2019 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Miles Sanders, Justice Hill and Tony Pollard are making Zero RB even more appealing

In July I wrote about the Zero-RB strategy and how this year may be one of my favorites to employ it. That's especially true if you pick in the back half of the first round, as I showed in one of our mocks with this start: 

1.10 JuJu Smith-Schuster
2.3 Tyreek Hill
3.10 Zach Ertz
4.3 Robert Woods
5.10 Calvin Ridley
6.3 Tevin Coleman
7.10 Rashaad Penny
8.3 Latavius Murray

Now I still love that start and I'm still employing this strategy, but it may have gotten even easier since the preseason games have started. A lot of that has to do with this rookie class.

This is a class that was short on superstars but long on depth and that depth has definitely flashed this preseason. 

Tony Pollard has taken advantage of Ezekiel Elliott's absence, Devin Singletary has earned first team snaps and Miles Sanders may have already won the starting job. And all of these rookies are still extremely cheap on Draft Day.

For that reason I've updated my Zero-RB targets below. All of these backs have an ADP outside of the first five rounds. 

Running back preview
Zero RB targets
SF San Francisco • #26
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
56th
RB RNK
27th
PROJ PTS
143
SOS
5
ADP
60
Stats
RUYDS
800
REC
32
REYDS
276
TD
9
FPTS/G
12.1
If you're skipping running back in the first five rounds you should spend the last two hoping Tevin Coleman lasts to Round 6. Because he fits perfectly. Coleman has a solid floor as a top-30 back with good exposure to the passing game on an above-average offense. The current health situation of Jerick McKinnon and injury history of Matt Breida gives Coleman enormous upside as well. San Francisco running backs ran for 1,769 yards and caught 53 passes for 457 yards last season. Even 60% of that could make Coleman a league-winner if he's surrounded by an elite receiving corps. Don't underestimate how good he is in the passing game; he's averaged 8.1 yards per target over the past three seasons.
SEA Seattle • #20
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
69th
RB RNK
32nd
PROJ PTS
117
SOS
6
ADP
99
Stats
RUYDS
419
REC
9
REYDS
75
TD
2
FPTS/G
4.9
Penny doesn't have the floor of Coleman but he may have as much upside as any running back in this article and I'd feel pretty comfortable flexing him as early as Week 1. Penny made progress throughout his rookie year, learning from Chris Carson what Pete Carroll expects from his running backs. He's firmly entrenched in a committee with Carson entering 2019 on an offense that may just lead the league in rush attempts. Penny has more talent than Carson, so if he's learned enough he may just wrestle away 60% of the touches without the need for an injury. But Carson does have a bit of an injury history. If Carson goes down Penny could legitimately be a top-10 back in this offense.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #30
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
64th
RB RNK
29th
PROJ PTS
146
SOS
25
ADP
75
Stats
RUYDS
554
REC
39
REYDS
404
TD
6
FPTS/G
12
This ADP may be a little misleading, but not a lot. Ekeler will continue to move up for as long as Melvin Gordon sits out but I still haven't seen him get all that close to the fifth round yet. Expect a timeshare in Los Angeles if Gordon indeed misses games with Ekeler getting a little over half of the carries and closer to 70% of the running back targets. He'll be a must-start No. 2 running back in an elite offense for as long as Gordon isn't there. But also, Ekeler is a fine flex in PPR when Gordon is active. He's been one of the most efficient running backs in the NFL over the past two seasons, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 10.3 yards per reception. He won't keep that up in a lead role, but I would expect him to be above average.
NO New Orleans • #28
Age: 29 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
84th
RB RNK
34th
PROJ PTS
120
SOS
7
ADP
93
Stats
RUYDS
578
REC
22
REYDS
141
TD
6
FPTS/G
8.2
It's kind of weird to think that Mark Ingram was a fourth or fifth round pick in this same role and now we see Murray available in the eighth. I don't believe Murray has the same talent as Ingram, especially in the passing game, but he may be a better fit for a short-yardage role. Murray has double-digit touchdown upside even if Kamara plays 16 games, but he'd become a borderline No. 1 back if Kamara were to miss time.
DEN Denver • #28
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
95th
RB RNK
39th
PROJ PTS
92
SOS
28
ADP
115
Stats
RUYDS
521
REC
14
REYDS
72
TD
5
FPTS/G
7.2
This is still a full-blown committee in Denver and I fully expect Vic Fangio desires a run-heavy approach to protect his defense. Freeman will see about 40% of the carries for as long as the diminutive Phillip Lindsay can stay upright. Freeman showed passing game chops at the end of last year and should be better suited for red zone work.
HOU Houston • #23
