A season ago, there was a lot of talk about utilizing the “Zero RB” draft strategy. This was following a season (2015) where wide receivers outscored running backs by a very large margin. By the end of the 2015 season, wide receivers accounted for 11 of the top 12 FLEX players in terms of total fantasy points scored. There were seven wide receivers that had finished the year with 100+ receptions. This started a movement where people truly believed that taking a WR with their first three picks was the way to go. Many of the highly ranked RB’s that year had very poor seasons and burned their fantasy owners. This gave everyone the idea that the running back position is not as important in today’s passing offenses and could be drafted in later rounds.
How Things Have Changed
The 2016 season did not exactly shape up that way as the top three FLEX players and six of the top ten were RB’s. Now people are making the case for using a “Zero WR” strategy. The number of 100+ catch WR’s fell from seven to three, and the top RB (David Johnson) outscored the top WR (Antonio Brown) by over 100 fantasy points. Heading into the 2017 season, it is obvious how important it is to have a workhorse RB on your fantasy team. There are so many two-back systems this year and it is going to be hard to find these backs. So loading up on RB’s with your first three picks, could be the way to go this season to avoid a lot of question marks in your backfield.
A case can be made to go with either strategy this season or even go with a balanced approach. I truly believe that it all depends on where you are picking in your draft. If you have a top three pick, I really do not mind the “Zero WR” draft strategy. You can get one of the big three RB’s (DJ, Bell, Zeke) and then come back with another. However, if you are drafting in the middle/end of the first round, I think the “Zero RB” is very much back in the picture. We like to follow trends and draft according to what happened a season ago. All of this is in our recent memory, but as we can see from drafting the past few seasons, productivity by position varies year to year.
Balance is Key
This being said, believe going with a balanced approach is the way to go. Going with a balanced draft gives you much more flexibility on what you can do. It will not matter where you are drafting to go in this direction. I think it is very important to keep an open mind while drafting and not stick to one of these strategies. Even though it may work for some people, it will not work for me this season. I do not like taking a hit at either the RB or WR position and this is why I would much rather balance them out.
Since I mentioned that it really depends on where you are drafting, I did three PPR mock drafts to display a Zero WR, Zero RB, and a balanced draft.
Going with the “Zero WR” draft strategy did not end up too bad. I believe this should only be considered if you are drafting at the top of the first round, but that is my personal preference. I just do not feel comfortable taking McCoy or Gordon in the first. So with my first pick, I went with David Johnson over Bell. On the way back, I wanted Fournette, Gurley, or Lamar Miller to fall to me, but they all went before the turn. This left me with Beast Mode and Hyde. I do not love either of them, but everyone was taking RB’s in the second round.
In this type of situation, it is not good to use one of the two strategies. It leaves you stuck selecting players who you do not like as much as other players that are on the board. Even though I got Pryor in Diggs in the fourth and fifth, I just feel like this start to a draft is not that strong on paper. The WR position is very deep, but I am not a fan of waiting on one.
Zero WR Mock:
RD1 PK1: David Johnson
RD2 PK24: Marshawn Lynch
RD3 PK 25: Carlos Hyde
RD 4 PK48: Terrelle Pryor Sr.
RD 5 PK 49: Stefon Diggs
After using both the “Zero WR” and “Zero RB” draft strategies, I think I would prefer my “Zero RB” team. I was able to draft three WR’s who are the clear number one option in their offenses and still have two high upside, young RB’s. This would also allow you to grab a few more backs who can catch the ball and you really don’t need to worry about another WR for a couple more rounds. Running Back is going to be thin either way, so why not wait?
Zero RB Mock:
RD 1 PK 8: A.J. Green
RD 2 PK 17: T.Y. Hilton
RD 3 PK 32: Golden Tate
RD 4 PK 41: Carlos Hyde
RD 5 PK 56: Dalvin Cook
In my balanced mock, I had the sixth overall pick. I knew that in this spot, I would be able to get one of my top three RB’s, or one of my top three WR’s. I was more than happy to see Julio Jones fall to me. Even though I would have been okay with OBJ, I would rather have Julio to start my balanced team. My second pick was where I struggled to make a decision. It was tempting to go with Dez, Demaryius, or Hopkins. But I knew that if I passed on Fournette or Gurley, they would not make it back to me in the third. The third round left me with Baldwin, Landry, Tate, or Allen Robinson since the RB options were very poor. I could have made a case for any of these players, but I went with Baldwin since I figured I could get Allen Robinson in the fourth.
RD 1 PK 6: Julio Jones
RD 2 PK 19: Leonard Fournette
RD 3 PK 30: Doug Baldwin
RD 4 PK 43: Allen Robinson
RD 5 PK 54: Ty Montgomery
Why should you go with a balanced approach?
More Flexibility, Better Outcome. Going with a balanced draft strategy gives you endless options and it allows you to pick up on the trends of your draft. In my “Zero WR” draft, everyone was going RB crazy and that would have allowed me to take two stud WR’s at the turn. If your mind is set on using one of these “Zero” strategies, it limits what you will be able to do. You might find yourself using one the “Zero WR” or “Zero RB” strategy if they are the best players on the board at the time. However, it is not a good idea to go into a draft dead set on using one of the two and not willing to adjust. It could leave you in a position reaching on a player just to follow your scheme. Keeping an open mind during your draft will go a lot further than you think, and you will find yourself Dominating your draft!