In our modern era of fantasy football, some would compare drafting running backs early to puffing out your chest and strutting around like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. I have enough chest hair protruding from the second button of my polo shirt to achieve the testosterone-driven lunacy required to attack the running back position in robust fashion in 2022 redraft fantasy football.
The Robust RB strategy is considered the hyper-fragile nemesis of Zero RB, where the fantasy manager fills their two starting running back positions and any flex spots with running backs before selecting their wide receivers, tight end, and quarterback. The idea is that stud running backs who garner huge volume (and subsequent upside) are in very short supply, while high-scoring wide receivers and quarterbacks are as bountiful as the bison population before Manifest Destiny.
Robust RB draft advocates scoff at the mention of the “injury prone” label. It does not exist in their vocabulary. It is understood that running backs get injured, but every season features top running backs who stay healthy and produce a bounty of fantasy points unmatchable by late-round RB handcuffs. Meanwhile, there seems to be a new crop of wide receivers every year who take a leap from the mid to late rounds into WR1 superstardom.
This strategy is a picture of volatility. Some of the easiest championships I have won have come as a result of Robust RB drafting. In 2018, I deployed a trio of Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and Joe Mixon (I also had Tarik Cohen). The wide receivers I was able to draft in the fourth, sixth, and seventh rounds were Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper, and Brandin Cooks. Zach Ertz was my TE in the fifth round. The big boost was getting Matt Ryan and Patrick Mahomes in the ninth and 10th rounds.
On the flip side, some of the quickest dives to the bottom of the standings have also come as a result of this strategy. 2020 was the year of Zero RB, in that most of the early ADP selections were running backs that either got hurt or fell miserably flat. I had a team that started Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, Joe Mixon, and Todd Gurley that year. Needless to say, my battleship was sunk by Week 5. Robust RB carries a very high risk, but people like me never go into the season hoping for a mediocre result. This strategy has the potential to build a roster that absolutely dominates the league.
To reiterate, Robust RB strategy is the overt act of filling all starting running back positions and drafting a RB for any flex spots before venturing into the deep blue ocean of quality wide receivers who have WR1 potential. One slight modification that I find helpful is to grab a top tight end early before the massive cliff at the position (if possible).
Check out my guide to Hero RB drafting in redraft here.
Last season, there was a dreadful place known as the “RB Dead Zone” that extended from the second round into the middle rounds, consisting of RBs that weren’t thought to be worth their ADP compared to the WRs in that range. This was purely a reaction to the way the 2020 season panned out. Some members of that shadowy place were Jonathan Taylor (RB1), Najee Harris (RB3), Joe Mixon (RB4), Antonio Gibson (RB10), and David Montgomery (RB19). Josh Jacobs (RB12) and D’Andre Swift (RB15) came from even darker corners of the “RB Dead Zone”.
If you have the intestinal fortitude to go Robust RB in a dynasty startup draft, check this out.
Zero-RB proponents insist the Dead Zone still exists, but they have conveniently changed the names for the 2022 draft season. Here are some of the inhabitants of the nether realm whom I expect to launch many fantasy teams to glory in their health.
- David Montgomery (RB – CHI)
- Ezekiel Elliott (RB – DAL)
- Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS)
- Aaron Jones (RB – GB)
- Joe Mixon (RB – CIN)
- J.K. Dobbins (RB – BAL)
- Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)
- Leonard Fournette (RB – TB)
- Josh Jacobs (RB – LV)
- James Conner (RB – ARI)
The Next Step
Once you have chugged your egg yolks (like Gaston), you will need to identify and select mid-round WRs who will outplay their ADP. Think Cooper Kupp and Deebo Samuel last year. I am happy to exclaim that the WR position is even deeper with talent than last season, rendering the early-round receivers extremely overvalued relative to their scoring advantage over the later guys. There really isn’t a sizable tier break from WR4 through WR24. I have identified a veritable treasure trove of WRs whose ADP belies their fantasy upside in 2022. Say hello to your league-winning draft picks.
- Amari Cooper (WR – CLE)
- Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS)
- Elijah Moore (WR – NYJ)
- Brandin Cooks (WR – HOU)
- Adam Thielen (WR – MIN)
- Michael Pittman Jr. (WR – IND)
- DeVonta Smith (WR – PHI)
- Mike Williams (WR – LAC)
- Brandon Aiyuk (WR – SF)
- Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL)
- Allen Robinson (WR – LAR)
- Jerry Jeudy (WR – DEN)
- Darnell Mooney (WR – CHI)
- Christian Kirk (WR – ARI)
- Drake London (WR – ATL)
- Garrett Wilson (WR – NYJ)
These gentlemen all have an ADP between the fourth and 10th rounds and have my stamp of approval to outperform it in 2022. There are more borderline guys in the same range of picks, but that is merely a stern testament to the staggering depth of the WR position. Robust RB is for the bold and daring fantasy football manager with the risk tolerance of a bomb diffuser. It has been employed by many champions before and will crown many more fortunate souls in the future. An ideal 14-round draft, with two starting RBs and two starting flexes, utilizing Robust RB will look something like this.
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