RBs

Draft Strategy: Zero Wide Receivers – R. Skolrud

by Ryan Skolrud

There has been a lot of discussion/arguments/name-calling through the years over what the best draft strategy is for building your fantasy team. Over my next few articles I want to dig into some of the draft strategies that are out there as well as the pros and cons of each strategy. I hope they provide some insight to help you with your drafts in the coming weeks!

Zero Wide Receiver

The basic premise behind the Zero WR strategy is that there is always WR value to be had later in drafts. This strategy focuses on the need to stack high end caliber RBs as much as possible early in the draft. Due to the fact that the pool of WRs is so much larger with offensive formations with 1 (MAYBE 2) RBs on the field but normally 2-3 WRs, you are going to find more usable value from the WR position late in drafts and off the waiver wire than you will for RBs.

In a way, we could just call this the “old way” of drafting in fantasy football. Before the emergence of PPR scoring, RBs ruled the fantasy landscape. I wrote about the how the offensive philosophy of the NFL has changed even since 2005 in my 2016 E-Book Fantasy Drafting for Today’s NFL:

In 2005, only half of the league was throwing the ball more than 55% of the time. Eight teams ran the ball more than they threw it. Compare that to 2015, where three quarters of the league is throwing the ball more than 55% and only ONE team ran the ball more than they threw it. The NFL has become a passing league. Period.

In standard scoring leagues (are you guys really still playing these????), RBs rule the roost. Looking at stats for 2018, of the top 50 players in fantasy scoring (non-QB) there were 24 RBs, 22 WRs, 4TEs. In the top 30 scorers (QBs included) there were 7 RBs, 4 WRs, and zero TEs. Standard scoring leagues focus on scrimmage yards and touchdowns. Though TDs can be fickle, unpredictable things project you can give a bump in preference to RBs, especially ones who get a majority of the backfield touches for their team.

With RBs tending to be the higher scoring players in Standard scoring fantasy leagues, the Zero WR Strategy states your draft focus should be to get as many (potentially) high scoring running backs as possible.

This strategy is being implemented in PPR leagues as well with the rise in all purpose RBs for teams in the NFL. With how often it feels like RBs are going down with injuries, having a stockpile of RBs, even in PPR leagues, is becoming a trend.

To put the strategy into practice, you would draft enough RBs to fill not only your starting spots in your lineup, but (in many cases) also your flex spot(s). From there you would then fill your remaining roster with WRs, QB and TE, all while still grabbing backup RBs with upside late in the draft.

So if your league has 2 RB positions and 2 Flex positions, the Zero WR drafter would not take an WR until at least the 3rd round but probably not until closer to the 4th or 5th. Depending on how bad they want one of the top QBs or TEs, they may even pick one of the premium players from those positions before taking a WR.

Again, this draft strategy is probably more utilized in Standard scoring leagues but is still used in a PPR setting as well. There has been a rise in teams trying to find work-horse style RBs that can not only run on early downs but also catch the ball out o the backfield, making the Zero WR strategy more viable in PPR leagues.

Some of the WRs to target when using the Zero WR strategy would be guys like Cooper Kupp, Tyler Lockett, Chris Godwin, Tyler Boyd, and Dede Westbrook. Now obviously these aren’t the only wide receivers to Target, but they are some of the more desirable options starting in round 5.

Now lets get into the pluses and minuses of using such a strategy.

Pros

Having a strong stable of RBs on your team can separate you from the pack in your league. Strong RB depth allows for you to be able to plug and play due to injury with less of a fall in production. You give your team a greater possibility of having bell-cow RBs. With so many more WRs in the league you can find productive WRs late in your draft.

Cons

Sticking rigidly to a specific strategy can prevent you from taking the best player on the board. While you can find production at the WR position late in the draft, you can miss out on top end talent by refusing to take WRs early even if WR may be the best value at that pick.

Conclusion

There are many draft strategies out there. The Zero WR strategy is just one of many that I have seen people say that they are going to go with and stick to. Like all strategies, there are good and bad aspects of the Zero WR draft. Try it with some mock drafts in many different draft positions to see how you like your teams. You may come to realize that it can work in some draft positions better than others based on the value of players available at your pick!

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