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Zero RB Strategy & Targets: Rashaad Penny, Melvin Gordon, Sony Michel (2022 Fantasy Football)

Jul 2, 2022
Zero RB Target Melvin Gordon

Does the Zero RB draft strategy work? Fantasy football players have argued about it for years. The truth is it can work if executed correctly and if Lady Luck is on your side.

How does the strategy work? You don’t avoid running backs during the entire draft, just the first handful of hands. Typically, you wait until the sixth round to draft your first running back using this strategy. Instead of targeting running backs early in your draft, you want to load up at other positions. Ideally, you want to secure a stud wide receiver, an elite tight end, and a top-tier quarterback. The point of this strategy is to sacrifice at running back to have a star-studded lineup at other positions.

While the Zero RB strategy works in all scoring leagues, it is the easiest to execute in PPR leagues. The reason why this strategy works best in PPR scoring leagues is because pass-catching running backs can offer top-20 performances some weeks. It is also a more appealing strategy in Superflex leagues as teams will let running backs slide as they load up on quarterbacks early in the draft.

This draft strategy isn’t ideal if you have a top 3-4 draft slot. You don’t want to pass on the elite running backs like Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, and Derrick Henry. Instead, you want to use the Hero RB strategy. Draft the stud running back in the first round, then wait until the middle rounds to load up on running backs.

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

Potential Targets

ADP from Fantasy Football Calculator on mock drafts from May 19 through May 29.

Rashaad Penny (RB – SEA)

The Seahawks drafted Kenneth Walker III in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but there’s no guarantee that he supplants a healthy Rashaad Penny from Day 1. Penny was brought back on a one-year deal worth $5 million (12th-highest cap hit) after an impressive end to the 2021 regular season. He was the fantasy RB1 over the final five weeks of the season.

Seems more likely than not that the team rides Penny till the wheels almost certainly fall off to start the season, then turn to their rookie RB down the stretch. That makes Penny enticing as a late-round RB target for those looking for immediate production out of the gates.
Andrew Erickson

Rashaad Penny was excellent to close the season in 2021. In Weeks 14-18, he averaged 18.4 rushing attempts and 134.2 rushing yards per game as the RB1 in fantasy football. He only ran a route on 32.2% (per PFF) of Russell Wilson‘s dropbacks last year, so don’t expect up from him in the passing game. His rushing prowess is legit, though. Penny could be stuck in a committee with Kenneth Walker, but don’t rule out him running away with the job for 2022.
Derek Brown

Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN)

Gordon is bound to be written off by fantasy draft pundits this offseason due to his age, but he proved that he still has gas in the tank in 2021. The 29-year-old running back was efficient across the board, ranking eighth in both PFF rushing grade (83.4) and forced missed tackles (45) while compiling 231 touches (16th).

With him back on a high-powered offense and with the potential to receive goal-line touches, he could easily become a screaming value in 2022 like James Conner or Leonard Fournette last year.
Andrew Erickson

Sony Michel (RB – MIA)

Give credit to Sony Michel after he ranked third in rushing yards and first in carries over the final six weeks of the 2021 season. The former Rams running back performed admirably in relief of Darrell Henderson Jr., but he was immediately supplanted by Cam Akers once the second-year back was deemed healthy enough to play a full-time role.

He signed a 1 year, $1.75M contract with the Miami Dolphins this offseason, joining a backfield with Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. Michel offers the least explosiveness of the bunch but has the most proven track record of shouldering a workload that translates into fantasy production at 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds.

Considering neither Edmonds nor Mostert (entering age 30-season) have ever commanded a consistent three-down workload, Michel has super interesting appeal if he becomes the No. 1 runner in the Miami backfield. Don’t rule it out despite his very mediocre one-year contract.
Andrew Erickson

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