2nd round pick, you're getting a potential league changer in the 8th or 9th. With little competition outside of CEH for touches, I believe Damien Williams makes for a bargain and is worth reaching for.

Handcuffs Worth Having

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Darrynton Evans, Tennessee Titans

400 touches weigh heavily on a player. Derrick Henry is an increased injury risk and he should be considered a top priority for handcuffing. If anything does go wrong, Darrynton Evans would walk straight into top shelf opportunity.

Evans also has the added benefit of an ADP of about 180 overall. So would you rather have a 3rd tier defense or a potential league-winning handcuff?

Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

Edmonds might not actually be a pure handcuff. There may be a limited role for him in the offense even with Kenyan Drake remaining healthy. The reason he's so cheap is that with Deandre Hopkins being in town, there is basically no targets to trickle down to Edmonds.

But don't let the recency bias fool you, Edmonds is a very capable backup when he stays healthy. And with the looming possibility of a Kyler Murray breakout, the Cardinals are ripe with potential.

Visit the F6P Fantasy Football page for more advice, including all 32 Fantasy Football Team Previews to get you prepared for the 2020 season.

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