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Fantasy Football: The Zero RB strategy

Zero RB was never a thing in Fantasy Football. Over time, we have seen the Running Back position become less and less valuable due to the league becoming more passer-friendly. Last season, of the top 20 players not including Quarterbacks, 13 were receivers and the other seven were Running Backs. That said, I am here to give you an understanding of this risky strategy that can lead to high-powered fantasy teams.

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Understanding The ZeroRB strategy

For starters, the Zero RB strategy does not mean you’re not going to draft a Running Back. It simply means you will worry about the position at a later time in your drafts this upcoming August. With the NFL favoring receivers more and more and seemingly having forgotten how lethal a Running Back can be, fantasy managers can find an elite RB1 in much later rounds. Also, this strategy can depend on the type of league and format you are in. If a league is favoring starting more running backs than receivers, this is not an optimal strategy.

The biggest key for this strategy is to hit on those late-round Running Backs. It can be tricky as there are no absolutes for this game within a game that we play. I tried the Zero RB strategy two years ago in my home league and failed miserably. Rashaad Penny and Antonio Gibson were the two late-round Running Backs I decided on. Penny ended up as the RB70, playing in just FIVE games. Gibson ended up being the RB27.

ADP can be a useful tool, but that does not mean we should always follow it. Out of the top 12 Running Backs based on 2023 ADP, only half of them finished as an RB1 when the season concluded. The other six had ADPs of RB18, RB14, RB24, RB34, RB35, and RB52. Out of those six, the RB42, RB35, and RB34 finished in the top five scoring on a ppg basis. The RB18 was the only one of the other three to finish in the top five.

With that being said, research is needed to maximize the Zero RB strategy. That RB52 turned out to be Kyren Williams. Williams was rostered in most dynasty leagues BUT was available mostly to everyone in redraft formats. The RB34 and RB35 ended up being Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane, members of the Miami Dolphins. There will be Running Backs that can be found in later rounds once again in 2024 and here are my candidates for the high-risk/high-reward Zero RB strategy.

Zero RB candidates

James Conner, Arizona Cardinals, ADP95/RB27

James Conner just came off a season average of 80 rush YPG, over 1000 yards, a career-high in YPC, and was 12th in total touchdowns. He finished as the RB13 on a ppg basis. He is being drafted as the RB27. Just like in 2023, Conner was drafted as the RB26 and crushed his ADP by 13 spots. This season is no different. Conner is being drafted as an RB3 with only a rookie behind him. With a fully healthy Kyler Murray, an alpha Tight End, and an alpha Wide Receiver, James Conner is in prime position to get a heavy workload and exceed 200 carries in 2024. James Conner is being drafted in round eight. All in all, fantasy managers need to prioritize receivers with elite Running Backs hiding in the later rounds such as James Conner.

Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans, ADP109.5/RB32

First of all, running backs who catch passes are every fantasy football manager’s favorite thing. Tyjae Spears is the perfect candidate for ZeroRB and is a prime candidate to break in his sophomore season. Spears was top-12 in receptions and receiving yards amongst running backs in his rookie season. Yes, Tony Pollard is in the backfield, too. Pollard was once an elite RB1, but injuries have taken over. Pollard was 50th in fantasy points per opportunity.

On the other hand, Tyjae Spears was 13th. If I had to place a bet, give me Tyjae Spears at his current ADP over Tony Pollard. Pollard did not live up to the hype last season with the Dallas backfield to himself. This year, he has to deal with a young, athletic, and shifty runner in Tyjae Spears. Most of us all play in half or full PPR leagues. Tyjae Spears can deliver top 20 weekly numbers with his catching and run-after-the-catch upside.

Gus Edwards, Los Angeles Chargers, ADP119/RB36

Gus Edwards had the best season of his career in 2023. He now goes from one run-heavy offense to what should be another one. The Los Angeles Chargers have made one thing clear. They will be running the heck out of the football in 2024. Edwards is the RB1 on this Chargers offense but is being drafted as the RB36 in fantasy football. As if it could not have gotten any better, the Chargers offensive coordinator is now Greg Roman. Roman was the coordinator for the Ravens. The same Ravens who have been the best rushing team the past five seasons. Now, Edwards has to deal with just a rookie in Kimani Vidal and JK Dobbins. Dobbins has not been the same since his gruesome injuries two years ago. With that being said, Edwards is a prime candidate for the ZeroRb strategy with ten or more touchdowns in his range of outcomes.

Jerome Ford, Cleveland Browns, ADP127.5/RB39

Jerome Ford did all he could after Nick Chubb’s gruesome knee injury in Week 2 of the 2023 season. Ford ended up finishing as the RB25 on a ppg basis. Yet, everyone seems to have written him off for the 2o24 season. Yes, Nick Chubb will eventually be back, but when in the 2024 season is the important question. Also, how efficient and effective will Chubb be? In the 17 games he played in, Ford finished as an RB1 four times and an RB2 six times. Overall, the Browns have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL and with no Chubb, Ford should see a ton of volume to start the season.

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