August is here. With it, comes much deliberation and drafting. What draft strategy do you use (if any) and when? Well, let me help. I’m taking a look at the Zero WR draft strategy 2019 in this piece and walking you through a mock draft using this approach. I wrote a similar article a couple of years ago and the mock draft analysis gave life to the piece. That way, you can see what taking this route might actually look like. It also illustrates the tiers/groups of RBs/WRs that would make up your final roster.
As is the case every season in fantasy football, drafters are tempted to go Zero WR (first 4-5 picks are RBs) in 2019. This is mostly due to the pool of consistent and volume-heavy RBs drying up very quickly and the depth at the WR position. After the top tier of RBs fly off the board, it’s hard to feel confident with so many injury risks and RBBCs. So, owners stockpile a valuable asset by investing high draft capital. Let’s break down the Zero WR or Robust RB strategy for 2019 and see if it appeals to you.
Overview of Zero WR Draft Strategy
This strategy turns Zero RB on its head, advising fantasy owners to draft all running backs in the first 4-5 rounds. Basically, prioritizing the running back position and spending high draft capital shoring up the position on your roster. It became a popular approach as a “zig” to the “zag” of the Zero RB strategy, encouraging owners to capitalize on the RB value that fell as their fellow drafters stocked up on WRs.
This strategy appeals to those that fear the sea of RBBCs , injury risks, and question marks at the RB position. Supply and demand. Meanwhile there is much WR value to be had in the mid to late rounds. These are receivers with clear paths to targets, on solid offenses, and with plenty of upside. For cheap. You just have to know who to target and what tiers of players you’re comfortable drafting.
A few things I’m looking for: highly utilized RBs with high floors; WRs on productive offenses (particularly high in pass attempts/yards per game); WRs with large expected target shares. I wait on QB and TE, which is almost required to make this strategy work. You’ll be targeting WRs in rounds 5+ so the TE studs will be gone. There’s solid late-round QBs (Winston, Rivers, Cousins, etc) available, so unless a crazy value falls down the draft board…abstain.
Let’s take a look at some of the upsides of this strategy and go from there.
Main Upsides of Zero WR
- Works in all formats, while Zero RB works ideally in PPR
- Ideal in leagues where you have an even number of RB and WR roster slots
- The running back position is a fragile one where anything can happen and most likely at least a few big impact players will surface that we never anticipated. Usually, this is due to injury or a missed opportunity. Since the position itself is shallow, stocking up on elite RBs increases your likelihood of still having 2-3 solid RBs even if injury or busts occur. This will leave your league mates with slim pickins’ for their RBs, while you have your RB1,2, and flex (and 1-2 bench spots) ready to roll.
- There is much more depth in the WR position compared to RB. Enough potentially solid WRs are available late round and some aren’t even being drafted in some leagues (e.g. Michael Gallup, Albert Wilson, Jamison Crowder)
- Zig while others zag. This is a strategy developed to be contrarian. If you’re whole league is doing it, zig the other way. But, some of your league mates may be going Zero RB and that means guys like Kerryon, Fournette, D Williams, Mack, Carson, and Michel are yours for the taking at RB2-3 (+ flex).
- Running backs that get the lions’ share of carries (the “bell cow” as we like to call it) are few and far between these days. Long gone are the days of knowing your RB1 will stay there, vacuuming up all the touches on your way to fantasy glory. Teams now employ running-back-by-committees (RBBCs) and rarely use (or abuse) three-down backs. There is typically a time-share between RBs or one is the 1-2 down back while the other is a 3rd down back heavily involved in the passing game.
- The snaps/targets of WRs are much more predictable compared to RB involvement (especially past the initial few rounds). So, it makes sense to grab the reliable/predictable RBs early and still feel safe you’ll be able to secure highly utilized WRs later.
Mock Draft (PPR)
1.03 Christian McCaffrey
With Zeke’s holdout news, he’s dropped down draft boards leaving Barkley, Kamara, CMC, and David Johnson as the top tier for me. It’s a good start to Zero WR that’s for sure. CMC finished the last two seasons as the fantasy RB9 and RB2 and #1 in targets at the positions both years as well. Check. Check.
2.10 Kerryon Johnson
With the exit of Theo Riddick, the doors to the Bell Cow Kingdom are opening for KJ. Kerryon has the talent and now the opportunity. Sign me up. Running backs coach Kyle Caskey recently contradicted early team statements regarding limiting Kerryon’s load this season. He expressed confidence in KJ’s toughness and denied having an intended limit for the RB. If you’d rather go Damien Williams, Aaron Jones, or Leonard Fournette here you can, but KJ is my guy.
