The Year to go Zero RB

Tuesday, Aug 9, 2022 at 9:28 pm ET

Over the last 3 years, really the last 5 years, there has been a slow tilt towards WRs being more reliable at the front end of drafts than the RBs. Let's go over team structures quickly of how teams are built, typically.

Robust RB
At least three running backs in the first five rounds, and some people will expand that definition to include up to four running backs. (3-4 RBs first 5 rounds)

Hyper Fragile
Acknowledging that RBs are fragile, while also trying to capitalize on the ceiling if you wind up with backs who stay healthy. (3-4 RBs first 8 rounds)

Hero RB
The goal is to roster as many top receivers as possible and a top running back. (1 RB first 5 rounds)

Zero RB
Allows you access to both an elite tight end and an elite quarterback without compromising your overall roster production. (First RB round 8 or later)

I personally had to accept this as I was always an old-school Robust RB or Hyper Fragile approach. I really liked to hedge the bets by trying to get a couple of top RBs to either hit or offset each other in case of injuries. This can still be a good approach if you have at least one of your RBs hit along with a later-round WR to hit. This is not out of the question still, but in 2022 it is less likely.

We all have that one or two teams that don't quite know what is happening and just grab players they have heard of. I won't say one way of building your team is wrong. As they say, availability is the best ability. With the consensus top 18 RBs mostly being over age 26 and/or having past availability issues with injuries, I am not sold on this group at the top of the draft.

In 2021, in PPR format, 7 of the top 14 RBs ended in the top 12. This is not bad. It is a 50% chance of hitting on those top 14 guys. This may get worse in 2022 as the guys in the consensus top 12 are older and have younger teammates that will take some of their workloads.

In PPR for 2021 results, 6 of the top 14 WRs hit. Lesser hit rate at the top, but the way this sells Zero RB is that in 2022 you could literally get 2-3 of these top 14 WRs in your first 2-3 rounds of the draft. The health, age, and availability are better for the top group of WRs this year than the top group of RBs. As you build a Zero RB team you want to throw darts at 5-6 WRs in the first 7 rounds with a top 5 TE and a top 8 QB ("top" according to ADP).

The 2022 ADP according to Yahoo (8/8/22) Picks 1 - 72 (Rounds 1 - 6) shows that again the consensus top RBs are the same as the last 2-3 years. They are starting to age themselves out of the top spots for RB, even if 2021 didn't completely show that. The WR group is deep in the consensus top 30 and then the position starts to thin out. As where the RB depth is actually quite good with stronger draft classes in 2021 and 2022 that have created good depth at the RB position. With the top guys getting older and either declining in production or getting injured this will pave the way for the younger RB2/3s on teams.

At the top of the draft, I would focus on getting 2 of the consensus top 24 WRs and an elite Tight End or get 3 of the consensus top 24 WRs in the first 3 rounds. Once you get to rounds 4-6 you can make a decision on whether or not there is value at Tight End, Quarterback, or Running Back. This is when you will have to see how the rest of the draft went for other teams. If there is still plenty of top talent left at RB, I would consider a modified Hero RB approach there and get someone with some value. Early in drafts, this could have been a spot for Alvin Kamara in the early 4th, but now with suspension probably being pushed to 2023, it is unlikely he will be there.

J.K. DobbinsI would look for a discount on guys like:

  • J.K. Dobbins - Ravens
  • AJ Dillon - Packers

Zero RB is the way to go because it gives you better trade pieces, more stability at a more important position, allows you to get elite players everywhere except RB in the draft, and allows you to load up on RBs under 25 that will eventually have a chance to shine within the first 4-6 weeks of the year.

Rashaad PennyZero RB targets for RBs are:

  • Kenneth Walker III - Seahawks
  • Rashaad Penny - Seahawks
  • Melvin Gordon - Broncos*
  • Rachaad White - Buccaneers
  • Isaiah Spiller - Chargers
  • Devin Singletary - Bills
  • James Cook - Bills
  • Kenneth Gainwell - Eagles
  • Tyler Allgeier - Falcons
  • Alexander Mattison - Vikings
  • Darrell Henderson - Rams

* He's not under 25, but should split workload while both healthy in this offense.

I am sure there will be more throughout the training camp that pops up also. Get your WRs, elite TE, and elite QB. If you love Breece Hall then get him, but approach it as a modified Hero RB approach then. Load up on WRs early!

Join the Discussion

Necker2 CommentedAug 9, 2022 9:57 pm

I would struggle not to draft a RB early because that's what I have done forever, but you make a pretty good case. I would be willing to try this in one of my leagues. Downside is that I have to wait until next year to see if it worked.

Garett Levenhagen CommentedAug 10, 2022 6:50 pm

It can be uncomfortable at first. I was always a Robust RB guy up to last year. A team structure article will be coming soon to help with being more comfortable about leaning into the Zero RB approach and the others as well.

Ldarnauer CommentedAug 16, 2022 1:45 pm

If you were at spot 2 standard scoring with the zero RB, who would you target first?

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