October 4, 2022

In recent years I’ve been a bigger proponent of Zero-RB than most, but even qualified it by saying that if you had a top-four pick, you probably shouldn’t run the strategy. That has changed for 2022. I’m fine with Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp in the first four picks, which opens up a wider range of Zero-RB paths than in years past when it was mostly only available to teams drafting in the back half of the first round.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that catches have to count. I’d rather have them count for a full point, but this strategy can work in a 0.5 PPR league, not just for teams with a top-five pick. If you can start two quarterbacks, so much the better. If it’s also strictly premium, then we’ve reached the point where I actually prefer the Zero-RB.

As a proponent of the non-intentional strategic position, I must emphasize here that you should not lock yourself into a Zero-RB approach. If you’re in a league with a lot of guys who avoid running backs, you should save them. You should never stick to a specific plan of strategy without taking into account what your teammates are doing in the league. This article is about using Zero-RB when the strategy presents itself as the best option, not for locking it in advance.

Now that we’ve cleared that up never to go Zero-RB, let’s talk about how. In mine Run Back Preview I’ve given you my favorite Zero-RB targets and will update them as ADP becomes more stable. But first I’d like to address the Zero-RB dream build, then three runs based on current ADP.

My dream scenario starts with me landing Jefferson in Round 1, Mark Andrews in Round 2, DJ Moore in Round 3, Brandin Cooks in Round 4, and Mike Williams in Round 5. That gives me four of the my top 14 receivers. No. 2 tight end.

The only place, other than running back, that this team lacks is quarterback. If you’re feeling really freaky, you can find Jalen Hurts in Round 6. If you miss him, Tom Brady could be there in Round 7. If you’re in a league that’s crazy early for quarterbacks, then your first five picks might be it’s even better than my dream script. In that case I could target one of Trey Lance or Justin Fields and pair them with one of Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr.

Now, it’s possible if you’re in the back end of the draft that you lose Kupp, Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase in Round 1. In the scenario, I’m flipping to Travis Kelce and replacing Andrews in Round 2 with Stefon Diggs. Let’s look at three possible starts based on different draft positions you could build from. I’ll go from Round 6 to the Hurts build and Round 5 to the others. Note, all three of these versions are possible according to Fantasy Pros Consensus PPR ADP:

  • Pick 4 Justin Jefferson, Mark Andrews, DJ Moore, Brandin Cooks, Mike Williams
  • Pick 8 Ja’Marr Chase, Mark Andrews, Michael Pittman, DJ Moore, Courtland Sutton, Jalen Hurts
  • Pick 11 Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs, Michael Pittman, DJ Moore, Courtland Sutton

All three of those teams have four of my top 20 receivers and either my No. 1 or No. 2 pick. The team from Pick 8 also has my No. 5 quarterback. Now it’s time to attack the running back position like a college freshman and a day-old pizza. Eat until you’re full, then eat some more. Here’s this list from the preview, for reference:

Round 6 – Miles Sanders, Kareem Hunt, Tony Pollard
Round 7 – Chase Edmonds, Kenneth Walker
Round 8 – Michael Carter, Rhamondre Stevenson
Round 9 – James Cook, Nyheim Hines
Round 10 – Dameon Pierce, Tyler Allgeier, Alexander Mattison
Round 11 – Raheem Mostert, Isaiah Spiller
Round 12 – Marlon Mack, Mark Ingram
Round 13 –
Kenneth Gainwell, Rachaad White
Round 14 or later
– Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman,

Now, there is a wide range of backs here. There are shortstops with high upside who don’t perform without injury, 1B backs who might be bent early or championship winners with injury, and less exciting backs with higher floors. I would like a mixture of all three types. First, I want two backs that I can see as flexes or better for Week 1. Then, I want as much upside and as many shots as I can get from rounds 6-14. With these builds, I would expect at least six of my final nine picks to be running backs, with at least one more upside wide receiver and a quarterback.

Zero-RB Build from option 4

1.4 Justin Jefferson
2.9 Mark Andrews
3.4 DJ Moore
4.9 Brandin Cooks
5.4 Mike Williams
6.9 Karim Khand
7.4 Tom Brady
8.9 Chase Edmonds
9.4 James Cook
10.9 Alexander Matheson
11.4 Dameon Pierce
12.9 Isaiah Spiller
13.4 Khalil Herbert
14.9 Jahan Dotson

You’ll notice a lot of rookie running backs in these builds because they’re not yet promoted to ADP like they usually are. Pierce and Allgeier in particular seem to have pretty clear paths to starting reps, but I prefer Pierce because Cordarrelle Patterson is likely to keep Allgeier off the field for football snaps this year.

Zero-RB Build from pick 8

1.8 Ja’Marr Chase
2.5 Mark Andrews
3.8 Michael Pittman
4.5 DJ Moore
5.8 Courtland Sutton
6.5 Jalen Hurts
7.8 Chase Edmonds
8.5 Michael Carter
9.8 Traylon Burks
10.5 Nyheim Hines
11.8 Dameon Pierce
12.5 Isaiah Spiller
13.8 Mark Ingram
14.5 Tyler Allgaier

Mark Ingram isn’t looking as attractive now that Alvin Kamara’s court case has been delayed again, but that doesn’t mean he should go back to being undrafted again. On the one hand, a leaked video or settlement could result in a mid-season suspension, and on the other, Kamara could miss time. Ingram’s age makes it surprising, but at worst he has pretty high upside and could be more of a 1B like Hunt or Pollard.

Zero-RB Build from pick 11

1.11 Travis Kelce
2.2 Stefon Diggs
3.11 Michael Pittman
4.2 DJ Moore
5.11 Courtland Sutton
6.2 Miles Sanders
7.11 Tony Pollard
8.2 Chase Edmonds
9.11 Kirk Cousins
10.2 Justin Fields
11.11 Dameon Pierce
12.2 Isaiah Spiller
13.11 Tyler Allgaier
14.2 Jahan Dotson

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these running backs, especially those in the double-digit rounds, see their ADP boost in the coming weeks. But it’s hard to come up with a plan based on what ADP might be, so I’m using what’s currently the consensus. The initial Zero-RB target list shows how early I’m willing to target these backs, while the three drafts show the best case scenario according to current ADP. Stay on top of changes and adjust accordingly.

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