3.03 Leonard Fournette
I knew the short wait was coming, so I was thrilled to see Fournette still here. You wouldn’t hear me saying that typically while I’m drafting, as this is the point I’d go for a receiver. Keenan Allen, for example, would be one of my main targets. But, that’s not what we are doing. RB, Jen. Go RB. Jokes aside, I’m pleased with snagging a RB that is guaranteed 200+ touches in 2019 (if he stays healthy), with NO competition behind him for snaps. You and I both know the injury risk. But, if he plays 16 games and you have him as your RB3, along with CMC and Kerryon….wow. That’s a good start.
4.10 Chris Carson
Yes, there’s risk here too and he’s sharing a backfield with Rashaad Penny. But, we are looking for a RB4 with a clear path to opportunity in a run-heavy offense. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer recently spoke to the need for Carson to be more involved in the passing game as well. Carson finished as the #15 fantasy RB in 2018, even with missing two games. I picked him over James White, Mark Ingram, Sony Michel, and Phillip Lindsay and feel pretty good about it.
5.03 Cooper Kupp
Wooo hoooooo! Some Zero WR drafters still go RB here and the choices still look good to me (I just can’t push off WR again and be confident in my final receiver corps. But, to each their own.). Michel, White, and Lindsay may still be there at that point (your RB5). Instead, I’m very pleased that Cooper Kupp is still there. Some might prefer Tyler Lockett (he wasn’t there in my mock), Tyler Boyd, or Alshon Jeffrey here due to Kupp returning from an ACL injury. I’ll take a guy that received 55 targets, caught 40 for 556 yards and 6 TDS in just eight games before his injury. With good reports on his health and speed at training camp, I feel good investing shares in Kupp. Good offense, check. I think he’ll lead the team in targets. Check. Good start for my WR1.
6.10 Jarvis Landry
I like Landry and his floor, but if Allen Robinson wouldn’t have gone right before my pick, that would’ve been my target. With Mike Williams, Dante Pettis, D.K. Metcalf, and Dede Westbrook as the other available receivers, I went for the slot receiver on a good offense. I know the wait until my next pick is short and so I’m confident I can get one of those guys next round. Landry finished as the #19 fantasy WR in 2018 with 149 targets. The arrival of OBJ will impact his target share, of course. However, Duke Johnson is gone and Antonio Callaway is suspended for four games, so Landry should be the 2nd in targets for the Browns. I’m not as confident as I would like to be six rounds in, but this is why we are analyzing this. How confident would you be?
7.03 Dante Pettis
The number one wide receiver on a Kyle Shanahan offense as my WR3. That feels OK with me actually. Though there are obvious unknowns regarding Jimmy G and Pettis’ chemistry (only played three games together in 2018), there’s upside here. News out of SF confirms that Pettis is the WR1 and both Garoppolo and Shanahan commented this summer on Pettis’ improvement. Kittle will receive the highest target share, but Pettis is definitely a viable option and should hold onto the job over rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd.
8.10 Geronimo Allison
I want Jared Goff here, but I’m a woman of my word and stick to my guns in waiting on QB. Corey Davis, Courtland Sutton, and Keke Coutee were all available as well. Those that follow me know that I believe in Allison this season as the slot receiver with Aaron Rodgers as his QB. This is a make or break season for Allison and the competition from Marquez Valdes-Scantling hopefully pushes him to up his game. He’s fully healthy and on a one year deal, so he’ll be looking to impress.
9.03 Anthony Miller
Another of my favorite late-round receiver snags this summer, Anthony Miller, welcome to my team. This makes me feel better about barely missing out on a cheap Allen Robinson earlier. I think this offense takes a step forward this season if all stay healthy. Miller showed flashes of his potential last season, but struggled with a nagging shoulder injury that limited his ability to run routes as effectively. He’s fully healthy now and poised to have a breakout sophomore season.
For those that might go back to the RB well in round 9, those to consider are Henderson, Howard, Lewis, Hines, and Duke.
10.10 Duke Johnson
Hell yea, I’ll take a swing with Duke as my RB5. I chose him over Justin Jackson because I think he has standalone value whereas it will take an injury/holdout for JJ to be fantasy relevant. One season removed from being a top 20 fantasy RB, Duke’s new situation definitely increases his value. After recently releasing D’Onta Foreman, the Texans needed a reliable 3rd down option with pass-catching chops. Sounds about right. Padding your bench with a guy like this that could see plenty of targets out of the backfield, is a good move.
