Zero RB Draft Strategy Targets for 2019

Zero RB Draft Strategy Targets for 2019

So you think you’re man enough to pull off a zero RB draft? Better men have tried, most have failed, but we have some tips (including what late-round RB targets you should be targeting) to help you swing the odds in your favor in 2019.

What is a Zero RB Draft Strategy?

The rules of a zero RB draft are simple: simply don’t draft a running back, not one, until round 6 at the earliest.

Essentially this strategy is a contrarian play to the RB-heaviness of the top of fantasy drafts. If you go WR in four of the first five rounds, you will not only have the strongest set of WR’s in your league, but you will likely have the top flex player in your league, as a 5th round wide receiver in a 12 team league would still be a guy like Cooper Kupp, Tyler Boyd, or Mike Williams.

Click here for a recent zero RB draft I did, drafting out of the 9 spot. I came into this draft with the idea that I would target 4 WR’s in the first four rounds, OJ Howard in round 5, and then grab either my first RB in round 6. In the example given, I ended up with Chris Godwin (currently WR12 in our latest rankings) as my 4th receiver. Not only would this team have the best WR’s in the league, but Godwin would likely be the best flex option in the league as well.

Does a Zero RB Draft Strategy Work?

More often than not, the zero RB draft strategy does not work. Sorry to all of the truthers out there, it just doesn’t. RB is the scarcest position in fantasy football, and the RB’s at the top of the draft are the best, most consistent players in fantasy football, and that has held true for the past few seasons.

That being said, there have been years where several running backs from the first few rounds either didn’t pan out or suffered early-season injuries. In these cases, a zero RB strategy gives you a significant advantage over other members of your league, because you have such a major advantage at WR and Flex and without a true RB1/RB2 combo, it becomes impossible for other teams to close that gap.

Will a Zero RB Draft Strategy Work in 2019?

For those of you that are subscribed to Hello Rookie, you know this is not my favorite draft strategy. I like to go RB heavy at the top of my drafts and really try to get two of our current top 12 RB’s in our latest rankings.

That being said, I think you can win your league in 2019 using a zero RB draft strategy… if your league is at least a half-point PPR scoring format and you target the right late-round RB’s.

Our Favorite Late Round RB Targets for 2019 Zero RB Draft Strategy

I like to break down my late-round RB targets for a zero RB draft strategy into three groups: de facto number ones, more than a handcuff, and PPR sleepers.

De Facto Number One RB’s for the Zero RB Strategy

You all but have to hit on one of your first two RB choices when using this draft strategy, so which RB’s you target as your de facto RB1/RB2 in rounds 6 and 7 is crucial. Here are our favorite targets in this range:

Miles Sanders – Is Miles Sanders ADP really still in round 7? This guy is going to be the RB1 for what will likely be a top 5 offense in 2019 and will be running behind the best offensive line in football according to Pro Football Focus. Sanders has been the standout player from Eagles camp, and clearly has more upside than Jordan Howard, who has averaged less than 4.0 YPC over his last two seasons.

Tevin Coleman – For those that have not yet seen our article, 5 RB’s You Have to Draft in 2019, Tevin Coleman made the list for a few reasons. Coleman is not only going to be the primary back in San Fransisco, but I think he is going to see a 50-60% snap count. In a Kyle Shannahan system, that is more than enough to finish the season as a top 20 fantasy RB, in fact, Matt Breida was RB20 when active for a full game in 2018. Secondly, Tevin Coleman was RB14 in his last season with Shanahan, and that was with Devonta Freeman playing a full 16 game season. Shanahan clearly knows how to get the most out of Coleman.

Austin Ekeler – Austin Ekeler’s ADP is yet to properly adjust to the Melvin Gordon holdout. Rarely does a holdout shape up the way Gordon’s has. While he is clearly one of the more talented backs in the league, Gordon really does not have a foot to stand on here. He has missed at least 4games in 3 out of his 4 seasons. Not only that, but Ekeler proved to be a more than capable replacement, grading out as the 12th best RB in the league as a runner and 6th best overall last season according to PFF. Few RB’s going in this range have actual RB1 potential. If Gordon is either traded or holds out for an extended period of time, Ekeler is a legitimate top 12 fantasy RB.


