There’s a whole player type going completely undervalued in fantasy football right before all of our eyes. This hidden value play can help us all address the most volatile position, running backs – they are prone to injuries, high picks frequently bust, workloads are being divvied up among specialists, etc. You don’t even need to change your current philosophy to acquire a lot of these targets because they don’t go early in your draft. The relatively late ADPs of these guys marry this strategy perfectly with the Zero RB Theory. Who are these value plays?
|wdt_ID||Player||2016 PPG||MFL ADP (since 05-01-17)|
|3||Duke Johnson Jr.||5.7||161.57|
Even most casual fans can look at this list and know these guys are passing-down backs or solid receivers out of the backfield. But you’ll notice some of the prominent pass-catching backs missing from this list, guys like Gio Bernard, Chris Thompson, Alvin Kamara, James White, Darren Sproles, etc. There’s one difference between the guys on the initial list and the rest of these guys – opportunity. None of the guys listed are currently guaranteed starters for their respective teams, but they would pick up significant work or even become potential workhorse-type backs in the event of an injury.
These players have a higher floor than the rest of the guys going in this range but also have the chance to inherit an every down role, giving them a higher ceiling. I’m not advocating waiting until pick 117 to make C.J. Prosise your first running back off the board. I’m simply suggesting that the combination of the floors and ceilings these guys possess, relative to other backs being drafted at similar ADPs, gives these guys greater value, which can serve as a great advantage when utilizing the Zero RB approach.
Consider Giovani Bernard’s current RB41 position versus Duke Johnson at RB40 (according to MFL), and consider the ceiling Duke possesses if Crowell goes down – this value shouldn’t even be close at the moment. Identifying these opportunities (among others) and staying active on the waiver wire is a key element to the success of the Zero RB strategy.
Now again consider Duke Johnson (RB40) versus D’Onta Foreman (RB39). If Lamar Miller has a good year Foreman’s floor is a handful of carries per week for a couple points per game. If Crowell has a great year, Duke still sees a passing down work, spells him occasionally and holds steady around that 5.7 PPG last year. But both have high ceilings if they fall into the opportunity to start.
Also, note this list should continue to evolve, because opportunity changes weekly (if not daily) in the NFL. Trades happen, injuries happen, and players improve or outperform expectations. If Jeremy Hill or Joe Mixon are suddenly out of the picture in Cincinnati, Gio Bernard would immediately find himself in this category and be one of my top targets in a Zero RB approach. If Jeremy McNichols or some UDFA most of us have never heard of seize a significant passing down role with the chance to also be the primary backup, they should be weighed even heavier by fantasy owners.
Consider the graphs from the last two years of ADP vs. PPG. The volatility of this position is one of the first things that jumps out. But also noticeable is both the built-in floor of the targeted players (generally scoring at/above expectations for their ADP) and the ceiling (high outliers who far exceed expectations based on ADP). While this is no surefire approach, it will help draft useful players late, while still being able to identify these late round steals.