11.03 Jameis Winston
It’s finally time for a QB. I love Winston’s upside with great weapons. When he is hot, he is hot. When he is cold, watch out. Hopefully, we get more consistency this season especially since he’s now fully healthy. I’d be equally OK with Phillip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, or Dak Prescott, but I like Winston’s ceiling.
12.10 Mark Andrews
Literally all the viable TEs are gone, even my really late round target Jordan Reed. So, before it gets to where I just shouldn’t draft a TE at all and stream all season, I grabbed Andrews. At this point, I have 5 RBs and 5 WRs, so I feel OK filling in my other skill positions. Plus, it’s guys like Crowder, Albert Wilson, and Deebo left so I’m thinking at least one will drop further. Andrews developed chemistry with Lamar Jackson during his rookie season in 2018 and should clear 60-70 targets this year. The WR corps there isn’t exactly thrilling in 2019, so the door is open for Andrews to be a safety valve for his mobile QB.
13.03 Ito Smith
The complement to Devonta Freeman in the Atlanta backfield sat there staring at me, and I just had to grab him for more depth. He’s one injury away from being a lead RB, behind an injury prone RB. The addition of Qadree Ollison is a concern, but is it really a concern for your RB6 in the 13th? Naw. Snag the forgotten Gio Bernard if you’d prefer here.
14.10 Albert Wilson
Bert is a late-round flyer on an offense that I don’t exactly love. But, if he’s healthy, he has a path to targets. Bottom of the barrel here, so don’t overthink it. If Crowder was still there, I’d take him as well for my bench.
- The Zero WR strategy seems ideal if you have an early draft spot. If you don’t secure one of those top studs (1-5), it’s difficult to feel as comfortable with the final roster. Still doable, but you pass on MT, Julio, OBJ, etc. to draft a RB1 with question marks AND then pass on Keenan, Hilton, Cooper, Kelce to snag another.
- I completed other mocks testing this strategy from different draft positions. For example, at the 10 spot, many of the WRs on my final roster looked similar. My RBs ended up as Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Kerryon Johnson, and Chris Carson. So, it isn’t worlds away, but just not AS confident without Barkley, CMC, Barkley, or David Johnson on the squad.
- It’s not exactly for me, but I didn’t hate my final teams that’s for sure. I tend to take a much more balanced approach in drafting, unless I see a good value drop. I also don’t employ a rigid draft strategy. But I would draft one of those studs if I had an early pick and probably go RB again in the 2nd. After that, I would likely be looking for my WR1. I will say that I was surprised by how comfortable I was with the final rosters though. It’s going to come down to if you chose the right receivers with those mid range picks.
- It is very difficult to pass on guys like Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, and Ty Hilton early. Drafters definitely have to be ready to scour the waiver wire for WR value if some of the late round guys don’t pan out.
- If you go the Zero WR route, your league mates will most likely notice. When someone hoards all RBs, they pick up on it. So, it makes your drafting a bit predictable, especially in rounds 4-6. Most know you’ll go WR there, so maybe do some mocks where you zag and get a higher tier QB to throw them off or only go RB three rounds, then be more flexible.
- You have to be OK with streaming TE or rostering a higher risk old guy like Reed or Olsen. I’m pretty comfortable with that, as that’s my usual strategy regarding TE.
- ADP is constantly changing with news, notes, injuries, and players stomping their feet about helmets. So, our go-to for ADP is FantasyFootballCalculator. They keep it very up to date, so use this (or your preferred site) as a resource early and often. Also, mock a lot. Completing mocks with actual people and not a simulator (which is still good practice, but not realistic to expect it to go like that) is ideal. This way similar to how I tried to illustrate in this article, you’ll have a better sense of the groupings of players you’ll be choosing from if you go Zero WR. It’s just a matter of your level of comfort with those groupings when all is said and done. For example, if you love guys like Pettis and Landry, or want to take chances on Sanders or AJ Green, this strategy could work perfectly for you.
- I feel more prepared knowing the WRs late that I can target no matter my early draft strategy. Doing a more rigid strategy for a few mocks opened up my mind to other options. This only gives me more confidence in my ability to be flexible during my draft and be ready to alter my plan depending on the flow.
Thank you for joining me for a walk through Mock Lane using the Zero WR draft strategy. Be sure to check out all the content for both redraft and DFS at The Fantasy Authority! Catch me on Twitter @TheOnlyJenSmith and feel free to shoot draft questions my way! Don’t miss out on our new free slack channels, with general, redraft, best ball, and dfs channels. Join by clicking here! #TFAfam