Zero Running Back Fantasy Draft Strategy

Zero Running back Fantasy Draft Strategy

Personally, I am very strict in my philosophy on the first round. I am a very big believer in the zero running back draft strategy. So I avoid running back at almost all costs in the first round. In fact, I generally don’t start picking running backs until the fifth (maybe fourth) depending on who’s there. There is only one exception this year to my general rule, but we will get to that in a minute. So let’s get started on how the first round should shape up.

Top Ten Average Draft Position (ADP)

  1. Antonio Brown, Pit, WR
  2. Julio Jones, Atl, WR
  3. Odell Beckham Jr. NYG, WR
  4. Todd Gurley, Stl, RB
  5. DeAndre Hopkins, Hou, WR
  6. David Johnson, Ari, RB
  7. A.J. Green, Cin, WR
  8. Adrian Peterson, Min, RB
  9. Dez Bryant, Dal, WR
  10. Ezekiel Elliott, Dal, RB

Now, like I said, I don’t like taking running backs in the first round. There is already a lot of uncertainty and a degree of luck in fantasy football, so why add to it?  Long gone are the days of the three-down running backs. Now you have to look at handcuffs for each one, which takes up another roster spot. So not only do you have to worry about the running back by committee culture the NFL has developed, we haven’t even touched on the inconsistencies of a running back year in and year out and the injury risk that comes with the position. In fact, there was a 60% change in the top ten running backs from last season to this season.

How many of you were burned by taking Eddie Lacy last year in the top five? While you were hoping Lacy turns his season around, Devanta Freeman had an ADP of 40th overall and finished at the top of the league in running back fantasy points. Now I am not saying you will get the same result from Lacy and Freeman, it just shows the unpredictability of the position.

My First Round Rankings:

1. Antonio Brown 

We agree on this. In points per reception leagues, you can’t miss with Brown. He has always been Ben Roethlisberger‘s  favorite target and is fantastic in every aspect of his position. He had 136 receptions last year and has increased his reception total every year.

2. Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham is a very good conciliation prize. He finished last year with 96 receptions, 1,450 yards, and 13 touchdowns. No need to go with anyone else at number two. 

3. Julio Jones 

Jones led the league with 204 targets, which he caught 66.7 percent of those. His stat line looked like this; 136 receptions, 1,871 yards, 8 touchdowns. 

4. DeAndre Hopkins 

Hopkins was a good receiver last year in a situation where his quarterback was changing frequently and let’s face it, there wasn’t a legit starting quarterback on that roster. Now with Brock Osweiler as his quarterback, you can expect him to maintain his impressive 57.14 percent of red zone targets! Hopefully, he will be able to increase his six red zone touchdowns.

5. Rob Gronkowski

Gronk is….well he is Gronk. You have the best tight end in the league and you will consistently outscore your opposition week in and week out. Also with Brady being suspended the first four game,s he is a great safety blanket for Jimmy Garoppolo.

6. Todd Gurley 

Yes this is my one exception this year. He will get a heavy workload and should be a good check down option for rookie quarterback Jarred Goff. He had 1,106 yards, 4.6 YPC (Yards per carry), and ten touchdowns while sitting out the first 2 games recovering from a torn ACL. A fully healthy Todd Gurley should be a fantasy dream come true.

7. A.J. Green 

Green continues to be an elite receiver and Andy Dalton‘s favorite target. Although he had an issue last year with an injury, he still finished as a top ten fantasy wide receiver. Fully healthy, he will be top five

8. Dez Bryant 

Was injured a good chunk of last year, but if he and Tony Romo stay healthy, he will be the top fantasy wide receiver. That’s a big if though. If we throw out last season, he had three straight seasons where he had at least 88 receptions, 1200 yards, and 12 touchdowns.

9. Allen Robinson 

Robinson had an amazing 2015 season. He is one of only four receivers, since 1970, to hit 1,400 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 17.5 yards per catch! Can you guess who the other three are? It’s nobody big or anything. It’s just Hall of Famer Randy Moss, Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, and Future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson! Robinson was targeted 152 times and had 80 Receptions. Blake Bortles also targeted Robinson 23.9% of the time in the Red Zone ( Most on the team)

10. Keenan Allen 

Last year, before the lacerated kidney, Keenan Allen was on pace for 134 rec, 1,450 yards, and eight touchdowns. Pair that with being on a Chargers team that probably won’t be too good, and a quarterback who loves to throw, you have the makings for a great season for Keenan Allen.

I don’t like Ezekiel Elliott in the first at all.  It is really risky to pick a player that has never taken an NFL snap in the first round. Also for the people who are still taking Le’Veon Bell in the first round (assuming his suspension stands), I would rather take DeAngelo Williams in the 5th than Ameer Abdullah in the seventh or eigth. Possibly a Theo Riddick (Only PPR). By the time Bell’s suspension is over, there will probably be one or two new starting running backs in the league that was not projected to be starters when you drafted.

In conclusion, with this strategy, you don’t need your running back to have 100+ yard games with two touchdowns every week, you just need some level of consistency. I can’t stress enough that this is my opinion and that every draft strategy has its risks ,but this is what has worked best for me.