Welcome to 2022 Fantasy Football Zero RB Targets!
Zero running back has been a popular strategy for years now, especially in the analyst and "fantasy RB's don't matter" community. And with the rise of best-ball formats, it has caught fire.
Conventional wisdom places a lot of value on the running back position, especially since it's one of relative scarcity. I myself fully admit I like to secure running backs early on. However, I don't mind switching it up every now and then.
For those who are new to the zero RB concept, or new to fantasy football in general, the strategy is fairly simple. You hold off drafting a running back until about the 6th round. Target backs with a solid workload, will be the lead back if the starter goes down, or has PPR appeal. If you're in the top couple of picks, it would be foolish to avoid Jonathan Taylor, CMC, or Austin Ekeler in favor of a receiver just to bind yourself to a particular strategy. Usually, this is a draft strategy you adopt if you are further back in the draft.
When you're further back in the draft order, that is where the top-tier wideouts and tight ends look appealing and grabbing a top tight end or two elite WRs early on can give you a positional advantage in this PPR world. Remember, don't force Zero RB, let the draft come to you. Otherwise, you put yourself at a disadvantage. However, if the chips fall right, Zero RB may be the optimal strategy.
For this article, we're going to focus on running backs drafted after round 6 (overall pick 61) through round 15 according to Fantasy Pros consensus ADP. Most redraft leagues are 15-round drafts, which is why I cut it off at that point.
2022 Fantasy Football Zero-RB Targets
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Miles Sanders - OVR ADP 67 - RB27
Sanders had a disappointing season last year. A lot of that had to do with bad luck in the touchdown department. If you look at the raw rushing and red zone numbers, there's not much to be optimistic about at first glance. However, Andrew Cooper of Fantasy Alarm noted that when Sanders was healthy, he dominated Philly's running back red zone touches. He just didn't score, which is unlikely to repeat itself.
And that's just based on red zone usage. If you look at rushing yards, Sanders was the only running back with over 700 rush yards that didn't score. The fewest touchdowns by a back with over 700 rush yds was Tony Pollard with two. Let's not forget that Sanders also has receiving upside as well (yes even with Kenneth Gainwell in town). The touchdowns are coming for Sanders, who could very well finish as an RB2 this season for an RB3 price.
Rashaad Penny - OVR ADP 88 - RB32
Penny finally delivered on his first-round draft capital and was absolutely nuts during the final five weeks of 2021. During that stretch he was the PPR RB1, leading many to fantasy championships. He's back in Seattle for 2022, but his surroundings have changed dramatically.
For starters, Russell Wilson is no longer in town and Penny's QBs are Geno Smith and Drew Lock. And, the Seahawks drafted Ken Walker III in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. But this is Penny's job to lose. Draft capital doesn't always equate to work when it comes to Seattle HC Pete Carroll. In Penny's rookie season he was third on the team in carries behind Chris Carson and Mike Davis.
The great thing about Penny is he doesn't need receiving work to do well, so the QB downgrade shouldn't affect him in that regard. The offense should be worse as a whole, but Carroll likes to establish it. In short, Penny is in line for work.
Melvin Gordon - OVR ADP 99, RB36
Much to the chagrin of fantasy football players everywhere, Gordon returned to the Denver Broncos. Javonte Williams will have to wait to have this backfield to himself. For now, Gordon presents great value at RB36 for a guy who finished at RB20 in PPR last year.
Gordon and Williams's stats were incredibly similar last year. But, did you know Gordon was better at YPC, YPR, and scored more touchdowns? With new HC Nathaniel Hackett coming from Green Bay's two-RB system, I expect more the same as last year with Gordon and Javonte splitting the work fairly evenly. Scoring opportunities and efficiency may improve with Russell Wilson at the helm, boosting Gordon's stock.
Isaiah Spiller - OVR ADP 125 - RB46
The Chargers have been searching for a solid, reliable backup for Austin Ekeler for several years now. They may have found it in Spiller. Spiller was a top-running back prospect coming out of Texas A&M until a bad combine and Pro-Day pushed him down draft boards. Though his athletic testing is a concern, not every productive NFL player has tested well at the combine, so there is potential value with Spiller.
The Chargers' most productive backup RB, Justin Jackson, is no longer on the team. That alone opens up 93 opportunities for Spiller, in addition to any work he can siphon away from Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree, both of whom have not impressed so far in the NFL. If he's able to impress and secure the Chargers RB2 role, he could be in line for a huge workload if something happens to Ekeler.
Dameon Pierce - OVR ADP 134 - RB48
Dameon Pierce has concerns of his own coming out of Florida. The new Texans rookie did not shoulder a full workhorse load in college. I've heard everything from concern over that to brushing it off by saying "he was under-utilized". Whatever you believe about him, Houston's backfield is a mess, and he comes in with several positives over his incumbent teammates.
Marlon Mack may start the season as the lead back, but it's unclear if he can regain his pre-Achilles injury form. Rex Burkhead had some nice games in Houston to close the season, but he is 32 years old and struggles with efficiency. Peirce does have the workload questions, but you can flip that argument and say he's fresh because he didn't have a big workload in college.
Tyler Allgeier - Ovr ADP 157 - RB53
I have to be honest: The BYU running back is one of my favorite late-round running backs. Going in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, I think the Falcons found a potentially solid RB for an insanely cheap price. Day Three picks don't usually end up as valuable fantasy assets, but Allgeier has a shot to break that mold.
Prospect analyst Chris Miles (@ChrisMiles1017 on Twitter) was kind enough to share with me running backs with similar production profiles to Allgeier (Drafted Rd 4-5, 6+ college YPC, +10% rec share, +1.9 yards/team play): Aaron Jones, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Kenneth Gainwell. Two of those guys have had a top 12 RB season, and the others just finished promising rookie years. The sample size is small, to be sure, just four similar backs. However, it's not insignificant.
I detailed in my Atlanta Falcons preview for Fantasy Six Pack that there is a path for Allgeier to receive +150 carries and targets in Atlanta, even if Cordarelle Patterson stays healthy. Though this may be on the verge of a bold take, it's not out of the question Allgeier has the second most fantasy points among rookie RBs behind Breece Hall.
In the space of this article, I can't dive into every Zero-RB candidate, but I do think there are several more worth mentioning. Sanders teammate Kenneth Gainwell is an explosive athlete that could very easily outscore his ADP. Gus Edwards of the Baltimore Ravens is being grossly undervalued. Brian Robinson of the Washington Commanders is rumored to have a decent workload behind team RB1 Antonio Gibson. Mark Ingram is in line for work if Alvin Kamara is suspended for the first few weeks of the season.
That is going to do it for our Fantasy Football Zero-RB Targets! Thanks for stopping by, now go, and may the draft be ever in your favor!
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