August 28, 2018

NFL FANTASY PREVIEW: Is Zero-RB still a good way to go?

by Dan Bilicki In: Fantasy, Football

A few years, the trend of a “zero-RB” draft strategy was the hottest thing in fantasy football.

Now, does it still hold up?

The theory that this strategy is predicated upon is that there’s more value in grabbing two elite WRs in the first two rounds, followed by another high-end WR, and elite TE and QB in the next three rounds. And you does while eschewing what is commonly agreed as the most important position in fantasy football: RB.

Of course, you do need RBs to fill out your roster, but the one’s you’re aiming for are the lottery-ticket types you see in the mid rounds – unproven rookies, guys in timeshares that could break out and other sleepers.

Over the past few years more than ever, we’ve seen running backs claimed off the waiver wire turn into studs. Injuries to starters, suspensions and simply guys making their most of opportunities have seen guys like Alex Collins – basically undrafted last year – finish as RB15. Alvin Kamara was going in the 13th round on average last year and finished RB4 in standard.

There are bargains out there to be had, and “zero RB” relies on finding and cashing at least one of those lottery tickets.

With high-end consistency (hopefully) from your two elite WRs, you can afford these gambles with your RB spots. While you would think that other owners will also be going for these gambles at the same point, remember that they’ve already filled their RB slots and will need to be looking at WR, where you’re set.

But, here’s where we think that zero RB falls apart: More than ever, you can wait on QBs and the top 12 WRs last year weren’t as strong as the top group from a few years ago.

Also, with more information readily available to fantasy players, it’s easier for the average owner to find and learn about sleepers, bumping up their ADP.

Zero-RB also requires that you’re fairly active on the waiver wire. You can’t be asleep at the switch when a guy like Collins is there for the taking, giving you an RB1 for basically nothing. If you grabbed Packers RBs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams when they had their shots at featuring, it paid off with five different weeks of 15+ point returns.

Sit back and relax, and you’re more likely to be disappointed.

So, while we’re not saying that this strategy is a real zero, we wouldn’t recommend using it unless you know the risks.

MORE OPEN THAN EVER

One of the biggest in-game rule changes we’ve had in years should lead to confusion, penalties and, eventually, more points from passing.

The NFL’s new lowering-the-helmet rule could cause chaos for pass defenders, who will no longer be able to longer to truly clock receivers coming across the middle.

Initially, we should see defenders picking up these types of calls, leading to 15-yard penalties, before eventually adapting – this is where it could get big for fantasy.

With defensive players having to slow down to stop themselves clocking “defenceless” receivers, we’re bound to see more targets open and more completions.

While there is a chance that running backs could see a few flags for lowering their heads and plowing into the pile, the vast majority of calls in the pre-season have been against defenders.

When all is said and done, we could be in for another offensive boom akin to when the league started cracking down on defensive holding roughly a decade ago.

THE NUMBERS

Another quick reason why it’s often better to take a RB in the first round over a WR: The top RB has finished with at least 300 points more often than the top WR with a 7-3 score over the past 10 years … Looking for a slight edge to getting the top RB, WR or TE? Just look at their ages. According to a post on reddit, the average age of the top-scoring RB over the past 10 years has been 24.4 years old. The top WRs and TEs are remarkably close, at 27.2 and 27.3, respectively. So, if you’re blindly picking players, go for guys around those ages … Think moving the line of scrimmage back for PATs didn’t have a huge effect three years ago? Well, on average only six kickers per season of qualified players managed to hit 100% of their PATs … While reception and yardage numbers of 2017’s top 12 WRs were similar to 2016’s group, TDs dropped from 110 to 84. And when comparing the top 12 WRs from 2017 to both 2015 and 2014, yardage is down by roughly 2,000 and TDs are down from 122 and 123, respectively.

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