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
135th
RB RNK
54th
PROJ PTS
99
SOS
11
ADP
133
Stats
RUYDS
571
REC
10
REYDS
33
TD
5
FPTS/G
7
Is Hyde anything special? No. But he's battling Darwin Thompson for the backup role to Damien Williams, who is already dealing with a hamstring issue. Williams has never been a feature back and Thompson has no NFL experience. This is arguably the best situation in football so I'll be interested in rostering anyone who has a shot at it.
TEN Tennessee • #33
Age: 28 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
117th
RB RNK
46th
PROJ PTS
120
SOS
22
ADP
112
Stats
RUYDS
517
REC
59
REYDS
400
TD
2
FPTS/G
10
Forget about Derrick Henry's strained calf for a minute. Dion Lewis deserved to be on this list before that was even a consideration. Lewis is still the pass-catching back in Tennessee and the Titans face a brutal schedule that includes 10 elite offenses. In most of those games I'd anticipate we're going to see a lot of Lewis chasing the score. If this calf injury lingers for Henry? You may have just landed a feature back in the double-digit rounds. Lewis is one of the most obvious touchdown regression candidates this season and he was a top-30 back even with rotten luck.
KC Kansas City • #34
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
148th
RB RNK
59th
PROJ PTS
93
SOS
11
ADP
135
Read everything I wrote about Carlos Hyde, then add a little bit of actual upside and elusiveness. You may have to be patient with Thompson but he could do big things in the second half.
BAL Baltimore • #43
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
121st
RB RNK
48th
PROJ PTS
84
SOS
31
ADP
154
Hill is backing up a 29-year-old running back in what may be the most run-heavy offense in football. Like Thompson, this pick may require patience.
MIA Miami • #27
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
96th
RB RNK
40th
PROJ PTS
106
SOS
24
ADP
116
Stats
RUYDS
191
REC
9
REYDS
56
TD
1
FPTS/G
3.1
It kind of sounds like Ballage may be winning the lead rushing role in Miami in camp. While that seems ridiculous to me, it's no more ridiculous than Frank Gore getting the touches he did last year. I'd expect Ballage to do more with those touches than Gore did.
SF San Francisco • #22
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
128th
RB RNK
51st
PROJ PTS
106
SOS
5
ADP
123
Stats
RUYDS
814
REC
27
REYDS
261
TD
5
FPTS/G
11.6
We saw just how good Breida can be with touches last year. While we still don't know if he can hold up for a full season, I like his chances better than McKinnon's right now. Breida can be a solid flex even with Coleman and has top-15 upside if something happens to Coleman.
DAL Dallas • #20
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
116th
RB RNK
51st
PROJ PTS
119
SOS
4
ADP
140
Pollard has been one of the stars of the preseason in Dallas. In two games he has rushed nine times for 58 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a nine-yard pass. We knew of his pass-catching prowess but the Cowboys are indicating they trust Pollard more as a runner than I would have expected. He now looks like a true handcuff who would be a must-start option should Elliott miss time. I still expect this contract situation will work itself out but there's no guarantee it happens before Week 1. There's also no guarantee Elliott stays healthy once he shows up.
BUF Buffalo • #26
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
144th
RB RNK
57th
PROJ PTS
59
SOS
19
ADP
143
It's just murmurs now, but there are rumblings that LeSean McCoy's time in Buffalo may be coming to an end sooner rather than later. Add in that Gore hasn't been able to get healthy enough to practice and you have a recipe for Singletary to win the job outright.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #22
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
104th
RB RNK
45th
PROJ PTS
85
SOS
25
ADP
144
Stats
RUYDS
206
REC
15
REYDS
135
TD
2
FPTS/G
4.6
Jackson is more dependent on Gordon's holdout than Ekeler, but he's a lot cheaper too. Even in drafts over the last few weeks he isn't cracking the single digit rounds. Just remember, if Gordon holds out Jackson is just one Ekeler injury away from top-20 status.
PHI Philadelphia • #26
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
71st
RB RNK
33rd
PROJ PTS
150
SOS
23
ADP
76
I still don't believe Sanders has feature-back upside because of Doug Pederson, but you don't have to have that to be a good pick in the seventh round. Sanders looks like the best back in Philadelphia and they should have a very good offense that is among the league leaders in points scored. That gives Sanders top-20 upside and makes him a great fit for Zero RB.

So what 2019 Fantasy Football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which RB2 can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get 2019 Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Andrew Luck's huge season, and find out.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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