2021 Fantasy Football Zero-RB Targets

by Michael Tomlin
2021 Zero-RB Targets

While I am not someone who goes into a draft with a specific strategy, I end up going with some form of Zero-RB strategy more often than not. When utilizing this Fantasy Football philosophy, you need to have the right 2021 Zero-RB targets to draft.

I stand firm with the idea that you take the best value with each pick in the draft. Do not pigeonhole yourself into a certain order of positions.

Depending on your draft slot, this year tends to have the most value with a Zero-RB draft. I have already done a deep dive into the actual strategy. Now we need to focus on the 2021 Zero-RB targets.

I do not mean the targets as in passes from quarterbacks, although that is a big factor. I mean we need to find the players that are 2021 Zero-RB targets in your draft.

All of the information for the 2021 Fantasy Football Zero-RB targets is up to date as of August 2nd, and the Average Draft Position (ADP) is per Fantasy Data’s PPR ADP.

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2021 Fantasy Football Zero-RB Targets

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Early Rounds

I do not want to waste too much time here, but it still needs to be said. If you are employing the Zero-RB strategy, then you will be taking wide receivers along with a tight end and quarterbacks early.

The beauty of the Zero-RB targets is that you are usually getting the top player at another position (maybe multiple positions) without having a high draft pick.

Travis Kelce, Davante Adams, and DeAndre Hopkins will easily be some of my most drafted players of anyone in the first few rounds of ADP. I would much rather have the TE1 and the WR1 or WR2 than hoping that the back end of the top tier of running backs can come anywhere near the elite portion.

I dove more into the earlier rounds in the Zero-RB Strategy post, but just know that you are getting elite players at other positions than running back.

Your early round 2021 Zero-RB targets are less about certain players and more about just finding that best value at those positions.

Later 2021 Fantasy Football Zero-RB Targets

People have different definitions of when you can first draft a running back using the Zero-RB strategy. I would say that there is not an exact dividing line, because the roster format can dictate how late you even need a running back (my favorite lineup is 1QB/1RB/1WR/1TE/3FLEX, so you only need one back).

For the sake of the 2021 Zero-RB targets, I am only looking at running backs drafted in Round Six or later, which ends up being RB33 and lower.

This year in particular, running backs are flying off the board so quickly in the first two rounds that it has created what many Fantasy analysts have dubbed as the “RB Dead Zone.” I disagree because their own faulty analysis has created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What I mean is that because they are over-hyping starting with two running backs in the first two rounds, people are then scrambling over the next three or four rounds to find their wide receivers and tight ends.

This then creates an “RB Value Zone” in my opinion. Right now, nearly 30 running backs are going in the first 58 picks. In the succeeding 30 picks, only eight backs are going on average. That means that you can get multiple backs of the tier over a three-round span.

That is where we can find the values with our 2021 Zero-RB targets.

Could Be Workhorses

These backs could end up leading their backfields in touches despite not be drafted as such.
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Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 75.8, RB33)

This ADP might not hold but it is a great value for now. Sermon has a great chance to lead the 49ers in carries since none of the veterans are healthy at the moment. If he does then you will get a weekly plug-and-play starter.

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 98.9, RB41)

I think Edwards is being completely overlooked as a Fantasy Football option this year. This will be the most run-heavy team in the league and there is more than enough to go around for Edwards, Dobbins, and Lamar Jackson.

I do not see Dobbins becoming and 275-carry type of back. They will rotate consistently, and Edwards might even have an edge in goal-line touches.

Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills (ADP: 103.6, RB43)

This is my mandatory mention of Devin Singletary being under-rated this year. I will say it yet again: Singletary had higher yards per carry, more yards after contact per carry, more yards per catch, and more receptions than Zack Moss in 2020.

I also am adamant that Josh Allen regresses by straight statistics as well as from a game plan standpoint because the Bills do not want to chance him getting hurt. That means more touches and more goal-line touches for the Buffalo backs, which I think Singletary leads.

Tevin Coleman, New York Jets (ADP: 130.9, RB50)

At this point, you can draft the STARTING running back for a team in Round Eleven. That is insane value.

I know, they drafted Michael Carter. What round was that? How much did the Jets lust after Carter if they waited that long to pick him?

Do you know who they did yearn for? The running back they made a point to target in free agency. The same running back that new head coach Robert Saleh saw every day for the past two years in San Francisco.

Receiving Machines

These 2021 Fantasy Football Zero-RB targets are the best receiving options in their backfields and a higher option overall on their offenses.
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Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 112.6, RB46)

Originally, I was mostly on Marlon Mack in this backfield. Now with the Carson Wentz injury, there is a chance that Jacob Eason is starting for several weeks.

If that is the case, then I foresee a lot of negative game scripts for the Colts. That could mean a large frequency of the dump-it-down offense with Nyheim Hines getting the majority of the work.

Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears, (ADP: 131.6, RB51) and James White, New England Patriots (ADP: 135.2, RB54)

Both of these players have had Top-10 seasons in PPR within the last few years on the same team with which they currently play. I know, Cohen is coming off of an injury and James White was inconsistent last year.

However, you are getting these guys with your last spots on your bench, and they have RB1 upside in PPR. Both have ceilings of nearly 100 catches. If they hit that then you are getting a steal in Round Twelve.

Handcuff Thievery

For this last group, you will have to reach to out draft the handcuff of other starters, but they can be valuable trade chips even if they do not have high weekly production ceilings without injury.

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 103.8, RB44)

Pollard is arguably the most valuable handcuff in the NFL. Of all the top running backs, Pollard is arguably the most talented backup. He also has the clearest path to be the three-down back should Zeke get hurt.

The problem is every knows this. The Ezekiel Elliott owner should reach on Pollard so you might have to reach a bit too.
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Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers (ADP: 141.7, RB55)

See Davis, Mike from 2020. The Panthers’ offense is built around giving a single running back a high number of quality touches.

We also saw last year that Christian McCaffrey is not immortal. Should he miss time again then I think Hubbard will get the nod. Talent-wise, I would have him just outside the top two backs in the rookie class.

Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 158.6, RB59)

Miles Sanders has not shown that he can handle a heavy workload. Sanders has yet to have a game with more than 20 carries, breaking the fifteen-carry mark just twice from Week Four on last year.

He also missed four games and seemed to be hobbled in a couple of others. Gainwell is getting early praise in the Eagles’ camp and could end up getting more run than anyone thinks right now.

Javian Hawkins, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 164.8, RB65)

Hawkins is my favorite late-round pick this year. All that is standing between him and Fantasy Football glory is journeyman Mike Davis.

We are all just assuming that Davis gets all of the work in the backfield for Atlanta, yet we are not drafting Davis until late in Round Four.

I love Hawkins’ explosiveness and am not worried about his size. Kyle Pitts will be moved all over the field, creating lighter boxes and wide-open running lanes.

If you enjoyed this 2021 Fantasy Football Zero-RB Targets article, be sure to check out the rest of our 2021 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers!

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