Explaining How Zero WR Strategy Works for Fantasy Football Drafts

What is a Zero WR strategy in fantasy football leagues, and how can fantasy managers use it to draft a winning roster in dynasty startups?

We’ve previously gone over the basics of executing a Zero RB strategy in a dynasty startup. Today, let’s discuss the best way to implement a Zero WR strategy in your dynasty fantasy football startup draft.

Zero WR and How It Benefits in a Dynasty Startup Draft

When comparing the popularity of Zero RB to Zero WR, it isn’t close. Whether it’s keeper, dynasty, or redraft, Zero WR is seldom used. In dynasty startup drafts, it’s the least common strategy.

Zero WR is best described as a risky and unconventional dynasty startup draft strategy. For fantasy managers unfamiliar with the approach, it’s important to understand why it is risky, and what the benefits are if you get it right.

Hopefully, you’ve read my primer on Zero RB in dynasty startup drafts. That way you already understand what the “zero” means. Zero WR is the same strategy, except flip the running back and wide receiver roles.

Zero WR is one of the many derivative strategies from Shawn Siegle’s original 2013 Zero RB strategy. The goal of Zero WR is to dominate fantasy football’s most important position and backfill wide receivers later in your draft.

How To Implement Zero WR in a Dynasty Startup Draft

The purpose of primer articles on dynasty startup draft strategies is to make you a well-rounded and educated fantasy manager. By no means would I ever recommend entering a draft with a Zero WR strategy. Nevertheless, it’s useful to know what it is just in case you find yourself in a situation where it becomes a viable thing to do during your draft.

Wide receivers are the lifeblood of dynasty rosters. They have longer careers than running backs, which is why you should build your team around them. With that said, it’s impossible to predict how a draft will go.

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There are certainly people out there who stared at a draft board and realized Zero WR was the best path to take. It doesn’t happen often. But there are hundreds of thousands of fantasy drafts conducted every year. It’s going to happen for at least one manager in some of them. If you encounter one of those draft rooms, you need to be equipped with the tools to attack it.

In my Zero RB article, I discussed how the strategy and punting Year 1 work well together. As you may have surmised, Zero WR works better if you’re trying to win right away in your dynasty league.

How Zero WR and a Win-Now Approach in a Dynasty Startup Draft Mesh Well Together

The shelf life of a running back is far shorter than that of a wide receiver.

If you’re loading up on 3-4 RBs in the first 6-7 rounds of your dynasty startup draft, you need them to produce right away. You’re likely drafting running backs that are proven and in their prime. These players may be 24, 25, or 26 years old — perhaps even older. You know some of them likely won’t be on your team in three or four years.

Some of the best wide receivers in the NFL right now were drafted from 2013-2015. There’s not a single running back drafted before 2016 that is even remotely fantasy-relevant in 2024, And only two from 2016 remain relevant.

If you draft wide receivers, you can be more confident in them sticking around for more than half a decade. The point of this is to emphasize that if you want to set yourself up for long-term success, a Zero WR strategy is not the way to do it.

If you’re going Zero WR, you’re making a decision that you want to come out blasting. In essence, you’re treating the initial startup draft more like it’s a redraft league. If you want to build a roster that ascends to the top in two or three years and stays there, this is not the way.

I know I’ve spent a fair amount of time warning against Zero WR. That’s because dynasty managers are often hyper-focused on the future. They’re looking to build, well … a dynasty. This frequently results in older veterans who are still very good players being pushed down draft boards.

As these teams load up on first and second-year players, the opportunity will be there for you to load up on early-round running backs and hope they stay healthy and pan out.

In dynasty startup drafts, veteran wide receivers (think guys that are 29-31 years old but not done yet) often fall way further than they do in redraft leagues. These guys are still productive.

If you grab two RB1s and an RB2 in the first five rounds, you should still be able to get good enough wide receivers in the middle rounds. Add in an elite QB and elite TE, and you probably have a roster impossible to draft in redraft.

The 2024 season is setting up to be one of the best times in history to execute Zero WR. I can’t remember there ever being this many highly effective wide receivers over the age of 30.

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We have Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Keenan Allen, Mike Evans, and DeAndre Hopkins. To a lesser extent, there’s Stefon Diggs and Cooper Kupp (although both of these guys may very well be cooked).

In a startup, you will see these wide receivers go behind younger ones who will almost certainly be drafted behind the veterans in redraft leagues. There’s a world where you could open RB-QB-RB-RB-TE, and still get a WR corps of Evans, Diggs, and Hopkins.

If the RBs do what they’re supposed to do, along with your elite QB and solid TE1, you should have a sizable advantage over your league-mates for at least the first season.

What Are the Risks of Using a Zero WR Strategy in a Dynasty Startup?

The biggest risk is if it doesn’t work. Of course, that applies to any strategy. But if you draft young players and most of them don’t pan out, you still have young players. There’s usually someone who works out or someone with enough potential to sell.

If you draft older players and you don’t win, those players are another year older after the season. Their value is only going to worsen. In some cases, the veterans you drafted may just be done.

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If you don’t succeed in Year 1, you’re without sustainable wide receivers, and your running backs may lose value quickly.

Plus, in all likelihood, the RBs didn’t work out as well as you expected. They’re also going to be a year older, and one year in a running back’s life is equivalent to two and a half in a wide receiver’s.

I like to use the 2017 season as a historical example because of how quickly the consensus elite running backs went from the “lottery” talents to out of the league.

Entering that year, imagine how stacked your roster would be if you went all-in on David Johnson, Todd Gurley, and Le’Veon Bell. These players were ages 26, 24, and 25, respectively.

If you didn’t win that year, by 2019, those three combined lost about 90% of their value. That’s just two years afterward for three players very much in their primes at the time.

The NFL changes quickly, especially at running back. Going with a Zero WR strategy can give you a substantial edge early in your dynasty tenure. Just know that even if you get it right, you’re setting yourself up to rebuild within the first 2-4 years. Make sure you’re fully prepared and know the pros and cons heading into your dynasty startup draft.

With the fantasy football season behind us, why not start preparing for your rookie drafts with our dynasty rookie rankings? Additionally, as you look to improve your team heading into 2024, our dynasty trade calculator can help you find the perfect deal to boost your championship chances.

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