Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Chase Edmonds
- Chris Raybon explains what the Zero RB fantasy football strategy is (and isn't) and how to use it to get an edge.
- He also highlights his favorite Zero RB targets for 2019.
I have a love-hate relationship with Zero RB.
If you’re not familiar, Zero RB is a strategy that Sean Siegele first brilliantly laid out in 2013. It essentially calls for bypassing RBs though the first few rounds in order to get studs in all of your other starting slots, particularly at the pass-catching positions of WR and TE.
I love it because it’s both contrarian and anti-fragile, which I believe is necessary in a game like fantasy football, where your chances of winning are usually somewhere in the range of 1-in-8 to 1-in-12, anyway.
At the same time, I hate that it has become so trendy — the whole reason it worked for Siegele and others was because it was contrarian. If your entire league attempts to go Zero RB all at once, then the correct move would be to hammer RB early and often, because that’s where the value would be.
With that said, let’s look at what has made the strategy work and how to do it right in 2019.
What Makes Zero RB Work?
Running backs get hurt more than other positions. According to a study by ProFootballLogic.com, the average RB misses 2.7 games out of 16 on average while WRs miss 2.0, TEs miss 1.8 and and QBs miss 1.1.
While the most robust response to the heightened attrition rate at RB is to prioritize addressing the position early and often in fantasy drafts, that approach also has its drawbacks.
For one, even though RBs tend to be the most valuable position in most fantasy formats due precisely to the positional scarcity that results from their increased rate of injury, high-end production at the position is also not as exclusive to a select group at the position over the course of the season as it is at the pass-catching positions.
For example, it is far more common for a running back who might have been a healthy scratch early in the season to end up being thrust into a role that sees them handle 20 touches a game, but rarely does a team’s fourth or fifth pass-catching option end up becoming a target monster and fantasy league-winner even when injuries to players ahead of them on the depth chart do occur.
So instead of trying to make up the RB position’s inevitable elevated rate of missed games by using a large amount of prime draft capital at the position, what the Zero RB strategy attempts to do is give you an edge at the pass-catching positions that will be difficult for opponents to make up.
If you’re able to execute this approach effectively and couple it with a little positive luck and variance at RB, you can often create a gap gap between yourself and your opponents that’s more sizable than what would otherwise be possible when employing a more traditional approach.
How to Execute Zero RB
Zero RB works best in PPR leagues — particularly full PPR — as this maximizes the importance of pass catchers relative to RBs.
The Ideal Zero RB Candidate
The ideal candidate is a back capable of outperforming his average draft position (ADP) who is still available after you have addressed at the very least all of your starting pass-catcher slots, as well as secured a pass catcher for your FLEX.
Just as the best late-round QB candidates tend to have rushing upside, the best Zero RB candidates tend to have receiving upside.