Zero RB Drafting Strategy

At the request of another footclan member, I am creating this thread to talk RB Zero drafting strategy. As some of you probably know, I’ve been a pretty strong advocate of the Zero RB strategy this year. Full disclosure, it’s not something that I did last year. I actually went the exact opposite last year and did heavy RB drafting back to back RB and in many instances, taking RBs with my 1st 3 rounds while going for value with Fitz in the 5th because lots of others were running WR/WR opens. But given how much people have been focusing on RB this year, especially in the 1st round, there is so much value at WR allowing you to get 2 1st round talent WR open which would have been unfathomable in years past.

Now I’m sure there are different approaches people take and I’m curious to hear the thoughts of others but I’ll just talk a bit about how I run my zero RB drafts. These are general guidelines. It doesn’t mean that if an elite RB falls to you at value, you skip them for a WR (i.e. you take OBJ over DJ if he falls to you at 9 or something). But the reason why this strat has worked out so well for me, particularly in this year is because everyone goes for RB over WR and ignores tiers so I get great WRs falling to me.

I only run this strat if I am picking 9th or later in a snake draft. Because that is when I’ve found I’ve been able to stack 2x top flight receivers. The premise is that you basically lock down 3-5 elite WRs/TE in the first 4 rounds and then get a good mix of rookie/vet value RBs in the middle rounds + smash a bunch of high upside high risk cheap guys in the later rounds. Now the mistake I’ve seen people make with this strat is they will open WR/WR in 1st and 2nd rounds but then get scared and end up settling/reaching for a mediocre RB in the 3rd/4th. If you run this strat, I encourage you fully commit to it, otherwise you just end up with a middling team.

In the first 2 rounds, I try to get 2 of the following:

1st: OBJ > Hopkins > JJ
2nd: MT> Allen > AJ Green > Adams

Now some considerations for the above, it’s all about the pairing. The dream scenario of course is if you can OBJ and Hopkins but that is very rare. I got it in my most recent league but that’s cause it was a superflex. The next best thing is OBJ/JJ open. Other than that, it’s about pairing. If I get JJ in 1st round, I like to pair him with someone like MT who has a great floor. If I get OBJ in the 1st, then I don’t mind grabbing someone with a higher ceiling/lower floor combo like Allen or AJ Green.

3rd Round: If Gronk falls to me here, I take him without question but that rarely happens. Other than that, I’ve seen myself getting a lot of Diggs or TY Hilton. Also fine with taking Kelce here given the TE wasteland. Roster slots are super important here. You need to take as many dart throws on RBs later as possible so you can’t really afford to be holding two risky TEs with late round TE strategy here.

4th: Amari Cooper has been my absolute top target here. Normally, having cooper as your WR2 is not very comforting but when he’s your WR3 / Flex play, he offers unmatched upside. Also, I am a believer in the talent and a huge rebound for him this year under gruden and a year removed from injuries. If I don’t get Cooper, I’ve been getting either Ertz or guys like Fitz, JuJu, Jarvis, Arob.

5th - This is one of the key rounds. This is usually where I make the decision to go RB or not. You have to feel out your draft and see what other guys are doing. If others have already stocked on RBs and are now starving for WR, I continue to grab another WR here and get someone like Marvin Jones/Golden Tate/Flash Gordon. But if you want to be safe, this is usually where I target and grab Lamar Miller. Could also grab someone like Royce or Penny but miller to me is the best value and pretty safe.

From there, you just gotta let the draft play itself out. But I like to get a good mix of vets and high upside young guys / rookies.

Vets: Miller, Ajayi, Lynch, Burkhead
Rookies: Royce, Kerryon, Michel
High upside: Jamaal Williams/aaron Jones which ever is cheaper, Jordan Wilkins, Breida (this is based on my view that McKInnon is a bust), barber (based on my view that ROJO is a bust which seems to be the case)

In the late rounds, I go for higher upside fliers / other peoples handcuffs so if their starters go down, they’re league winners and if not, you can either drop them quickly or use them as trade sweeteners to those owners who want handcuffs.

Key Targets: John Kelly, Chase Edmonds, Rod Smith, James Conner.

