Zero Running Back Strategy: Thoughts From the Fantasy Football Industry

If your 2014 fantasy football draft is in the next couple of days, you are probably agonizing over whether or not you should try the Zero Running Back Strategy.

You will hear advice going back and forth on whether or not this is a plausible idea or just a gimmick, but I wanted to collect advice from two fantasy football sources I tremendously respect.

Kevin English of Draft Sharks ranked fourth in Daily Fantasy Expert Accuracy in 2013, so the guy knows his stuff. I also had a great interview with him where he provided a ton of valuable information for all you daily fantasy football players, which you can find here.

“I understand the concept behind Zero RB.  And I understand how it can help eliminate risk in fantasy drafts.  I believe there is some merit to it under the right circumstances.

But as a concept to follow blindly – in every draft – well, I’ll sell that.  In fact, I’ll disapprove of any predetermined draft plan.

Why?  Each draft’s scoring rules are different.  The starting lineup requirements are different.  And the people you’re drafting with are different (perhaps even in a strange way).  The point is that you can’t be married to a particular strategy.  After all, you need to adjust to the flow of each draft, accounting for unforeseen value, trends, etc.” – Kevin English

Kevin brings up some really good points about following concepts blindly. I think Mike Tyson’s quote summarizes Kevin’s comments perfectly: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. Just like drafting a running back in Round One and Round Two no matter how your draft plays out, being dead set on a concept can really destroy the team you create. I recently had a draft where I had planned to implement the Zero RB Strategy, and it was a full point PPR. I had the seventh pick. Somehow, Matt Forte was still on the board when it was my turn select a player, and Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas were the third and fourth picks in the draft. If I was going to stick with Zero RB at all costs, I could have drafted Dez Bryant. I couldn’t pass up on the value Forte provided me with the seventh pick, however, and I was more than happy to land one of the best dual-threat backs in the NFL.

So just as Kevin says, while the theory does seem like it can help eliminate risk in drafts, you could end up with a lousy team following any strategy blindly.


James Blews of the Fantasy Football Toolkit is an author, SEO guru, fantasy football podcast host and a great source for fantasy football information. Much like myself, James is always looking for any edge that will help his readers win their fantasy football leagues.

“The Zero RB strategy, this year especially, is going to excel. There is a massive drop-off into nearly flat-lines from tier to tier for running backs, while wide receivers stay strong as you drop tier to tier to tier. This is giving more value to round 4-7 RB picks than the 1-3 rounds really can.

There is also a stigma with fantasy owners that must get broken. The idea that you MUST have a high-ranking running back isn’t necessarily the case. From the scoring models I’ve used, and with the mock drafting and real drafting I’ve done, and especially for those doing value-based drafting, the Zero RB strategy is a solid way to get valuable talent on your team, without too much overhead.” – James Blews

This may seem really weird, but I hate lettuce with every fiber of my being. Even though I know I would rather get teeth extracted without numbing medicine than eat a Cesar salad, I remember spending $40 dollars on those bastard leafy greens on one grocery trip a few years back. Drafting running backs in the first round just because you think you should is the exact same thing. That salad eventually went brown in the back of my fridge and was tossed out, and I went with string beans and spinach for my green vegetable requirements ever since. If you have the eleventh-overall pick and hate the fact you might end up with Arian Foster or Montee Ball just because you feel like you have to draft a running back in round one, look towards Demaryius Thomas or A.J. Green.I would even rather have you draft Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers in the first round than take a player you weren’t comfortable selecting.

For me personally, I believe there are more serviceable running back options in the mid rounds than there are wide receivers. If you waited until the fifth round to draft a running back, you could generally land Ray Rice, Joique Bell, Ben Tate and Chris Johnson. On the flip side, if you waited until the fifth round for your first receiver, I wouldn’t be happy with DeSean Jackson or T.Y. Hilton as my WR1. You might say that is an extreme example, but that really shows the difference in the ADP talent for the receiver and running back position.


While Kevin and James may have slightly different takes on the Zero RB strategy, they each seem to suggest that you shouldn’t be stuck on a particular draft concept. Every draft will evolve and develop differently, and there is no guarantee of what will happen.

My takeaway from these savvy football minds is that no matter what strategy you use, you can’t be too rigid in your draft day plans.


Related Articles:

The Zero Running Back Strategy: Pros and Cons

2014 Fantasy Football: Breaking Down Zero Running Back Strategy

2014 Fantasy Football: Testing The Zero Running Back Strategy






Categories: Fantasy Football

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