More Than a Handcuff

There is always a group of ‘handcuffs’ that hold significantly more value than most simply because of the system they play in or the RB they play behind. That is certainly the case for these late-round gems:

Alexander Mattison – The first two of our top late-round handcuff options will both likely be their team’s goal line backs. We know with almost certainty that the Vikings plan to use Mattison in short-yardage and goal line situations. Dalvin Cook struggled in the red zone last season, putting up just 5 yards on 7 carries inside of the 10 yard line. Mattison was one of the better short-yardage backs available in the 2019 NFL Draft. Beyond just goal line situations, Mattison holds added value simply because Cook is so injury prone having missed 17 out of 32 games in his career. Additionally, the Vikings plan to run the ball 500 times with Norv Turner’s new zone-blocking scheme, and it’s hard to imagine Cook handling more than 240 carries, meaning there is still plenty of work available to Mattison even if Cook plays a full 16 game season.

Kalen Ballage – Despite the recent news that Ballage was taking the first snaps with the ones, we still think Drake is the back to own in Miami. As is often the case when New England coordinators take jobs elsewhere, they try to ‘recreate’ the Patriots way in their new home. There is a good chance that is going on here. Drake could lead the team in snaps while serving in a James White role, while Ballage gets the majority of the early-down work. Given the fact that Drake has never had more than 133 carries in one season, it may be a smart plan to limit his workload on the ground if the plan is to use him like James White in the passing game. If this is the case, then Ballage clearly has more upside than his current ADP of 133 would indicate.

Hidden Points With Late-Round PPR Specialists

There is value throughout fantasy drafts, even at running back, even in the final round of your league’s draft. Here is a group of PPR specialists that are going in round 15, or later, based on their current ADP. While this group of RB’s does not get consistent carries, they could prove fantasy options in matchups that favor a pass-heavy game script.

Chris Thompson – While Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson battle over the early-down work in Washington, Chris Thompson’s role as 3rd/passing down back is 100% secure. It is a role that, when healthy, he has turned into a decent amount of production over his 6 year career. Even last season, he was averaging 15.5 fantasy PPG prior to a week 4 injury that ended up hampering his entire season. With leading receiver Jamison Crowder leaving for the Jets, and relatively unproven guys stepping into his role, Thompson could very well be the go-to pass catcher for Washington in 2019 and could see a bump in the nearly 6 targets/game he saw when healthy last season. Given his explosiveness, a 100 target season would undoubtedly result in at least flex fantasy value in 2019. Not bad for a guy that is currently going undrafted in the majority of leagues.

Jalen Richard – Josh Jacobs could very well run for 1,000 yards this season, and for a stocky, powerful runner with below-average measurable including a 4.6 40, he is an underrated pass catcher. That being said, he isn’t on the same planet as Jalen Richard, who caught 68 of 81 targets (84% catch rate) for 607 yards last season. Richard will also benefit from Jared Cook and his 101 targets leaving for New Orleans this past offseason. Darren Waller has 29 career targets over 4 seasons, and is a massive drop off from Cook, meaning someone else on the roster will absorb those targets. While AB and Tyrell Williams will be monsters on the outside, there is still an opportunity for Renfrow and Richard to get a ton of targets in mismatches against slot corners, safeties, and linebackers. It’s also worth noting that this Oakland secondary is still a dumpster fire, and they may be playing from behind a bunch, which would swing the game flow in Richard’s favor.

Duke Johnson/Kenneth Dixon/CJ Prosise – How deep is your league? These are the three most underrated RB’s in the league, all with huge pass-catching potential, and all three are either on the roster bubble or trading block this offseason. Prosise’s career has been one injury after another, he has little to no upside as a runner, but may very well be the best pass-catching back in the league when he is healthy. Kenneth Dixon’s talent as both a runner and receiver is undeniable, but again, like Prosise, durability has been a major issue. He has missed 32 of his 48 career games, but when active he has graded out as a top 25 RB in overall running, elusive rating, and breakaway percentage according to PFF. Duke Johnson is another massively underrated player that is just stuck in a bad situation. DJ has averaged just under 60 receptions per year over his 4-year career, and last season averaged 5 YPC with 4.13 yards after contact. If he gets his wish and Cleveland trades him, he could become a viable RB2 in the right situation.

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