“Off the Matt” Zero RB: All the Cool Kids are Doing it
The Zero RB strategy has been growing in popularity since its inception in 2013. The happenings of the 2015 NFL season created a perfect storm for Zero RB to explode in 2016 fantasy drafts.
Take a look at the top 10 flex fantasy scorers from the 2015 season.
- Antonio Brown
- Julio Jones
- Devonta Freeman
- Brandon Marshall
- Adrian Peterson
- Allen Robinson
- Odell Beckham Jr.
- DeAndre Hopkins
- Doug Martin
- Doug Baldwin
I put them in bold to make sure you didn’t overlook the three running backs that cracked the top 10. Peterson was a consensus top 5 selection so he lived up to his draft day billing. Peterson is also not human, so it doesn’t really count. Doug Martin went in the 4th round, and the top scoring fantasy running back, Devonta Freeman went in round 7. Of the seven receivers who finished in the top 10, four were taken in the first two rounds.
So the narrative is out
Top tier wide receivers are more likely to live up to their ADP than top tier running backs.
Fast forward to 2016 drafts…
1. Antonio Brown (1.0)
2. Odell Beckham Jr. (2.5)
3. Todd Gurley (3.5)
4. Julio Jones (3.9)
Three receivers in the first four picks! This is absolutely monumental in the game of fantasy football. I have been drafting since 1998 and this will be the first time that I can recall anything even close to this occurring. Up until just a few years ago there would be one maybe two receivers selected in the first round, and it certainly wasn’t happening in the early part of Round 1. I remember in the early 2000s, I played in a 10-man league. I had the 10th/11th pick and went Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison. At the time, it seemed crazy to go WR/WR with your first two picks, but in today’s landscape it has become quite common.
A lot has changed since that crazy day in the early 2000s when I took a leap of faith and went receiver with my first two selections. Aside from putting on 50lbs and losing 50,000 hairs from my head the game of football itself has changed.
Don’t believe me?
Just 10 short years ago eight running backs had 314+ carries. In 2015, Adrian Peterson was the only back to crack 300 carries.
How about the quarterbacks?
In 2005, only two quarterbacks were able to break the 4000 yard plateau. Last season, 12 quarterbacks hit the not-so-gold standard that is 4000 yards.
It’s a passing league people, get on board.
With that said there are certain spots to draft from that will give you the best opportunity to land a dynamic duo of receivers with your first two picks.
This one is easy, you are going to land either Brown, Beckham, or Jones with your first pick. In round 2 which will be picks 22-24 you would be looking at choosing between Mike Evan, Alshon Jeffery, and Amari Cooper.
Jones / Evans
Beckham / Jeffery
Brown / Cooper
I think I could make do with any of those combinations.
The real kicker is with the early pick in round three you can pick up Brandin Cooks and be absolutely loaded at WR.
This is the only spot in the draft that I would abandon Zero RB. The 4-7 picks are prime to select the likes of Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Ezekiel Elliott. With the quarterback issues in Minnesota and Dallas, a case could be made to slide DeAndre Hopkins in here. If you would decide to take Hopkins in this range you would likely be able to pair him with Jordy Nelson on the way back.
This is the popular landing spot for A.J. Green, Allen Robinson, and Dez Bryant. On the way back you would have your choice from any of the second round guys above, plus Brandon Marshall and Keenan Allen who seems to be all over the fantasy map. In the mocks that I have done, he has gone anywhere from pick 12 to 26.
It has hard to predict exactly how it will shake out, but of those five names the only combination that I don’t think would be possible to land would be Green and Robinson.
Green / Dez or Marshall or Allen
Robinson / Dez or Marshall or Allen
Dez / Marshall or Allen
To continue your quest for Zero RB glory, in Round 3 some of the receivers that you should target would be the aforementioned Brandin Cooks as well as Demaryius Thomas, T.Y. Hilton, and Sammy Watkins. Nabbing Jordan Reed wouldn’t be a bad play either.
The Zero RB strategy is best suited for PPR leagues, but even in standard scoring, I think I could make any of the above combinations work.
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