At the end of my last article, Zero
RB Draft Strategy, I said the following: “I wouldn’t suggest
ever entering a draft with a plan to stick to a strict draft strategy,
but if the draft starts unfolding in a way that presents strong
wide receiver values at all of your early round picks, don’t be
afraid to go all-in on Zero RB.” The same can be said for any
Last week, I joined an MFL10 on hosted by myfantasyleague.com.
For those of you that don’t know, MFL10s are best ball,
draft only PPR leagues that cost ten dollars to join. It’s
a 20-round draft, and that’s your team for the season. Every
week throughout the year, your lineup is automatically filled
with your highest scoring options. A starting lineup consists
of: 1QB, 2RBs, 3 WRs, 1 FLEX and 1 Defense.
I entered this draft with no set strategy. As it unfolded, something
interesting happened: I suddenly found myself in the midst of
a Zero WR draft.
The idea behind the Zero WR strategy is simple. Considering how
fragile the running back position appears to be, loading up on
the position early in your draft will greatly increase your chances
of hitting it big. In theory, it shouldn’t hurt as much
to wait on wide receiver, because wide receiver is one of the
deepest positions in fantasy football.
MFL10 draft (my team is @thefantasymate), I came away with
four running backs in the first five rounds, and didn’t draft
a single wide receiver until Round 6. I will explore this draft
and determine if Zero WR is a viable fantasy football draft strategy.
Before the draft began, I set a draft list on the website, listing
Peterson as my top pick and Antonio
Brown as my second choice. If Peterson went first or second,
this Zero WR strategy would have been stopped before it ever got
started. It seems like people in the fantasy world are either
all-in or completely avoiding Peterson. If you are against Peterson,
there are plenty of other running back options at pick No.3. You
will likely be able to acquire someone like Le’Veon
Charles, or Eddie
Lacy in Peterson’s place (in this draft, Bell and Charles
went first and second).
The Ravens run-first philosophy makes Justin
Forsett one of the safest RB2s in fantasy football.
This pick was an example of following my own advice. In Bust
Rates for Top RBs and Ws, I said I’d make sure all the ADP
RB1s are off the board before considering the players at the end
of the WR1 list. Here, I took Forsett with Mike
Cobb and T.Y.
Hilton all still available. Forsett may be a bit of a risk
(“age” and “one hit wonder” are the biggest concerns), but the
information available to me suggests Forsett is a strong late
second round pick. As of now, he is the lead back in a Ravens
offense that just added Marc Trestman as their offensive coordinator.
We all know what kind of PPR machine Matt
Forte was in Trestman’s offense in Chicago. Forsett may not
match Forte’s talent, but Forte’s results give a glimpse into
what kind of upside Forsett has this season.
I found myself in an awkward zone of player availability in Round
3, something that occasionally happens in fantasy drafts. The
players I loved were off the board, and it felt “too soon”
to take any of the next wave of players. (Side note: please don’t
draft with this perspective, it’s my biggest fault as a
drafter. In reality, there’s no such thing as “too
soon” for the best player on your board.)
That faulty draft approach, however, left me with an intriguing
idea: How about I take a chance on Jimmy Graham? As recently as
one year ago, Graham was considered the best tight end in the
league. An injury filled year and a move to a run-heavy team has
left him second fiddle to Rob Gronkowski in the minds of fantasy
owners. This could be setting up an interesting value opportunity
in the third round of drafts. Seattle is a very smart football
team. They didn’t send their starting center and a first
round pick to New Orleans for the right to have Graham block for
them. If the pairing of Seattle’s smarts and Graham’s
talent ends up hitting, Graham could exceed his mid-third-round
As my fourth round pick approached, I still had not settled on
making this draft “Zero WR.” When I came on the clock,
however, I felt Andre Ellington was the best player on the board.
Even if he does lose some of the volume he had in early 2014,
he should still be a strong running back play in PPR formats.
I should note that I made this pick before the Chris Johnson signing.
Right now that doesn’t change my outlook on Ellington, but
it’s definitely a situation to monitor as we approach drafts
in late August and early September.
Before this draft, Joseph Randle was a player I could never find
myself pulling the trigger on. His
ADP has moved up into the end of the third round in PPR leagues,
which seems like a steep price to pay considering all the questions
surrounding the Cowboys backfield. In this league, however, I
adored the idea of making Randle my RB4. In a more conventional
looking draft, a RB you take in early Round 5 will likely be expected
to help carry your team. In a Zero WR draft, I’m able to take
a shot at Randle’s upside (running behind the Cowboys offensive
line) without nearly as much risk, since I’m not necessarily depending
The way this turn unfolded is a major argument against any kind
of “Zero” strategy. I’m not concerned with the
players I took, mind you. Vincent Jackson’s 2014 stats were
nearly identical to teammate Mike Evans outside of the huge disparity
in touchdowns. If a couple of Evans’ scores went to Jackson
instead, the Bucs receivers would be getting viewed completely
differently entering 2015. Larry Fitzgerald is one of my favorite
players to take in Rounds 7 and 8. Overall, he was a major disappointment
in 2014, but he averaged 81 yards per game when Carson Palmer
was on the field, a pace of nearly 1,300 yards.
