Fantasy Football Mock Draft: 12-Team, Zero-RB (2021 Fantasy Football)
There’s been significant discussion this offseason in the fantasy football community about various draft strategies, most notably Zero-RB. Proponents note, among other things, that avoiding the RB position in fantasy minimizes your risk and provides your team with a higher floor. However, opponents of Zero-RB highlight the league-winning upside of elite RBs in fantasy, as shown by Christian McCaffrey two years ago and Alvin Kamara last season. So, who is correct? The answer is nuanced. This is where the FantasyPros Mock Draft Simulator, which allows users to practice drafting quickly and efficiently, comes into play.
In this series of mock draft articles, I will be running three separate mock drafts. In each one, I’ll test a different strategy and highlight at the end what I liked or disliked with the results and process. Specifically, I’ll attempt to draft the best lineup for: 1) Zero-RB; 2) Zero-WR; and 3) “Hero-RB.”
Hopefully, these articles illuminate these three unique strategies and provide a glimpse of what fantasy managers can expect when employing them. However, I will preface this and the subsequent articles by noting that every league and draft is different, so be sure to know your own leaguemates’ draft tendencies and proclivities to best adapt mid-draft and modify your initial strategy. In short: be fluid.
As alluded to previously, this is the first article of the series, so I will be tackling the Zero-RB strategy. Accordingly, I will not draft a single RB until the middle rounds, trying to fill my other roster positions first before attacking the RB group. Once I build a stable base of WRs and TE(s), I will draft a ton of high-upside RBs that probably won’t do much for me this season, but if things fall into the right place, they could be huge values. Additionally, considering I’m drafting for a standard 1QB league, I will try to avoid drafting a QB early as well unless someone were to fall to a worthwhile round.
The Mock Draft
- Roster: 1QB/2RB/3WR/1TE/1FLX/6BN
- 12-Team, 0.5 PPR, Snake Format, 8th Position
Round 1.08 – Travis Kelce (TE – KC)
From the get-go, I was already presented with an interesting conundrum: draft Travis Kelce, arguably the best player in fantasy, or a high-upside RB, Aaron Jones, who’s finished as a top-five RB in each of the past two seasons. This article being about Zero-RB forced my hand to go with Kelce; however, if I were presented with this choice in my real drafts, I’d strongly consider Jones.
Round 2.05 – DeAndre Hopkins (WR – ARI)
Continuing the trend of wanting to draft league-winning RBs with my first few picks, I was, once again, presented with an elite non-RB option – DeAndre Hopkins – and a few desirable RBs – Antonio Gibson, Joe Mixon, and Najee Harris. Ultimately, I went with the WR as with this Zero-RB strategy. I want to build a high-floor foundation for my team of non-RBs. Hopkins finished as a top-five fantasy WR each season since 2017, and aside from his anomalous 2016 season where he finished 29th, we could extend this elite production to 2015. He’s a no-brainer stud in fantasy.
Other Players Considered: Antonio Gibson, Joe Mixon, Najee Harris
Round 3.08 – Allen Robinson II (WR – CHI)
Although I hoped that Keenan Allen or Justin Jefferson would fall to me here in the third, another great WR landed right in my lap: Allen Robinson II. Robinson II has seen north of 150 targets in each of the last two seasons while averaging 100 catches per season. He’s finished as the RB11 and RB12, respectively, over the past two seasons, so I believe he’s a great complement WR2 to Hopkins. Had I not been going Zero-RB and selected an RB with either of my first two picks, I would have been ecstatic to draft Robinson II to be my WR1. Nonetheless, I’m excited about my start.
Round 4.05- D.J. Moore (WR – CAR)
For the first time in this mock draft, I was presented with a terribly difficult decision: which WR should I pick to round out my starting three? With five WRs being taken after my last selection (i.e., Robinson II), the remaining options left much to be desired. Ideally, I would pivot and select one of the top RBs available, namely the aforementioned Montgomery, but to truly analyze my team from top-to-bottom by employing a Zero-RB strategy, I’ll avoid Montgomery. As such, I opted for the talented Carolina WR, D.J. Moore. I was torn between Moore, Cooper Kupp, Diontae Johnson, and Tyler Lockett with this pick, as all of them offer elite WR1 upside; however, I chose the one who offered the best coalescence of talent, youth, and anticipated volume. I may revisit this ranking as the offseason progresses.
Other Players Considered: Cooper Kupp, Diontae Johnson, Tyler Lockett
Round 5.08 – Tee Higgins (WR – CIN)
With my starting WR and TE positions completely filled, I had to decide whether I wanted to continue building depth by attacking the WR position (and can start one more in my flex spot) or pivot to the QB role. With both Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray drafted after my last pick, the only appealing QB on the board was Dak Prescott. As such, I continued building my WR corps by selecting Tee Higgins. Normally, I would have drafted Darrell Henderson, who luckily fell to me, with this pick.
Round 6.05- Travis Etienne (RB – JAC)
Now that I’ve fully exhausted all my starting WR, TE, and flex roles, I’m ready to attack RBs. With Henderson and Hunt already taken, this pick was a no-brainer for me: Travis Etienne. With a first-round draft capital from the 2021 NFL Draft and immense receiving prowess, Etienne is a great value as my RB1 with a sixth-round pick. I’m ecstatic to have gotten a high-upside RB this late in the draft.
