The 2020 NFL (and fantasy football) season is right around the corner, so fantasy drafts are starting to pick up more and more. With that comes all sorts of “league-winning strategies” that you’ll see fantasy analysts talking about. One commonly talked about strategy is zero running back (RB). So we will go over what zero RB means and why Zack Moss is an ideal player to look for when deploying this strategy in your fantasy football drafts.
What is zero RB?
Zero RB is a fantasy football drafting strategy that focuses on ignoring the running back position early in your draft and going after wide receivers instead. The reasoning for that is the wide receiver position has historically been less volatile than the running back position. Wide receivers typically score more consistently throughout a season (and more consistently week-to-week) and don’t come with as much standard deviation. Plus, they don’t typically carry the same injury risk as a running back would.
For example, in 2019 (half point-per-reception scoring), the difference between the highest-scoring running back (Christian McCaffrey) and second-highest-scoring running back (Aaron Jones) was 122.9 fantasy points (7.68 points per week). The difference between the highest-scoring wide receiver (Michael Thomas) and second-highest-scoring (Chris Godwin) was 67 points (4.19 points per week).
If you look at the scoring difference between McCaffrey and the 12th highest-scoring running back (Alvin Kamara), it is a whopping 205.2 points. Meanwhile, the difference between Thomas and the 12th highest-scoring wide receiver (Mike Evans) was 100.9 points. So the deviation between running back and wide receiver scoring is drastically different and highlights the consistency of wide receivers.
So using zero RB, one would approach their fantasy football draft targeting the wide receiver position early and then looking at the running back position later on. Typically, the running backs drafted using this strategy are those who carry a high ceiling and are typically a personnel change (injury, trade, demotion) away from hitting their potential. Often, it’s usually a “handcuff” (a backup who would be first on the depth chart if the starter gets hurt) or a player stuck in running-back-by-committee (RBBC) fighting for snaps.
Introducing Zack Moss
Moss will be playing in his rookie season this year after having a successful career at the University of Utah. He was a three-year starter whose best season was his most recent one. He finished with over 1,800 scrimmage yards and 17 touchdowns. It was his third straight season with at least 1,000 yards rushing. He had a yards-per-carry average of 6.0 and a staggering 13.9 yards-per-reception mark.
Moss would be named the PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2019 and would help bolster his case for being one of the top running backs in this past NFL Draft.
Moss’ Relative Athletic Score (RAS)
Athletically speaking, Moss did not score well by RAS standards (2.88 out of 10). While he would grade out “okay” in regards to size, his speed grade turned out to be “very poor”. Seeing Moss play in college though, he was never the type of running back known for his speed to begin with. Despite his lackluster athletic profile, the Buffalo Bills have shown the ability to get good production out of running backs with a less-than-stellar RAS like fellow teammate Devin Singletary (1.73).
Situation heading into rookie season
Coming into his rookie season, Moss will be joining Singletary as the two primary running backs on the Bills’ depth chart. In his second season himself, Singletary found himself in a similar situation to Moss’ in his rookie season. Singletary was competing for touches in the offense behind veteran Frank Gore. With Gore having signed with the New York Jets, Singletary is expected to take over as the “starter” with Moss behind as the “backup” or the 1B to Singletary’s 1A status.
How the 2020 Buffalo Bills look
Moss finds himself on a Bills team that boasted one of the best rushing offenses in the league last season. They finished sixth in rushing attempts (465, 29 per game) and eighth in rushing yards per game (128.4). It’s worth mentioning that this was with aging veteran Gore leading the team with 166 carries (and only a 3.6 yards-per-carry mark to show for it). So there will be vacated carries up for grabs between Moss & Singletary to battle for.
Singletary had an impressive 5.1 yards-per-carry last season but only two rushing touchdowns on 151 carries. He was extremely inefficient as a receiver as well with a 6.69 yards per reception and had a 9.8% drop rate. Singletary also only received three goal-line carries in 2019, compared to Gore’s 18.
Singletary has a smaller stature than Moss at 5’7″, 203 pounds (compared to Moss at 5’9″, 223 pounds). While he did finish out the year healthy (besides sitting in Week 17 with most of Buffalo’s starters), Singletary struggled quite a bit earlier in the season with an injury. He missed three games with a hurt hamstring, which is notable going forward for a guy like Moss who will be competing for touches.
While Moss’ receiving ability wasn’t necessarily one of his strongest qualities coming out of college, he showed well in limited samples. As mentioned above, Singletary struggled when relied upon in the receiving game. Moss could provide some more stability and consistency as a receiver out of the backfield. Plus, Moss’ size makes him much more likely to inherit more of Gore’s now-vacated goal-line touches than Singletary.
How fellow offensive weapons will impact Moss
One unique variable in this offense is the rushing ability of quarterback Josh Allen. In his first two seasons, Allen has accumulated 1,141 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. On top of that, Allen has run the ball quite a bit in the red-zone, finishing with 21 carries in the red-zone in 2019. That number was second amongst quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson finished with 26). Allen’s ability to run with the football further muddies the battle for carries in this offense.
One of the main reasons the Bills have relied upon Allen’s ability to run the ball is because of his size (6’5″, 237 pounds), which is something that Singletary lacks in. So inserting Moss into the running back group could allow the Bills to run a more traditional offense in the red-zone and avoid the risk that comes with opening up your quarterback to those types of hits that come with being a scrambling quarterback.
Buffalo has also made serious investments in their offensive line. Between the recent contract extension of left tackle Dion Dawkins, drafting Cody Ford in the second round of last years’ draft, they have worked on turning a weakness into a strength. Those moves in addition to the free-agent additions of Quinton Spain, Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano, and Brian Winters between the 2019 and 2020 offseasons has helped the unit turn a 180. It has been evident as they now have one of the most formidable rushing offenses in the entire league.
Moss’ 2020 fantasy outlook
Why is he a zero RB target?
Most of the hype around this offense’s running back group has been focused on Singletary. According to FantasyPros, Singletary average draft position in half point-per-reception leagues is 59th overall and as the 24th running back selected. Moss, on the other hand, is being selected 150th overall and as the 48th running back off the board. Singletary’s draft position represents him being a risk at that cost. Between his lack of red-zone/goal-line work, inconsistency in the receiving game, and smaller stature, Singletary carries a lot of risks. But with Moss, he is virtually free in 12-team leagues with his 15th-round cost.
Singletary only had Gore to compete for touches last season. Now he finds himself fighting with Moss, a more formidable opponent. Moss comes with the more ideal size, more efficient receiving ability, and better pass-blocking skills as well. Should Singletary become injured (which we already saw last season in a multiple-game absence), Moss is the clearcut starting RB and would have virtually no competition behind him in a high-powered rushing offense. It’s hard to find that much value so late in a draft.
Not only is Moss being drafted in fantasy leagues as a handcuff (which he clearly is more than that) but as more and more leagues utilize half/whole point-per-reception scoring, Moss will be able to provide even more value with Singletary not bringing too much to the table in the receiving game. So he may even be able to provide standalone value without an injury to Singletary.
Overall, despite being a rookie and not walking into a starting role immediately, Moss brings a lot to the table for not only the Bills but for those fantasy owners lucky enough to have him. He is a player that will be able to come into his rookie season and add different dimensions to their run game that Singletary would struggle to do. Whether you are employing a zero RB strategy in your fantasy draft or are just simply looking for a good sleeper to have on your team, Moss checks off a lot of boxes. Be sure to grab him in your draft while you still can.
Doug Moore is a fantasy football writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @DMooreNFL.