The “Zero RB” draft strategy was introduced by RotoViz’s Shawn Siegele in 2013 and it has been utilized by many over the past few years. It is essentially a strategy of zigging when others are zagging. In 2013, running backs were way overvalued (11/12 first round players were RBs) and they tended to get hurt at a higher rate than wide receivers. This, in turn, led to wide receivers being undervalued. Siegele noticed this and, as a fantasy football contrarian, decided to scoop up the wide receiver value and put off drafting running backs until the middle/later rounds.
In 2018, we are seeing a similar trend. According to Fantasy Football Calculator’s PPR ADP data, nine of the first 12 picks are running backs. Many people are drafting with a “fear of missing out” on a bell-cow back this season, so running backs with questionable receiving capabilities (Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook) and shaky workloads (Christian McCaffrey, Devonta Freeman) are being pushed up draft boards.
This trend leads to the perfect opportunity to implement a Zero RB draft strategy this season, especially if you are drafting in the back half of the first round. For the sake of this exercise, let’s say you are slotted in at the last pick in a 12-team PPR league. 13 rounds, no kickers or defenses. Here is the ideal Zero RB draft strategy for the 2018 season.
Round 1 – Julio Jones
Jones is coming off the board at an absurd value (pick 13.6). This is a guy who has routinely gone in the first round of drafts for the past five seasons. Don’t let last season’s down year (88 catches and over 1400 yards) pass up this stud.
The entire Falcon offense is due to see some positive regression in red zone efficiency, as they only scored a touchdown on just 41 percent of their red zone trips, good for 23rd in the league. That number was significantly down from their 64 percent in 2016. Jones was also targeted in the end zone an absurd 15 times, but only caught one of them for a touchdown. These numbers are incredibly unlucky and are bound to improve, Jones should be the primary beneficiary of the bounce-back.
Round 2 – Keenan Allen
Keenan Allen was a league-winner in 2017, averaging 24.8 fantasy points over the final seven weeks of the season. Things can potentially get even better for him in 2018. In 2017, Allen saw a target share of 27.7 percent (top-6 among wide receivers), and that was with Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry siphoning looks away. Gates is gone and Henry suffered a torn ACL, so Allen’s target share could easily reach 30 percent.
Round 3 – Zach Ertz
Ertz took a big step forward in 2017 and found himself in the upper-echelon of tight ends. Now sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, Ertz’s cost is right around the early fourth round. But he is still a good value at this spot.
Ertz was a model of consistency last season, as he scored over 13 fantasy points in 11 of his 14 games played. He also showed a connection with quarterback Nick Foles in the playoffs, catching eight passes for 93 yards in the NFC Championship and seven passes for 67 yards and a touchdown in the Superbowl. If Wentz isn’t healthy to start the season, Ertz will be just fine.
Round 4 – Amari Cooper
This is probably the ugliest pick of the bunch, but hear me out. Someone who started his career with two straight 1000 yard seasons can’t actually be that bad. Nobody really knows what happened to Cooper last season, but I’m expecting a bounce back.
According to PFF, Cooper averaged 1.54 yards per route run on the outside last season. But that jumped all the way up to 2.21 yards per route run from the slot. The Raiders added Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson to their wide receiver core, neither of which project to see significant slot snaps. Raider’s HC Jon Gruden said that he wants to move Cooper all over the field, so Cooper could be seeing a jump in his slot routes, which would bode well for his fantasy bounce back.
Round 5 – Chris Hogan
With Julian Edelman’s recent PED suspension, Hogan’s value has skyrocketed. Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola already left 200 total targets behind, and now Hogan figures to take as many as he wants for the first four weeks.
Hogan should operate out of the slot for the first four weeks, playing the target hog role for Tom Brady. He also has the downfield skill set to slide into Cooks’ vacated role once Edelman comes back from his suspension. He also saw 12 of Brady’s red zone targets in the nine games that he played. If he kept that pace over 16 games, he would have seen 21 red zone targets, which would have been tied for 5th among wide receivers.
Round 6 – Marshawn Lynch
This is where we finally pull the trigger on running back. Raider’s HC Jon Gruden is determined to take the game back to 1998, which leads me to believe that Lynch is in line for a solid workload. He was able to top 200 carries in the Raider’s middling offense last season and finished the season strong with either 90 total yards or a touchdown in seven of his last eight games. He also evaded 64 tackles over those eight games, proving he still has his signature elusiveness.
