Explaining how Zero RB strategy works for fantasy football drafts

Are you familiar with the Zero RB strategy? This draft strategy was created by RotoViz co-owner, 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion, and 11-time main event league winner Shawn Siegele. He has implemented it in hundreds of high-stakes fantasy football leagues.

Zero RB draft strategy

However, the biggest misconception of the Zero RB strategy is how it is executed in an actual fantasy draft. As a former RotoViz contributor, I’m very familiar with Zero RB and how to implement it in a high-stakes fantasy draft.

In fact, I wrote a series during the 2015 season chronicling an FFPC (Fantasy Football Players Championship), beginning with draft preparation all the way to championship weekend. This article will tell you about the origins of the Zero RB strategy, what type of players to target when implementing it, and a mock draft showing you what your team could look like.

Things that gain from disorder

Have you ever heard of the book Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb? Taleb is a scholar, statistician, former trader, and risk analyst whose work focuses on problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty. He described the word Antifragile in his 2012 best seller as:

“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure. Yet in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

Let’s continue to examine one of the most popular strategies used in fantasy football drafts.

VBD is flawed

The theory of antifragility resonated with Siegele. It also resonated with me in multiple aspects of my life. You have to take calculated risks to be successful, whether it be personally or professionally. This also applies to fantasy football. It doesn’t feel comfortable going against the grain. Now, let’s discuss the flaws of value-based drafting Siegele mentioned in his groundbreaking article.

The issues with VBD

One issue with VBD is that it focuses on creating replacement baselines. Most analyses generate inaccurate and misleading baselines, according to Rotoviz creator Frank DuPont. The essential issue in fantasy football deals with running backs and their relative scarcity.

DuPont also demonstrated how the injury problem with running backs pushes their baseline even lower than traditionally understood and shows the necessity for having even more redundancy at the position than you might otherwise think.

Which group are you in?

Taleb divides things into three groups: fragile, resilient/robust, and antifragile.

The VBD fantasy diehards fall into the fragile group, according to Siegele. These rosters are fragile in the face of prediction errors and are overwhelmingly weak against injuries.

Is your preference to select running backs early and often? If the answer is yes, then you’d be in the resilient/robust group.

According to Siegele, the central idea behind these types of lineups is that not all of your predictions will come true. Players will sustain an injury. The antifragile group is those implementing and embracing a Zero RB strategy. You must be wondering how to implement the strategy.

Implementing Zero RB draft strategy

You can implement a Zero RB strategy by not selecting a running back in the high leverage rounds (Rounds 1-5), according to Siegele. He does, however, consider drafting one upside running back in the fourth or fifth round, depending on the flow of the fantasy draft. It is essential to be flexible.

The high leverage rounds

Your preferred lineup after five rounds should be to roster four wide receivers and one tight end. The goal of the Zero RB strategy is not simply to find value at the position from here on out. Instead, you want to identify running backs who have the potential to become league winners. This could be due to an injury from the previous season or an opportunity due to underperforming teammates.

Now, you’re thinking about what criteria to use.

The criteria you should use to identify viable running backs

It would be best to prioritize running backs who have a specific role in their respective offenses and provide a few useable weeks. Analyzing the ADP of running backs who are part of a team’s committee will explain how other fantasy managers project these players.

Secondly, you want to identify players who will be provided opportunities as a runner and a receiver. Opportunities equal fantasy points. As a reminder, you are prioritizing running backs who have the potential to play all three downs.

Thirdly, you want to target productive offenses, ones that average a high number of total yards and points scored per game. Running backs connected to these types of offenses generally play a higher number of offensive snaps and are provided more opportunities.

Fantasy opportunity in chaos

The randomness throughout an NFL season benefits your team. As Sun-Tzu said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

If a starting running back gets hurt, your lineup improves because you already have the backup on your roster or the chance to acquire the backup on the waiver wire.

The next piece of information I’m going to mention is vital and echoes what Siegele stated in his original article.

I’m not rooting for any player to get injured. Siegele mentioned that “I’m a big believer in karma. I tend to think of this in the following terms: if I root for someone to get injured, it’s more likely one of my foundational players will get injured instead.”

The careers of these players are more important than fantasy points. A serious injury could jeopardize that. Historically, running backs get injured at a higher rate than other positions. This is the knowledge you should leverage when executing this draft strategy. Therefore, let me share a few running backs to implement a Zero RB strategy for in your draft.

Zero RB targets

Atlanta Falcons running back Mike Davis is underrated. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, he’s a relatively inexpensive three-down back at his current sixth-round ADP in 12-team formats.

Las Vegas Raiders running back Kenyan Drake is another excellent value at his seventh-round ADP. He’s totaled 3,266 yards and 27 touchdowns over the last three seasons. Additionally, Drake has finished as an RB2 or better in 54% of his games in PPR formats over that time frame.

Jamaal Williams is another tremendous value at his 10th round ADP. He and committee mate D’Andre Swift will both be actively involved. New Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn schemed 26% of passes and 41% of touches to running backs during his four years with the Chargers.

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.

Eric Moody is a Senior Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). He is also the co-host of the In The Mood for Fantasy Football podcast. You can read more of his work here and follow Eric on Twitter @EricNMoody.


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