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Zero-RB Dynasty Startup Strategy (2022 Fantasy Football)

The 2022 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and we’ll have you covered with everything dynasty fantasy football as you prepare for your startup and rookie drafts. We’ll have several dynasty strategy articles similar to this as well as dynasty veteran and rookie profiles, featured rankings, and ways to engage with our analysts in our upcoming 2022 Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit.

The Zero-RB draft strategy has been around for years. It’s often used in redraft leagues, as running backs are available on the waiver wire throughout the season.

It’s also increasingly gaining popularity in startup dynasty drafts. With startup season already underway, let’s look more into this dynasty draft strategy.

Andrew Erickson Mock Draft

The Logic Behind the Strategy

For anyone unfamiliar with the strategy, it’s simple. You don’t select a running back until the middle rounds. You then load up on a mixture of running backs with guaranteed early-season workload and those who carry upside if an injury or outperformance happens. That strategy has proven successful in redraft leagues but requires a more in-depth plan in dynasty leagues to pay off.

If you are trying to win in the first year, you need to target older running backs who slid to the middle rounds because of their age. While you will only get a year or two worth of production from them, they are ready to help you win right away.

Conversely, if you are playing for the future, you want to target younger running backs with more upside. You want to target rookie or second-year running backs who have the potential to take over the starting role at some point. A prime example is New England RB Rhamondre Stevenson.

He had some impressive moments last season as a rookie. Stevenson made his first career start in Week 10. He had 20 rushing attempts for 100 yards and two rushing touchdowns in that game against the Cleveland Browns. More importantly, backfield mate Damien Harris is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Patriots don’t have a history of giving their running backs a second contract. This suggests Harris could be playing elsewhere in 2023, potentially opening up the starting role for Stevenson.

Target Handcuffs

This advice relates to the previous. You want to target players who have upside given their current ADP. Handcuffs are great to draft in dynasty startups, especially when using the Zero-RB strategy. You can get them in the double-digit rounds, offering massive potential upside if injuries start to add up during the season.

For example, your league mate drafted Dalvin Cook early in the draft, but you grabbed Alexander Mattison before he could. If Cook suffers an injury, your league mate might be desperate to trade for Mattison, especially if they are a contending team. You would have the upper hand with him in trade negotiations. Not only because he needs Mattison to replace Cook, but also because you can threaten to trade Mattison to the team right on their heels for the last playoff spot.

Handcuffs can become valuable for you in your playoff push with some patience. Most star running backs have a heavy workload. They also tend to get injured because of that workload. Given that you used a mid- to late-round startup pick on that running back, you could get an excellent return on your draft pick.

Go RB Galore During the Rookie Draft

You want to disregard the running back position early during the startup draft, but that is not the case during your rookie drafts. The rookie draft is when you want to go running back heavy and load up at the position. With the short lifespan of running backs, you will need to replace your top ones every few years.

If you passed on running backs early in the startup draft to target wide receivers with those early picks, you shouldn’t need to target wide receivers during your rookie draft if that’s the case.

Never be afraid to trade up for potential star running backs during your rookie draft, especially after using the Zero-RB strategy in the startup. If you can’t trade up for potential star running backs, or if you have already secured as many as possible, you want to trade back during your rookie drafts. With the Zero-RB strategy, you need to take as many shots as possible to find steals in the middle rounds.

The best value area of a rookie draft is in the second and early-third rounds. That area is where you can find potential steals. For example, if you can slide back from pick 1.10 to 2.04 and add the 3.02 pick in a 10-team league, that’s a trade you want to make. This rule applies regardless of what startup strategy you use, but is extra critical when using the Zero-RB strategy.

The Risk to this Strategy

So far, it sounds like the Zero-RB strategy is an excellent one to use. However, running back is arguably the most valuable position in fantasy football. To execute Zero RB, you need some luck. The upside running backs you select in the startup draft must hit. You will also need to get lucky with the handcuffs you drafted. Your investment will likely not pay off if the starters never get hurt.

Managers are putting a lot of faith in the rookie draft. The star running backs of the draft could land in poor fantasy situations. You could also struggle to trade up for them if the league mates ahead of you in the draft refuse to trade at a fair price. Trading for a proven young star running back right now like Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, or Najee Harris is next to impossible.

Therefore, you could be putting yourself in a tough spot with this strategy. If Lady Luck goes against you, your team could struggle. The Zero-RB strategy is for you if you enjoy playing with a high-risk/high-reward strategy. But if you like to take a more conservative approach during the startup draft, this isn’t a strategy you want to use.

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If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.

Mike Fanelli is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive follow him @Mike_NFL2.

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