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Ideal Lineup for Zero Running Back Strategy (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Lauren Carpenter | @stepmomlauren | Featured Writer
Jul 27, 2020

In my last article, I covered the Ideal Lineup for the Zero WR Draft Strategy. Now, let’s explore the Zero RB draft strategy to identify round-by-round targets to create an ideal lineup.

If you haven’t heard of the Zero RB draft strategy before, check out a sample mock draft or this strategic breakdown for detailed explanations of the process and this strategy’s pros and cons. For our purposes, the Zero RB strategy means that we won’t draft a running back until the sixth Round. This allows us to load up on elite talent at wide receiver, tight end, and quarterback.

There are a few things I should mention in regard to this strategy. If you’re drafting early and have the chance to take Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, or any of the top-five elite running backs, draft those players. Then start your Zero RB strategy in the following round. I have also found that the Zero RB strategy works better if you are drafting in the later slots at seventh or later. The best format for Zero RB is usually full-PPR. The receiving positions, such as tight end and wide receiver, are far more valuable, and that makes it smart to wait on a running back.

As with any draft, remember to stay fluid and be flexible. Each draft is different, and you may find that you need to change up your strategy more than once during a single draft.

Let’s take a look at players we should target round-by-round to set up an ideal lineup for the Zero RB approach. I will use ADP (Average Draft Position) and our Consesus Rankings to create a list of names that we can draft at each round of our draft. Then we will use our Mock Draft Simulator and see how our team shakes out.

Complete early mock drafts using our free draft simulator >>

Players To Target

Full-PPR, 12 Team, 7th position or later, QB, 3WR, 2RB, Flex, 6 Bench

Round 1: Michael Thomas (WR – NO) OR Davante Adams (WR – GB)

Since this is the Ideal Lineup for Zero RB, Michael Thomas should be your pick in the first round. However, if we are drafting from the seventh spot or later, it may not be possible since Thomas’ ADP is right at 1.05. If Thomas is already gone, then Adams can be your go-to WR1 option.

Other Players Considered: Tyreek Hill (WR – KC), Julio Jones (WR – ATL)

Round 2: Chris Godwin (WR – TB): Half and Full-PPR; Julio Jones (WR – ATL): STD
Godwin lived up to his offseason hype in 2019, as he finished as the WR2 in full-PPR. He is an excellent choice to add to our elite receiving corps, as he will absorb many short passes from newly acquired Tom Brady. You can also take a look at Jones as your WR2 in all formats. I am targeting Godwin in PPR scoring for the high volume of targets he will see in 2020.

Since we are waiting on our running back until the 6th Round, you do not have to take a receiver here. If you are in a TE-premium league, take advantage of Travis Kelce or George Kittle

There are a plethora of options that are all very good. It’s hard to go wrong here with all the talent still on the board.

Other Players Considered: Travis Kelce (TE – KC), George Kittle (TE – SF), Julio Jones (WR – ATL), DeAndre Hopkins (WR – ARI)

Round 3: JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – PIT)
Smith-Schuster looks to have a bounce-back year in 2020 with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. Diontae Johnson exploded onto the scene as a wicked downfield threat in his rookie year and looks to get even better with Roethlisberger at the helm. The Steelers are moving Smith-Schuster back into the slot where he dominates, especially in PPR scoring.

Other Players Considred: Mark Andrews (TE – BAL), Kenny Golladay (WR – DET), Adam Thielen (WR – MIN), Allen Robinson (WR – CHI), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE)

Round 4: Mark Andrews (TE – BAL)
Full disclosure: I would be completely comfortable reaching for Andrews in the third round. His ADP is in the middle of the fourth, but if you feel the need to snag him a round earlier, do it. Tight end talent is concentrated at the top, and a consistent option is difficult to come by. With fellow tight end Hayden Hurst gone to a new team, Andrews will see increased volume in the Ravens’ offense.

Other Players Considered: Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR) , Calvin Ridley (WR – ATL), Robert Woods (WR LAR)

Round 5: Russell Wilson (QB – SEA) OR Kyler Murray (QB – ARI)
I usually wait to take a quarterback, but the Zero RB strategy is centered around acquiring talent at all other positions early. We aren’t losing value by taking a signal-caller now, as we must load up at running back for the next few rounds.

If you do decide to wait on a quarterback, there are a lot of late round options like Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford. Alternatively, you can use this last Zero RB spot for another wide receiver.

Other Players Considered: D.J. Chark (WR – JAC), D.K. Metcalf (WR – SEA), Tyler Lockett (WR – SEA), T.Y. Hilton (WR – IND), Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS)

Round 6: James White (RB – NE): PPR; Raheem Mostert: Half-PPR; Kerryon Johnson (RB – DET): Half-PPR and Standard
White is an excellent option as a starting rusher in full-PPR formats. He had 95 targets with 72 receptions for 645 yards and five touchdowns last year. Even with questions surrounding the starting quarterback, White can give you consistent fantasy production every week as the Patriots’ pass-catching running back.

Mostert has an opportunity (barring a trade) to be more involved in the run game with Matt Breida (RB – MIA) shipped off to Florida. Although he has been in the league since 2015, Mostert was finally given the chance to be involved in the 49ers’ offense last year. He rushed a career-high 137 times for 772 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also involved in the passing game seeing 22 targets, 14 receptions, 180 yards, and two touchdowns. He is also a viable option in standard formats if you are concerned with Kerryon Johnson’s sustainability.

