2014 Fantasy Football: Testing The Zero Running Back Strategy

If you haven’t yet got on board with the Zero Running Back Theory that has been circulating the fantasy football world heavily this offseason, I don’t really blame you.

I myself was a huge skeptic of the idea when I first read about it on Gridiron Experts, but I decided to give it a shot in a few mock drafts. Slowly but surely, I started to become more satisfied with my teams. Finally, I decided to try it out in one of my real drafts. I had the seventh pick in a PPR/2-flex position league, and here were my results:

Zero-Running Back Strategy Fantasy Football


First of all, I don’t think anybody would be displeased with the receivers on this team. In rounds one-four, I selected Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown respectively. While people were busy snatching up running backs and quarterbacks who carry a ton of risks, I took four players who are almost guaranteed to be consistent performers week in and week out. In fact, according to the good folks of Fantasy Football Calculator, all four of my wide receivers are projected as top-ten performers based on this scoring league. Even if one of them underperforms, I have viable backups in Mike Wallace and Brandin Cooks, who will be waiting to fill their shoes on the bench.

I was able to select Andre Ellington in the fifth round, which is an absolute steal in my book. Ellington was already heavily involved in the Arizona Cardinals‘ passing game, and head coach Bruce Arians has already proclaimed that Ellington will be the focal point of the Cardinals’ rushing attack this year. The new weapon for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Toby Gerhart, is one of the most undervalued players in fantasy football this year, and I think he has top-15 value. It is amazing he is still available in rounds five-seven. I don’t need my running backs to be superstars in order for me to win this league. I just need them to perform up to expectations, and anything else is gravy on top. On my bench, you’ll find the following potential sleepers: Lamar Miller, Jeremy Hill, Andre Williams and overlooked Fred Jackson.

In conclusion, I know this strategy can seem frightening at first. However, with practice and research, it can really help propel your game to the next level. Do your research, stay safe in rounds one-four and draft running backs with upside and sleepers later in the draft. If you can implement this strategy successfully, winning your league title might not be a far-fetched idea any longer. Enjoy!

Author: Jon Sousa

Connect with Jon on Twitter at @JonsFFAdvice for more draft strategies and advice

More Articles On Zero-RB Theory

1. Breaking Down Zero-RB Theory

2. Zero-RB Targets


Categories: Fantasy Football Strategy

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6 replies

  1. In every mock draft I have tried this year and every rankings list your 4 WRs are gone in the first 2 rounds.

  2. Hey Bill!

    With a second-flex position, sometimes the outcomes of drafts can be a little different than a typical one most fantasy players participate in. A quarterback run in the first round will push back the wide receivers being drafted, and sometimes you will end up with tremendous opportunities. I was in a money league last season where the players heavily targeted quarterbacks even though it was just a standard league, and the first wide receiver drafted didn’t come off the board until the second round. Everything depends on the preference of those in your league, which is why it is important to understand who you are drafting against and remain flexible. Mock drafts and rankings are important, but if you place too much emphasis on those, your draft plans can quickly fall apart.

    With the seventh pick, it is pretty easy to land Johnson and Green. Drafts will mainly go McCoy, Charles, Peterson, Forte, Lacy and Lynch or Manning somewhere in there, so Johnson in the seventh pick will be there. With Hue Jackson as the offensive coordinator for the Bengals and a lack of trust in Dalton, owners are generally favoring Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas over Green, which I am sure you have seen through your own mock drafts and rankings research.

    Julio Jones is normally gone early in the second round, but again, fantasy drafts are determined by preference. If players are drafting back-to-back running backs or drafting two tight elite ends early on to have one in a flex, players like Jones will be available. While talented, players are concerned with his risk injury. Live drafts will vary from the mocks, so it is important not to be too rigid with setting a draft plan around mocks and other people’s rankings.

    In the over 100 mocks I have participated in, I generally see Brown go in the third round, and the FantasyFootballCalculator.com has him going at 2.12. Those ADP results are a little more competitive than more commercial sites, and he was actually the second pick in the third round in the mock I am doing right now, so his ADP shouldn’t be surprising that he is still often available in the third round, and depending on the league, he could be pushed back even further.

    I hope that helps to shed some light on how the draft unfolded! Thanks for the comment and good luck with your season!

  3. Last night our 12-team league had our Draft Order Draw, I snagged #1. This means I draft first and don’t see another draft pick until 22 picks later. Combine this with it being a Keeper League (all teams have 1-3 players as K, usual suspects spoken for). Am I to pick a WR (Megatron?) with the #1 and keep following the ZRBS like it is the rule of law? My Keepers are L. Bell-RB in the 7th, J. Nelson-WR in the 8th. I also have the option on J. Gordon-WR in the 9th if he is worth it. Two of my three Keepers are dope-heads/drunks facing suspensions. What to do?

    • In most formats, I would never take a receiver with the first four picks. I take a RB in round one, and then I activate the Zero RB plan. Your draft is obviously a little different.

      The biggest question is when do you draft? Gordon may get his ruling on Monday, so that will help make things a little clearer. You have a WR 1 with Jordy Nelson, and Le’Veon is a great deal as a seventh-round pick.

      What other big names, at rb and wr are available? Has anyone disclosed their keepers? Who else could you keep instead of Gordon?


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