How a Robust RB strategy can win your fantasy championship

How do you approach a fantasy football draft from a strategy perspective? For example, do you prefer to use your early-round picks on running backs? If the answer is yes, then you’ll find yourself right at home with the robust RB strategy.

Previously, I wrote an article discussing the Zero RB strategy and now would like to focus on the other side of the ledger. This strategy goes by many names — some call it Robust RB, Zero WR, Triple RB, or RBx5. In this article, we’ll go over the strategy itself, provide a blueprint on how to execute it, which running backs to target, and give a glimpse of what your team could look like.

What is the Robust RB strategy?

The Robust RB strategy is essentially the opposite of Zero RB. You’ll focus on the running back position in the high leverage rounds (1-5) of the draft. However, you want to closely monitor the supply and demand of running backs as it’s important to be flexible.

You may consider selecting one upside wide receiver in the fourth or fifth round, depending on how the draft unfolds. At any rate, your optimal lineup entering the sixth round should be to roster five running backs.

The Zero RB strategy is better suited for PPR formats, but the Robust RB strategy can be deployed in any format. The ideal setup is where you have an equal number of running back and wide receiver starters. There is a high probability when implementing this strategy that you’ll use a running back in your flex spots.

What traits should I prioritize in a running back?

The idea of the Robust RB strategy is to prioritize running backs who play a high number of offensive snaps and average a high number of opportunities per game.

Since becoming a Fantasy Football Analyst, here’s what I’ve discovered; A running back’s number of touches is the most dependable data when attempting to project the current season based on last year’s stats.

Fantasy production for running backs is, for the most part, volume-driven. Watching a running back score a touchdown is riveting, but touchdowns don’t often carry over from one season to the next and are very volatile.

Efficiency metrics are overused

Many are enamored by efficiency metrics. Yards per rushing attempt and yards per touch are very popular. Yet, it is important to know that those statistics are unreliable.

The volume makes the world go round for running backs even if a peer is more efficient. With that being said, let’s discuss how to address the wide receiver position.

How to identify wide receiver targets

Using the Robust RB strategy, you will want to target wide receivers tied to productive offenses that average a high number of passing yards per game. Targets and air yards per game should also factor into your decision-making process. Air yards indicate how far a pass traveled in the air before it was caught.

You must become proficient at out-picking your league-mates at receiver. The good news is that numerous articles here at Pro Football Network can help you identify fantasy breakout or undervalued receivers.

Addressing the quarterback and tight end positions

It is best to wait on the quarterback and tight end position when executing the Robust RB strategy. Let’s take a look at what your Robust RB team could look like this summer if you are drafting in a 12-team 0.5 PPR league.

Robust RB strategy draft scenarios

What could your fantasy team look like using the Robust RB strategy?

Early Draft Position

The first hypothetical I will show you is if you are drafting anywhere from 1.01 to 1.04. In this range, you could select Dalvin Cook in the first round. Cook has averaged 24.2 opportunities (rushing attempts and targets) and 21.1 fantasy points per game.

Then follow up by selecting Clyde Edwards-Helaire. CEH averaged 18.2 opportunities per game as a rookie. Furthermore, he is expected to be used more as a receiver out of the backfield in 2021.

D’Andre Swift would be another intriguing selection in Round 3, followed by Myles Gaskin in the fourth round. With this in mind, Mike Davis — who is readily available in the fifth round — can be your fifth running back.

Mid Draft Position

The second hypothetical includes drafting in the 1.05 to 1.08 range. Using the Robust RB strategy in this range, your first-round pick could be Alvin Kamara. Kamara has averaged 19.4 opportunities and has finished as an RB1 in 66% of his games over the last two seasons.

Your next selection could then be Austin Ekeler. He’s actively used as a runner and receiver out of the backfield in Los Angeles. Ekeler has averaged 16.2 opportunities per game over the last two seasons.

Chris Carson is another undervalued back and is a great selection in Round 3, followed by Kareem Hunt in the fourth round. Generally, Chase Edmonds is a solid selection here in the fifth round.

Late Draft Position

The final hypothetical is drafting in the 1.09 to 1.12 range. Here, you may be able to select Aaron Jones in the first round. Jones has averaged 19 opportunities and 19.2 fantasy points per game over the last two seasons.

After that, Cam Akers is a solid pickup if he’s available. Akers was a difference-maker late last season and is positioned to dominate touches for the Los Angeles Rams in 2021. Similar to the other draft positions, Carson, Gaskin, Hunt, Davis, and Edmonds are all excellent players to target in Rounds 3-5.

Want more fantasy football analysis and news?

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay current with all things around the NFL and the upcoming 2021 fantasy football season. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis while also visiting our fantasy football section for more coverage and up-to-date rankings.

Eric is a Senior Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow Eric on Twitter @EricNMoody.

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