Zero RB Strategy: How to implement it into dynasty fantasy football drafts

What is the Zero RB strategy, and how can you implement it into your startup dynasty fantasy football drafts?

PFN’s dynasty 101 series continues by diving into the specifics of dynasty startup draft strategies. Today, let’s discuss the best way to implement a Zero RB strategy in your dynasty fantasy football startup draft.

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How to thrive in a draft using the Zero RB strategy

Zero RB is a risky yet potentially very beneficial strategy for dynasty startup drafts. What are the benefits (and risks) associated with ignoring running backs early in your draft?

What is Zero RB?

For those unfamiliar, the Zero RB draft strategy is the brainchild of Shawn Siegele. In 2013, Siegele laid out what was, at the time, a radical draft strategy that involved drafting zero running backs.

Obviously, Zero RB doesn’t mean you literally don’t draft a single running back. The basic tenet of the strategy is to leverage the risky nature of running backs into a sizable advantage at wide receiver (and to a lesser extent, tight end and quarterback).

Zero RB has spawned multiple derivatives over the years. But in its purest form, you will not draft your first running back until at least the sixth or seventh round. The goal is to load up on wide receivers as well as secure an elite tight end, quarterback, or both.

How to implement Zero RB in a dynasty startup draft

I’m not a fan of the Zero RB strategy in redraft. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever do it. I just won’t go into a draft planning to go Zero RB. I believe it should be a strategy you pivot to based on how the draft goes.

In dynasty, it’s another story. Zero RB is very viable in a dynasty startup, especially if you’re planning on punting Year 1.

How Zero RB and punting Year 1 in a dynasty startup mesh together

The most valuable asset in fantasy football is the elite RB. Of course, finding one is easier said than done. Wide receivers are more reliable than running backs both in terms of longevity and year-to-year consistency. If your plan entering your dynasty startup draft is to tank the first season with the goal of putting together a juggernaut beginning in Year 2, Zero RB may be the way to go.

Wide receivers stay at the top longer than running backs. Typically peaking at around age 25, the average shelf life of a running back is only 3-4 years. Meanwhile, wide receivers start to peak around age 24 and often stay at or near their apex until age 29.

Therefore, by loading up on wide receivers early, you can put together the nucleus of your dynasty roster and feel confident those players will still be around to provide you with value for years to come. Then, in Year 2, you can add the running backs.

Rookie running backs are far easier to project for immediate production than rookie wide receivers. If you’re punting Year 1, you’re planning on having a top 2-3 pick in your rookie draft the following season. There should be an RB available that can contribute right away. At the same time, you’ll already have a bunch of quality receivers because you focused on them in the early rounds of your dynasty startup. This is a very viable strategy that, if done right, can set you up to dominate for several years.

What are the risks of using a Zero RB strategy in a dynasty startup?

Where dynasty differs from redraft most is in roster size. In dynasty, you’re likely drafting 25-30 players. In a redraft league, teams that go Zero RB will be looking to shuffle through running backs on the waiver wire with the goal of eventually finding a couple that can stick around. That’s exceedingly difficult in dynasty leagues because the waiver wire is much more barren.

As a result, you need to make sure you’re drafting running backs in the later rounds with plausible upside. Avoid older backs and don’t draft floor players. Those RBs that only see a handful of carries but are good for a couple of receptions without three-down or touchdown upside? Ignore those.

Focus on young running backs that are stuck behind an established starter. You want guys that can conceivably win a backfield either with performance or if the starter gets hurt/leaves the following season.

A Zero RB strategy in a dynasty startup draft can be very advantageous if done correctly. However, it can set your team back multiple seasons if things go awry. There’s inherent risk in everything about fantasy football. Zero RB is a high upside strategy, but it has a low floor if you miss on the wide receivers or can’t find startable running backs.

Jason Katz is a Fantasy Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @jasonkatz13 and find more of his work here.

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