One other thing I will add is that when doing this strat, I avoid drafting scat backs / 3rd down specialists. I only pick guys who have the potential to play all 3 downs. So I don’t draft guys like Cohen, Thompson, Hines, Ty Mont, etc. Those guys have limited upsides and this strat, you need as much upside as you can get.

For those of you who shy away from this, I strongly encourage you give it a shot. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve liked my ending teams using this style much more than the traditional RB/WR or RB/RB approach when drafting from late position.

Anyway, there is is. Sorry for the long post. Love to hear critiques, variations, and other peoples thoughts on how they approach this style of draft or why they think it sucks/doesn’t work.

Happy hunting!


Appreciate a list like this, for mid to late round guys.

I’m starting my 10 team standard keeper with Hunt, Mixon, and Adams… likely able to take Julio and then Hilton / Baldwin / Cooper - Gronk if he falls to me, but I doubt it. I like how you mentioned Cooper as a perfect high ceiling 3rd option. Then grab a steady RB like Miller or Marshawn, and a rookie with upside - R Freeman / Kerryon. Depending on how it all goes. But I like the list of guys to keep an eye on in the draft. Everyone’s draft plays out differently of course, but I like your strategy.

I’m happy to grab a QB late this year… and TE will depend on the draft. I’d love Gronk but not sure I can get him based on our league draft order. After that, Burton / Rudolph are my targets, if it doesn’t work out getting one of them then you end up in the crap shoot late round TE. What is your main strategy for TE this year? / Which late round guys do you like best?
(in my league, Kelce, Ertz, Graham, Engram - all unavailable - keepers)

Thanks for this post @MikeMeUpp, appreciate the insight and reasoning on the approach and later round RB targets etc.

I’m seriously considering this for my main home league this year, it’s a 12 team standard scoring league roster is standard QB/2RB/2WR/1TE/1FLX/DST/K and 6 bench. I’m the defending champ, i had an average draft last year due to rescheduling and travelling for work at the time but won from the wire and trading (sweeter in my view) so aiming to give myself a much better base this year. A lot of the guys in my league are likely to go RB heavy as they were so dominant last year, they don’t do a lot of research and also it’s likely that 3 - 4 QBs will be off the board in the third and early 4th round as a number of guys panic draft them early/are hell bent on having a big name there.

We’re having a live draft night this year as well, set for the 27th of this month so based on the knowledge gap and approaches between myself and the other guys and being live i can read the room a lot better I’m thinking that I’m as perfectly poised as ever to go for this.

My concerns though are, in a standard league format i’m fine opening with WR/WR if you get one of the combos above and then tier based round 3, maybe 4 but given how RB heavy people go and the fact there is no PPR scoring so i’m only working with yards and TDs does that change the approach? Would you look to RB say round 4 after locking up 3 top WR starters/flex? What situation would you bail on the zero RB, for example in a standard format if say people are sensible and by the 9th pick the top RBs are gone along with AB, OBJ, HOP if i’m looking at Gordon, Fournette, Hunt, Cook vs JJ, MT, Adams and Allen If it falls like this do you take a locked in volume guy like Gordon or Fournette and then the best WR or RB on the return, most likely a WR here like Allen or Adams at 2.04? I wouldn’t feel great starting zero RB with say JJ and Allen or would you stick with it more in this scenario based that most guys at the back will be going RB/RB as they wont be picking for a while and will reach for RBs in fear of the unknown middle round RB approach?

Thanks so much for this meaty post. Lots to think about and discuss.

Two questions:

  1. If Gronk doesn’t make it to you in the 3rd, do you take Kelce or Ertz soon after that? In many of my drafts I’ve gotten Gronk in the 3rd, but I hate to miss out on one of those 3 TEs so I try to get one of the other top tier TEs if possible.

  2. When do you make your move on QB? Do you target late round value like Big Ben or Rivers or even Alex Smith? Last year the other 7 teams in my league drafted 17 QBs while I drafted Luck and Palmer. That didn’t work out (until I traded WR depth for Wilson halfway through the season), so I’m worried about waiting too long and getting stuck with a shelf full of value that I can’t start while having to stream a QB.

This is a great write up. I typically want a workhorse RB early, but this is the first season I’m really considering going zero RB in my big money league unless I’m starting in the top 3. I think if any year, this is the year to capitalize on people going RB heavy and loading up on pass catchers that could give you week winning performances.