As I said, the problem was not with the players. The problem
was that I had Peyton Manning available to me at each pick and
I felt that I had to pass on him in favor of the receivers. I
understand why he falls into Round 6 or 7, but generally I hate
passing on him when I have the opportunity to acquire him at this
point. I was backed into a position corner, but that’s the
risk you take when you commit to a “Zero” draft.
Funny thing about this turn: two of my top targets around this
area are usually Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin (I love old wide
receivers, apparently). Instead, I got their teammates. I liked
both of these picks because I’m trying to hit it a home
run with the Zero WR strategy. These were the 43rd and 45th receivers
drafted, but each has the talent and opportunity to provide WR2
value. These players will have a big say in making Zero WR look
brilliant or horrible.
Tom Brady would likely be going 3-4 rounds earlier if it weren’t
for the 4-game(?) suspension to start the season. If you reach
the 10th round and still are in need of a quarterback, I love
the idea of drafting Brady then pairing him with another quarterback
a few rounds later, which is exactly what I did here.
Yes, this team already has Graham, but Delanie Walker could be
good enough this season to fill my FLEX spot if needed. Walker
is one of my favorite tight ends to draft late, so if something
happens to Graham (injury; flops with new team), I feel secure
at the position. This is a move I would have been far less likely
to make in a standard league as opposed to best ball, but I also
wouldn’t have ruled it out entirely, either.
Stevie Johnson is one of the trendiest late round fantasy names
of the summer, to the point where I was a little surprised to
get him here. All reports say he is developing a connection with
Philip Rivers and he’s been as impressive as any receiver
the Chargers have in camp. He might not be the strongest week-to-week
option with Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd and (eventually) Antonio
Gates around, but he should have an opportunity to relive his
Buffalo days of fantasy relevancy.
Palmer was the guy I had in mind when I moved forward with my
Brady-and-a-partner plan, so I’m glad he made it to me in
Round 13. In a standard league, you can probably wait even later
to get Palmer, but I had to pull the trigger here since everyone
is drafting 2-3 quarterbacks due to the best ball format. In his
six games last season, Palmer averaged 21.3 points per game, borderline
QB1 numbers. If I can get that kind of production out of him while
waiting for Brady to make his return, I’m one happy fantasy
In the last ten rounds, I have gone from owning zero wide receivers
to owning seven. It’s not a collection of receivers I would
typically end up with in a draft, but I also normally wouldn’t
use Zero WR. These two receivers are at opposite ends of the spectrum
in terms of the logic behind selecting them in the late rounds.
Harvin is a great talent in a bad situation; Latimer is an unknown
quantity in a great situation. These are each the type of things
you want to look for when filling out the end of your bench. If
Harvin’s talent can trump Buffalo’s awful quarterbacks
and/or Latimer flourishes once he sees the field regularly in
a Peyton Manning offense, this Zero WR draft could wind up looking
Just one year removed from being one of the most popular late-round
tight ends, Jordan Reed has been discarded by the fantasy football
community. With season ending injuries to his tight end brethren
in Washington, Reed is left alone to be the man at his position.
Reed’s own injury problems have derailed his seasons in
the past, but in late Round 16, it’s tough to pass on a
guy with such a clear path to TE1 status.
I probably would never draft a third tight end in a regular league
(in fact, I’d rarely opt to draft a second tight end), but
best ball with a RB/WR/TE FLEX makes drafting three tight ends
a viable move.
The member of my early round running back faction that I fear
the most is Joseph Randle, so this move to grab Dunbar is a protection
play. Darren McFadden is likely next in line if Randle falters,
but he has his own injury (and skill?) problems, so it’s
not crazy to think that Dunbar could wind up getting a shot at
some point down the line. At the very least, Dunbar could contribute
to my lineup as a pass catcher (remember, this is a PPR league),
even with Randle getting most of the work.
This is about as reactionary as it gets for fantasy football
drafting. I came on the clock with this pick about half an hour
after seeing the LeSean
news, so I had to jump at the prospect of a potential starting
running back sitting on the board in the 20th round. Reports are
McCoy will be back by Week 1, but as a Bills fan who has witnessed
Fred Jackson continue to show up year after year despite his predicted
demise, I wouldn’t write him off just yet.
As this draft unfolded, I was not thrilled with the way it was
working out. It felt like my wide receivers were a mess, no matter
what I did to address the situation. But now that I can see the
team written out as a full roster, I’m changing my tune
My group of running backs all have question marks, but if they
come through, this has the potential to be a very strong group.
If just two of the big four can come through with RB1 seasons,
the main purpose of the strategy is a success.
At quarterback, I get five weeks of Palmer, one of my favorite
late round quarterback options, followed by the return of Brady.
At tight end, I get one of the elite players in the game, with
two high upside players to back him up. I feel 100% comfortable
with those positions, whether best ball or standard league play.
That being said, I can’t fully endorse this strategy, especially
in a league where you are required to start a minimum of three
wide receivers. If you are in a league that requires a minimum
of two wide outs, or you’re the type of owner that feels
like you need to have the running back position locked down going
into the season, this could certainly be the strategy for you.