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Early Redraft Zero RB Targets (2022 Fantasy Football)

by C.H. Herms | @HermsNFL | Featured Writer
May 31, 2022
Darrell Henderson

For those unfamiliar with the zero RB strategy of drafting, here is a bit of homework to serve as the launching point. If an academic deep dive isn’t desirable, the short of the strategy is based on the concept of “zigging when others zag” and the fact that running backs face injury at a disproportionately higher rate than other players at different positions. Therefore, it behooves a fantasy manager to load up at different positions early in drafts while others pursue running backs in an effort to maximize an alternative interpretation of “value” for your team(s).

Exactly when it is “acceptable” to start selecting running backs by way of this strategy’s deployment is debatable among its zealots, but per pioneer Shawn Siegle, Round 6 is the nexus point between the zig and zag. In this article, we will explore a handful of running backs that zero RB drafters should look to target ahead of the 2022 fantasy season per National Fantasy Championships (NFC) ADP data since the beginning of May.

If you would like to keep up with value throughout the offseason, be sure to reference FantasyPros expert consensus rankings (ECR) as the summer progresses.

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Devin Singletary (RB – BUF) / James Cook (RB – BUF)

Currently priced as RB29 and RB37 respectively in NFC ADP, the marquee Buffalo Bills runners have become beautifully ambiguous from a value standpoint. As referenced in my last article, Singletary finds himself with capped, rushing touchdown-dependent opportunity from a point-per-reception scoring (PPR) standpoint due to the team’s offseason moves. But before exploring that, there is room to feel good about the incumbent back’s standing. Take it from FantasyPros Analyst Andrew Erickson in his most recent article:

“[Singletary] was unleashed down the stretch for the Bills, finishing as the RB3 in PPR scoring over the final six weeks of the season with 17 fantasy points per game […] PFF’s fourth-ranked running back in rushes of 15-plus yards and seventh-ranked player in forced missed tackles in 2021.”

Despite Buffalo’s evident pursuit to add a receiving element out of their backfield in the form of the eventually-spurned free-agent offer made to J.D. McKissic and the drafting of the aforementioned Cook, Singletary’s late-season effectiveness as a pure rusher may be too large of a genie to simply put back into the bottle. Conversely, Cook’s value as a zero RB target can be highlighted as evidenced by his experience adjusted backfield receiving dominator rating per Campus2Canton. In essence, this measure speaks to Cook’s acumen as a receiving back and how his penchant for catching passes at the college level bodes well for walking into an immediate complementary/fantasy-relevant PPR role at the professional level.

Either way we look at the Bills duo, both players present relative intrigue that appeals to managers who prefer one particular player archetype or another. It would be wise for any and all to veer toward the Bills in the middle rounds in a “pick your poison” situation.

Darrell Henderson Jr. (RB – LAR)

Sometimes it pays to be the individual willing to say the quiet part out loud. The Rams’ backfield is far from a certainty as it relates to real-life football, let alone fantasy. As much as we feel burned in recent history post-Todd Gurley when trying to forecast this offense, injury to the position has been the unfortunate common thread.

The fact of the matter is this:

Cam Akers did not look particularly good, nor did he produce in any meaningful way, in the Rams’ Super Bowl-winning run after recovering from an Achilles tendon tear.

– Before picking up injury knocks of his own, Henderson’s on-field production equated to RB14 overall output from Weeks 1-12 in PPR scoring.

It is easy for the collective to fall back on the previous year’s hype that went wrong due to an Act of God situation. Yet, the quick takeaway here is to not overlook the distinct possibility that the Akers we saw, despite the historically fast return from an Achilles tear, in the playoff stretch may not be an anomaly and that Henderson Jr. is more valuable than current ADP suggests. Whether the McVay-led offense will seek to stray from a workhorse load akin to the Gurley era or Akers simply continues to plod, Henderson Jr. is a must-have in later rounds of drafts given that he more-than-proved himself in 2021 when thrust into a lead role. This backfield should not be made of more than what it is: unclear but open.

Kyle Juszczyk (RB – SF)

This last one is for all the best ball managers out there. There is no reason why this versatile fullback with running back eligibility shouldn’t be your last pick. Since joining the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, the Harvard grad nicknamed “Juice” has put up 15 games with over eight PPR points. Want to fact-check? Start from the beginning. In the grand scheme of things, that does not sound like a lot, but from a strategy perspective, wouldn’t it make sense to dig even deeper and mitigate risk on an even greater ancillary level?

He is your failsafe’s failsafe.

There are a small handful of fullbacks that even the most enthusiastic fantasy football managers can name let alone your layperson who follows the sport. If the point of zero RB is to mitigate risk, and the whole purpose of the strategy is based on how often running backs disproportionally get hurt, then let’s make Juszczyk the zero RB zealot’s RB. He is by far and away the most cost-effective zero RB best ball target known to humankind.

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