I should have said this but I do not advocate for zero RB in a standard league. It has to be a half or full ppr league. In standard leagues, RBs are just too valuable so if I was drafting late, would still try and get a workhorse RB with goal line work on their respective teams.

My TE strategy for the most part is Gronk or bust. At times, I’m fine with taking Kelce or ertz at value but for me, I don’t put those two in the same tier. Gronk for me is in his own tier and the gap is pretty big IMO so I’m fine with taking him at ADP. Sometimes I do this if I’m not doing zero RB and have early draft position. I’ll take him early 3rd or late 2nd. If I miss on Gronk, I just wait until much much later. He is really the only TE who is without a doubt, the first look in a top 5 league offense catching from a top 5 QB with double digit TD upside. You can’t say that about any other TE. I don’t get any of the middling TEs in the middle 6-9 rounds. I.e I don’t have any shareable or graham (overrated), Olsen (injury risk), Rudolph (overrated), burton (unproven TE, unproven QB, new offense, 2nd if not 3rd look). I usually don’t take a TE until 10th round or later and I’ll go for high risk high upside guys. Top target there’s is Jordan reed or David njoku. I was targeting kittle but the injury kind of sucks. RSJ is another option super late in the draft. If I miss those, I’ll just stream.

Glad to hear you’re moving to live draft. I did mine this year live as well. Just did it last week. As commish, I actually try and share as many resources with my league as possible to close the skill gap. So all my league mates know about footballers, fantasypros, rotoworld, Twitter, etc. I find the league is much more fun when it is competitive. Having said that, there is no replacement for watching film and I know for a fact no one watches more film than me so my advantage is still there although probably not as big as you have in yours.

I should have said this but I do not advocate zero RB in standard format. Without ppr or at least half ppr, the gap between workhorse RBs and WR is too big to wait for later RBs. And like I said, this strat only works when people reach. If everyone is sensible and takes the toP WRs before you, then do not reach for another WR over an RB you have in an equal or higher tier. The only reason why this strat has been so successful for me is because people have reached for RBs and I’ve been able to pick WRs in higher tiers than remaining RBs / those who have taken. If you’re a standard league, and OBJ and Hopkins are gone, I would definitely go ahead and pick Gordon or fournette and then see what developes in the turn. I do like Adams in standard leagues though. Personally think he’s got a great shot at double digit TDs.

Thanks and yeah looking forward to it, hopefully a few of the guys who did no research last year and came in last have done some this year - we did the same and told people where to go and do their research and do mocks etc but there is still a gap from some mocks I’ve done with a few of them for fun.

Understand the standard scoring take, i did suspect given the drop off and above points but wanted to get viewpoints in case. On TE’s actually in your previous reply, if Alshon starts the year on the PUP do you consider taking Ertz in that Gronk range as a positional advantage as the main look their for those games, certainly in the redzone? Or does he stay a 4th or 5th round guy as apposed to a 3rd option for you?

  1. It all depends on who else’s is available in the 3rd. I personally have Gronk in his own tier. The value he provides is much higher than both Kelce and ertz. When he’s healthy, he is just dominant and is the clear number 1 option in a Brady led offense. Now the knock against him is he’s never fully healthy. But I’m totally fine with that. Cause if he’s injured, you don’t have to play him. So it’s not like he gets you zero points, you plug another TE in there. And when he does play, he’s a lock for TE1. Whereas guys like Kelce and ertz, sure maybe they are more healthy (ertz is debatable), you have to just plug and play them every week and they’re going to bust for you anyways. That’s why Gronk is in his own tier. So he is the only one I’m willing to take over some of the top WR targets I listed in that range. Basically, if diggs or Hilton are there in the 3rd, I’m taking them over Kelce / ertz And hope one falls to me in the 4th. If I miss then that’s fine too, I’ll just stack up on WR/RB and get someone like reed much later in the draft.

