In 2015, I preached the Zero RB approach in this
column, and I practiced it at my drafts. In my most important
league, I took Odell
Beckham Jr. at 1.11, Julio
Jones at 2.02, & DeAndre
Hopkins at 3.11. They finished as the 2nd, 5th, & 6th most valuable
fantasy WRs that year.
That should have been enough for me to cruise to a championship.
But it only gets better. Since I knew I wasn't going after RBs
in the early rounds, I decided in advance to take a chance on
the murky Atlanta backfield. There was some preseason hype about
Tevin Coleman. I grabbed him in the 5th as my RB1 and snagged
Devonta Freeman as a handcuff to Coleman in the 8th.
That was the year Freeman set the NFL on fire. I didn't merely
cruise to the championship. I never even hit a speed bump.
It's usually not possible to win a league on draft day, but my
Zero RB approach won me a championship on draft day back in 2015.
The point that goes underappreciated by most is this: I didn't
simply end up with Freeman on my team in addition to having a
trio of great wide-outs. I ended up with Freeman on my team as
a direct consequence of having a trio of great wide-outs.
Because I went with WRs for the first four rounds (Jordan Matthews,
my 4th-round pick that year, was a bust), I had to settle for
scraps at RB. It was Dan Quinn's first year in Atlanta. No one
knew what to expect. The Atlanta backfield definitely qualified
as scraps. If I had taken an elite RB in the early rounds, there's
no way I would have chosen to carry both Coleman & Freeman
on my roster.
Put simply, the excellent choices I made in the first three rounds
forced me into making that lucky choice (Freeman) in the 8th.
I don't think that's likely to happen with the Zero RB approach
On the contrary, I think the people who make the best choices
at running back in rounds 1-3 this year will be the ones who are
forced into making lucky choices at WR in rounds 5-8.
Minnesota and Dallas may be at opposite ends of the WR talent
spectrum, but the overwhelming question from a fantasy perspective
is identical: Whoís the true No.1?
So let's say you take a Zero RB approach this year and snag Brown,
Watkins, Diggs, and Gordon. Will you better or worse off than
a competitor who picks up Smith-Schuster, Hill, Thielen, &
Slice it and dice it however you like. The point is we have every
reason to anticipate that in 2018, a larger-than-usual number
of receivers taken early will either underperform teammates drafted
later or outperform them too marginally to justify the increased
In the past there have been particular 1 & 1A situations
that invited exploitation in the draft. ďInstead of paying
up for Demaryius Thomas or Amari Cooper, Iíll just grab
Emmanuel Sanders or Michael Crabtree at a bargain.Ē Youíve
seen that thought pattern before, no doubt.
But itís not just Denver or Oakland this year. The lack
of clarity is everywhere.
And thatís what will drive some folks to embrace Zero RB.
ďAha!Ē they will think, ďit must be more important
than ever to get an Odell or a Julio or some other undisputed
But that perspective overlooks the Devonta
Freeman part of my Zero RB story.
Since the probability of 1s being eclipsed by 1As seems so high
in 2018, I believe the shared characteristic of most championship
fantasy teams at the end of the year will be a handful of 1As
drafted in the middle rounds.
I donít have any idea which 1As will dramatically exceed
expectations, but I am confident that we have at least 4 to 6
such surprises in store in that department.
Really? Are those the owners who will need to commit to Will Fuller or Josh Gordon?
Isnít it more likely that the owners who snagged elite RBs in
the early rounds will be the ones forced to pull the trigger on
the likes of Martavis
Although Iíve been an ardent supporter of Zero RB in the
past, the league-wide 1/1A confusion in 2018 makes me want to
focus on RBs who can catch in the early rounds before taking my
chances on the leftover receivers later onóbecause a reasonably
high percentage of those leftovers will turn out to be main courses
in disguise. If you go Zero RB, you wonít have any of those
leftovers on your team because youíll spend the middle rounds
gambling on RBs.
At least, thatís my thinking in June. One never knows where
one will end up in August.
Soliciting Feedback on Smaller Fantasy
Earlier this month, a reader named Brian sent me a great note
about all the reasons he loves playing in his small (8-team) league.
Before engaging some of his great points in July, I want to invite
other readers to chime in on the subject by emailing
their thoughts on the subject of smaller leagues to me or
posting them into the comment section below.
Mike Davis has been writing about fantasy football since 1999--and
playing video games even longer than that. His latest novel (concerning
a gamer who gets trapped inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms)
can be found here.