Other Players Considered: N/A
Round 7.08 – Raheem Mostert (RB – SF)
Things are starting to look ugly. There are no appealing WRs remaining on the board, with Antonio Brown and Jerry Jeudy both being selected right before me, so I had to draft my RB2 or a QB. After looking at the Mock Draft Simulator’s predictor tool, which reflects the odds of each player being drafted before my next pick, I opted to avoid QBs again. As such, I took Raheem Mostert. I’m not excited about this pick, but I believe Mostert could provide great value if he were to start the season as San Francisco’s RB1 and maintain that role.
Round 8.05- David Johnson (RB – HOU)
Once again, I looked at the predictor tool to see the likelihood of the best available QBs – Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, and Jalen Hurts – being drafted before my next pick. None of the three are supposed to be available at the 9.08 for me. Nonetheless, I went with another solid value RB since this is a 1QB league; I want to maximize my league-winning potential by drafting the best player at, arguable, the most important position in fantasy. David Johnson isn’t a sexy pick, but he did finish as the RB19 last season despite playing in just 12 games. He’s a fringe RB1 despite the abundance of JAG (i.e., just a guy) RBs already on the team (e.g., Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram II).
Round 9.08 – James Conner (RB – ARI)
With four solid fantasy QBs remaining on the board at my eighth-round pick, I was hoping that Jalen Hurts would fall to me here in the ninth round. Three of the four QBs were taken, and Hurts was one of them. With Tannehill, Hurts, and Matthew Stafford being selected, reigning Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady was the lone QB remaining of that tier. However, after looking at the remaining QBs available at this pick – namely Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence – I opted, once again, to pass on taking a QB and, instead, draft another RB. Zack Moss and Michael Carter were both taken, so the remaining RB I eyed in the last round was my pick: James Conner.
Other Players Considered: Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, A.J. Dillon
Round 10.05- Devin Singletary (RB – BUF)
Brady fell, yet again, to me, but I, once again, opted to go for another RB, considering I lack a sheer stud. When going Zero-RB, you have to draft for quantity since you’re missing out on quality; you’re hoping that just one of your mid-to-late-round picks wins his respective backfield and turns in a great fantasy season. Singletary might be that guy if something were to happen to the aforementioned Moss.
Other Players Considered: Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence
Round 11.08- J.D. McKissic (RB – WAS)
Another round, but the same story: Brady falling. Not a single QB was taken in the last two-and-a-half rounds, which exemplifies my general strategy for 1QB leagues: wait on QBs. Brady, Burrow, and Lawrence are all still available, so I’ll continue punting on the position until I’m forced to decide. They’re all the same. Accordingly, I took another RB, one who’s being overlooked after finishing 2020 as the RB24 in 0.5 PPR (RB17 in full PPR): J.D. McKissic. Last season was probably his ceiling, but in a WR-heavy team dynamic, if McKissic could provide me with a steady RB2 value each week, I should be able to win more often than not, especially if none of my high-upside RB picks flourish.
Other Players Considered: Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, James White
Round 12.05- Tom Brady (QB – TB)
After several rounds of passing on QBs, I’ve finally given in and decided to take one: Tom Brady. Ultimately, I could continue punting on the position and rely on a couple of late-round players, but I believe Brady is a solid value here and should give me low-end QB1 numbers, at worst. Nonetheless, I’ll look to draft a high-upside QB with one of my last few picks of this draft.
Other Players Considered: Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence
Round 13.08 – Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL)
With my second-to-last pick in this draft, I chose Rashod Bateman, WR for Baltimore. As mentioned after my Brady pick in the 13th round, I want to take a second QB with one of my final picks, one with a higher upside. After looking at the remaining QBs on the board, none of them seemed terribly distinguishable from the next, so I believe I can wait until the last round to take one. As such, I took a high-upside WR, Bateman, Baltimore’s first-round pick in the 2021 draft, who has already impressed in training camp. If Bateman doesn’t produce early in the season, I won’t have an issue with dropping him to pick up the top waiver option available.
Round 14.05- Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB – WAS)
As alluded to previously, I opted to take a high-upside QB with my last pick of the draft. I took Ryan Fitzpatrick, better known as “Ryan Fitzmagic” or “Ryan Fitztragic,” depending on his performance. Fitzpatrick is one of the true gunslingers in the NFL, with immense highs and insane lows. He’s the perfect late-round QB, as if he starts the season hot, I’ll be inclined to trade Brady and roll with Fitzpatrick (or try selling high on Fitzpatrick). If he’s underwhelming early on, I’ll have no problem cutting him.
I was given a solid draft grade (A- | 90/100), primarily due to my premier bench players compared to the rest of the league. However, and unsurprisingly, I was given a middling score for my starters, ranking as the fifth-worst team in that regard. Overall, I like how my team turned out – mainly because I got the best fantasy TE in the league and a couple of premier WRs – but definitely would have preferred adapting throughout the early-to-middle rounds by selecting an RB – namely David Montgomery – in the fourth round. Having a start of Kelce, Hopkins, Robinson II, and Montgomery would have been a great foundation for my team. I also would have liked to draft more high-upside RBs, as I took a few that could surely pan out, but my last few picks were the result of “the best of meh options.”
Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with Starting Your Own Fantasy Football League or head to a more advanced strategy – like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? – to learn more.