  2. When to target QB always depends on your read on your own draft. In most drafts, I don’t find myself drafting a QB until the 10th or 11th rounds where I grab someone like Stafford who is my top target. After him, I go for guys like rivers. If I miss on those, I wait even later to get guys like Ryan or mariota. I rarely draft Ben cause he always goes way too early. His home away splits are way too much. I only got him in my recent draft cause I had yardage bonuses and Ben is one of the few guys that can go out there and toss 400-500. Alex smith is a potential good value this year but typically don’t even see him being drafted. You could prolly get away with streaming. Eli Manning is another flier I love this year. He has so much talent surrounding him I think he will produce as a fantasy guy This year and will likely cost you nothing. At the end of the day though, it’s all up to you and your comfort. If you hate having to worry about streaming, then go ahead and grab a guy you like 1 or two rounds earlier. Wouldn’t reach more beyond that though b cause you really need those middle rounds to take as many shots on RB as possible.

Yep I think this is def the best year. Like I said, last year, a lot of people were trying this given WRs drastically outperformed RB in 2015. And most got burned and saw how good RBs were. And fantasy community loves to overreact so it’s prime for this. The key thing to keep in mind is why WRs didn’t work out last year. It’s cause we lost so top performing QBs. Rodgers, Watson, Wentz all lost to injury. Then on top of that, guys like cousins didn’t put up numbers cause they traded away his entire pass game and he literally lost his entire o line. Same with dak. Then you had brees and Ryan put up the worst fantasy years of there career. I say all of this to say that reversion to the mean is coming and I think WRs stand to benefit most. Not to mention changing of the catch rule make sure it even more favourable to pass now. It’s all about situations. And by this time next year, I might be on these forums advocating for 4RB open, who knows. But for this year, I think the opportunity for zero RB is prime. Like this time last year, if I were to tell you you can open your draft with OBJ and JJ, you’d prolly think I was crazy. But that is a very real and likely outcome this year.

Good question. Personally, I don’t really see alshon as a competition to ertz. They don’t really fight for the same targets. Eagles played alshon almost exclusively as the X last year running deep routes. Ertz does all his work in the middle of the field. He does get a slight boost cause it may mean more redzone targets his way. One other consideration is how healthy Wentz will be in addition to fact that I do think he sees some regression. And don’t forget they also have goederrt there. Not saying that goederrt has any chance of stealing the job, but he could vulture some red zone looks whereas gronk literally has no competition. That’s why I would never consider them in the same tier. Also, in a standard league, the value for non gronk TEs also drops a bit cause you’re basically going for TD or bust. I’d be more than fine streaming guys and picking someone like reed or njoku late. But if you’re someone who doesn’t want to deal with that, go ahead and grab ertz in the 4th.

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Good points as always, and i agree i can’t see myself reaching for a TE not named Gronk in the 3rd round and i usually do the same either go super late and if they hit great if not I’ll get someone else in to stream. Plus as you say in standard they get a bump down, i’m more concerned with stocking up on RBs and WRs then i’ll go QB rounds 9 - 10 whichever works, then fill the rest and get the upside, TE is really far down the list with kicker and D for me in this format after Gronk goes and Kelce and Ertz don’t fall to the 5th - 7th rounds

In the 3rd, i usually pick Ertz and then go for Cooper in the 4th but what’s now happening is Cooper goes before ARob/ Baldwin/ Tate/ Hill in my mocks compared to before it was the reverse.

Would you consider Cooper over Ertz in the 3.10 since Ertz is due for some regression and then go for one of these other WRs at 4.3 to keep the train rolling?

I usually go for NJoku later on.

For QB I’m on the stafford/ rivers train but that recent Lions game was painful to watch.

I’d be fine with going Arob/Baldwin/hill in hte 4th. Those are all potential WR1 upside guys. Cooper was just my favorite in the 4th round cause I thought it was a steal. Totally fine with taking Hill too though. Similar concept boom/bust guys you want as your WR3/4 but not your WR1/2.

I don’t know if Ertz is due for regression. I would prefer some of the WRs I named over Ertz though. Like Hilton, Diggs, even cooper/Hill probably. I’d be willing to take Kelce in the 3rd though. I typically don’t take Ertz until at least the 4th cause there’s others I like more than him.

But if you really wanna secure a top TE, and take him in the 3rd and Cooper is gone by the 4th, just grab one of the other guys I listed. They’re all fine too. Fitz is a boom/bust option. Depends what your roster needs by that point. If you need a safer floor, can grab like Landry who’s typically around in the 4th. Lots of good options after Cooper.