Johnson is a riskier pick as your first RB in this round, but if he can stay healthy, he has a chance to see production in the Lions’ backfield. Rookie D’Andre Swift (RB – DET) is there to potentially leech touches from Johnson who only played eight games last year due to injury. Had Johnson played a full 16 games, he could have seen roughly 225 attempts for over 800 yards and six touchdowns if we take the average of his first eight weeks.

Other Players Considered: Damien Williams (RB – KC), Ronald Jones II (RB – TB)

Round 7: Derrius Guice (RB – WAS)
It’s easy to forget about Guice since he really hasn’t seen the field that much. After an explosive collegiate career, he suffered a torn ACL in 2018 ending his rookie year in the NFL before it even began. Then he only played five games last year after suffering another series of injuries. 

If Guice can stay fully healthy, he should have a shot at being the main guy in Washington.

Other Players Considered: Tevin Coleman (RB – SF), Jordan Howard (RB – MIA), Ronald Jones II (RB – TB), Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB – TB)

Round 8: Matt Breida (RB – MIA): Half and Full-PPR; Jordan Howard (RB – MIA): STD
Miami has two new additions to their running back room with Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. While Howard will dominate as the line-of-scrimmage back, Breida will have the opportunity to make explosive plays as a receiver. Howard would be the back to take in non-PPR formats while Breida is better equipped to be a threat in the passing game and PPR scoring.

Other Players Considered: Tarik Cohen (RB – CHI), Alexander Mattison (RB – MIN)

Round 9: Phillip Lindsay (RB – DEN): PPR; Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB – TB): Half-PPR; Darrell Henderson (RB – LAR): STD
Lindsay is another running back with explosive play-making talent. He is falling down draft boards with offseason changes, going as late as the ninth round or later. He may see a decreased workload with the addition of Melvin Gordon, however, it will be difficult to put a lid on Lindsay’s effortless ability to make plays.

Darrell Henderson and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn are wildcards. I am not even sure the Rams know which back is going to take over the vacated workload that Todd Gurley left behind. There is so much volume on the table that it’s difficult to not take a shot on at least one piece. In Tampa, Vaughn will have to compete with Ronald Jones in a new offense with newly acquired Tom Brady, but he should return fantasy value.

Other Players Considered: Zack Moss (RB – BUF)

Round 10 – 15: Get Your Guys
These are rounds where you can throw ADP out the window and grab those guys who will make up your bench. You can go conservative and even take a flyer on a player you think may hit. 

If you have waited on taking either tight end or a quarterback, you can still get some great talent in these rounds. For example, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Tannehill, and Kirk Cousins are some of the signal-callers left on the board. Jared Cook, Noah Fant, and Austin Hooper are some of the tight ends that should still be available in the later rounds.

The Mock Drafts: PPR

  1. Davante Adams (WR – GB)
  2. Kenny Golladay (WR – DET)
  3. JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – PIT)
  4. Zach Ertz (TE – PHI)
  5. Russell Wilson (QB – SEA)
  6. Devin Singletary (RB – BUF)
  7. Derrius Guice (RB – WAS)
  8. Damien Williams (RB – KC)
  9. Matt Breida (RB – MIA)
  10. Jamison Crowder (WR – NYJ)
  11. Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN)
  12. Nyheim Hines (RB – IND)
  13. Joshua Kelley (RB – LAR)
  14. Brandon Aiyuk (WR – SF) 

Draft Grade: C+

The draft grade is a bit skewed here because I reached on guys in the tenth round and after. I’m not thrilled with Devin Singletary and Derrius Guice as my RB1 and RB2, but I do like having Matt Breida available to switch out or flex in the right matchup.

The rest of the team looks great in terms of receivers, quarterbacks, and tight end. You may look at taking a tight end a round earlier if you are not comfortable with Zach Ertz as your starter.

Half-PPR

  1. Davante Adams (WR – GB)
  2. Allen Robinson (WR – CHI)
  3. JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – PIT)
  4. Darren Waller (TE – LV)
  5. Dak Prescott (QB – DAL) 
  6. David Montgomery (RB – CHI)
  7. D’Andre Swift (RB – DET)
  8. James White (RB – NE)
  9. Ronald Jones II (RB – TB)
  10. Tarik Cohen (RB – CHI)
  11. Preston Williams (WR – MIA)
  12. Jalen Reagor (WR – PHI)
  13. Matthew Stafford (QB – DET)
  14. Carlos Hyde (RB – SEA)

Draft Grade: B+

Standard

  1. Davante Adams (WR – GB)
  2. Chris Godwin (WR – TB)
  3. A.J. Brown (WR – TEN)
  4. Zach Ertz (TE – PHI)
  5. Dak Prescott (QB – DAL)
  6. Devin Singletary (RB – BUF)
  7. Cam Akers (RB – LAR)
  8. Jordan Howard (RB – MIA)
  9. Tevin Coleman (RB – SF)
  10. Zack Moss (RB – BUF)
  11. Preston Williams (WR – MIA)
  12. Breshad Perriman (WR – NYJ)
  13. Hayden Hurst (TE – ATL)
  14. Parris Campbell (WR – IND) 

Draft Grade: B

The technical definition of Zero RB is waiting to draft an RB until the sixth round. However, you can do a hybrid version and try waiting on one until the fourth or fifth round. Here, players such as David Johnson, Todd Gurley, and Le’Veon Bell may still be on the board.

Don’t forget to check out our Draft Simulator and play around with the Zero RB strategy from different draft positions.

Complete early mock drafts using our free draft simulator >>


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Lauren Carpenter is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Lauren, check out her archive and follow her @stepmomlauren.

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