With a healthier offense as a whole, the Raiders should see more scoring opportunities in 2018. This will lead to more red zone work for Lynch, allowing him to capitalize on his top-25 fantasy finish from a year ago.
Round 7 – Isaiah Crowell
In his 2016 season, Crowell had over 1200 total yards and caught 40 passes, putting himself on most 2017 breakout lists. Like the entire Browns offense in 2017, he flopped, as seemingly nothing broke right. Despite losing 16 games and barely seeing any positive game scripts, Crowell still commanded over 200 carries and caught 28 balls.
Crowell now finds himself on the Jets after inking a three-year deal this offseason. Matt Forte is retired and Bilal Powell, the Jets leading rusher in 2017, is being reported as a cut candidate. With those two gone, 281 carries would be Crowell’s for the taking. He can easily achieve 250 touches, and that much work is a screaming value in the seventh round.
Round 8 – DeVante Parker
Parker may never break out, but he should see volume this year. Jarvis Landry leaves behind 161 targets and Parker will be fighting Kenny Stills for them. Stills has been very efficient and ran over 36 percent of his routes from the slot over the last few years, but he is mostly a situational deep threat.
The Dolphins should have a steadier quarterback situation in 2018, so chase the targets and hope Parker clicks with Ryan Tannehill.
Round 9 – Ty Montgomery
When in doubt, go with the cheapest option. Everyone is arguing about Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams, but Montgomery is sitting there saying, “Hey, what about me?” Before a fractured rib in week 4 that hampered him all season (and ultimately knocked him out for the year), Montgomery was touching the ball nearly 20 times a game and posted over 20 fantasy points per game.
He may be a converted wide receiver, but at 216 pounds he still sports a bigger frame than either Jones (208) or Williams (212). He is also the best pass catcher out of the group and was already taking all the snaps in the two-minute drill offense during Packers minicamp. Grab him while everyone is looking at the wrong guys.
Round 10 – Ben Roethlisberger
After a dismal five-interception game against the Jaguars, Big Ben lit the fantasy world on fire by finishing as a top 12 quarterback in eight of the next 10 games. He also gets to throw the ball to LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Ever heard of them?
Round 11 – Jack Doyle
Despite the fact that Doyle was the TE7 with Jacoby Brissett as his quarterback, he is still available in the double-digit rounds. Andrew Luck is already throwing (high school) footballs and is beaming confidence in his ability to play week 1. The Colts signed former first-rounder Eric Ebron, but someone that was cut before his rookie deal expired doesn’t necessarily scare me. Doyle is an excellent second option to Ertz.
Round 12 – Giovani Bernard
Bernard is being criminally undervalued. Many figure Joe Mixon will slide in as the Bengals’ workhorse, but he didn’t inspire much confidence in 2017 averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. Bernard looked like the much more efficient back, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
He also was the Bengals’ featured workhorse down the stretch last season after Mixon suffered a concussion in week 13. Bernard averaged 19 touches and 17.3 fantasy points over those final five games. If Mixon can’t stay healthy or struggles to start the season, the Bengals could turn to the more efficient Bernard again. He’s an absolute steal in the 12th round.
Round 13 – Kenny Golladay
Golladay is one of the NFL’s signature size-speed freaks and is primed to take a step forward this season. The Lions used 11 personnel (three wide receivers) on 74 percent of their offensive snaps, well above the league average of 59 percent. Golladay will see the field plenty and his downfield skillset (17.0 yards per reception) meshes well with Matthew Stafford’s gunslinger nature.
QB – Ben Roethlisberger
RBs – Marshawn Lynch, Isaiah Crowell
WRs – Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper
TE – Zach Ertz
Flex – Chris Hogan
Bench – DeVante Parker, Ty Montgomery, Jack Doyle, Giovani Bernard, Kenny Golladay
As you can see, Zero RB is a sound strategy in 2018. This lineup can easily compete for a fantasy championship. Most of our receivers project to be the target hogs of their offenses, and we were able to get running backs who should see solid volume on the ground. We also grabbed a stud tight end, so we have a great positional advantage to make up for the lack of a true bell-cow. While the thought of pulling off a strategy like this may seem challenging, you’ll be rewarded for taking the risk.Download the Free GoingFor2 App by Clicking Here...