This is great stuff here - I appreciate you putting the effort to encourage the rest of us to try it. I know you said you’d normally do it for 9th or greater pick, but I’m in an 8 man league and I have the 6th pick which will most likely be Brown. Because of that it’s gotten me interested in this type of draft. Do you think there is still value in drafting like this in a 1 QB, 2RB, 2WR, 2Flex PPR league? Or should I try to lock up a 2nd tier RB after Brown and draft normally? Cheers.

In an 8 man league, there is definitely still value in this type of draft. Honestly, outside of the top 4 RBs, there just isn’t really anyone else I truly love. Whereas, there are about 4-5 WRs I am very confident in which you have the opportunity to snag two of. Pairing AB with OBJ is a very valid choice. And then in 8 person league, I value positional advantages much much more. Everyone is going to have an incredibly stacked team and I would make getting Gronk my top priority. If you think you can wait till 3rd to get him, do it. If not, I’d be totally okay with getting him in the 2nd and picking up another elite WR in the 3rd. Most people don’t recognize the value in Gronk or place emphasis on it as much as I do though so you can probably open AB/OBJ or AB/Hopkins and grab Gronk in the 3rd. And then you basically lock down positional advantage for TE and WR. And in an 8 person league, I’m not at all worried about filling in RBs via later rounds and waiver wire given how rich the waiver wire will be.

Highlight recommend the strat if you are in the position to pick 6th and can grab AB. Obv that assumes someone takes barkley ahead of AB.


I’m also in an 8-team league so I’ve been doing a lot of mock drafts using zero-RB strategy. If you’re drafting 6th or later, it seems to flow very naturally to go AB/OBJ or AB/Hopkins as @MikeMeUpp says. Most of my 8-team drafts, especially if I’m drafting 5th through 8th, I can get Gronk without having to reach too far. If you do this strategy, you have to commit to it as was said above.

I’m really pondering how this will work in my league. We start 3 WRs and 2 RBs and a flex. Because that lineup raises the value of WRs there will be at least 2 other guys who put a premium on stud WRs. If I’m the only one doing this strategy I think it works great and in mock drafts I usually score well. But if I’m competing for stud WRs I may have to take a more balanced approach.

By the way, I love my 8-team league. I like having a balanced 14-game schedule where you play everyone twice. I like that there’s great value on the waiver wire because it rewards those who stay involved. Last year I had a pretty poor draft and my #1 pick was pretty much of a bust, but I stayed very active on the WW and made a couple trades and by the end of the season I think I had the best team.

But drafting in an 8-team league means resetting values to your own situation. You don’t want to be looking at deep sleepers when the reality is that you’ll probably have several better options. I was thinking of starting a thread for 8-team leagues to sort of discuss what to expect in that type of draft.

What do you like or dislike about your 8-team league?

I see your point about starting 3WR. I have that in my league as well and to be honest with you, it doesn’t really affect things for people much. Everyone still fights for the top RBs cause end of the day, you still need to start 2x RBs. And RBs are a limited asset and everyone thinks they can all get great value in the middle rounds (I disagree btw). Also, given it’s an 8 person league, unless every single person fights for WR, there is more than enough talent to go around for you to open with 2 out of the top 6 WRs. I wouldn’t let that be a deterrent to you.

OK, you’ve given us all a lot of help and encouragement to go zero RB. In my league if I don’t draft RB until 5th round or later, I assume to top 15-20 RBs will be off the board. I just grabbed this list of RBs at FantasyPros who rank 16th through 35th in half PPR. Would you care to comment on this list, highlight those you consider the best value, downgrade or eliminate anyone you wouldn’t touch and then supplement it with anyone not on the list that you would look for later?


LeSean McCoy

Alex Collins

Kenyan Drake

Jay Ajayi

Derrick Henry

Lamar Miller

Royce Freeman

Dion Lewis

Mark Ingram

Marshawn Lynch

Rex Burkhead

Tevin Coleman

Kerryon Johnson

Sony Michel

Rashaad Penny

Chris Thompson

Carlos Hyde

Duke Johnson

Isaiah Crowell

Tarik Cohen