Watch Now: Jamey Eisenberg's Running Back Sleepers (4:00)

The Fantasy Football world rarely comes to a universal agreement about anything. We can't even fully agree on what the terms "sleepers," "breakouts," and "busts" mean. But when it comes to the value of elite running backs, we're getting really close to full agreement in 2020. 

In NFC ADP since July 1st, 12 of the first 14 picks are running backs. Through the first 40 picks of an averaged draft more than half of the players selected (22) are running backs. This makes sense when looking back at 2019. Christian McCaffrey was a cheat code and most of the early wide receiver picks (besides Michael Thomas) were disappointments. And 2019 wasn't the first year; running backs have been pretty dominant over the past three seasons. As long as you draft the right one, of course. People who drafted Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, James Conner,  and Le'Veon Bell would probably disagree.

Despite this trend, as Ben Gretch recently tweeted, the same principles that inspired the original Zero-RB article still largely apply today. Running back is still the most volatile position. You're still more likely to find an elite running back on the waiver wire because of an injury than you are an elite wide receiver. If anything, that may be even more true in 2020 than usual. If an elite running back misses time due to COVID-19, it's far more likely their backup will: A) Be available on the waiver wire, and B) Become an instant starter for your Fantasy team. In contrast, if Julio Jones goes down that's probably going to mean an explosion for Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst, but they'll already be rostered. 

The other benefit Zero-RB has in 2020 is what I started with at the top: There are so many running backs being drafted early that based on ADP you could legitimately start your team with Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley, and Dak Prescott and/or Zach Ertz from the back end of the draft. In a PPR league where you start three receivers and a flex you've just started off with elite production at five different spots in your lineup. That elite production need only be buoyed by one big hit at running back to have a truly dominant roster. Hit on two and you may just moonwalk to a championship.

Finally, the 2020 rookie running back class adds another wrinkle in favor of Zero-RB this year. While Clyde Edwards-Helaire now seems to have a clear path to all the touches he can handle, the rest of this very talented class does not. J.K. Dobbins, Jonathan Taylor, and D'Andre Swift will all need to overtake Mark Ingram, Marlon Mack, and Kerryon Johnson. Without a preseason (or much of an offseason) they'll probably have to do that during the regular season. That makes the veterans on those teams good early seasons starters whose cost is held down by the prospect of losing their jobs.

This all leads me to be very open to Zero-RB in the right situation. Namely, a PPR league where I can start at least three receivers (preferably four) and everyone else is going crazy drafting running backs. Now before we get into the actual running backs I'm targeting this year, a few notes...

  • No one is saying you should actually draft zero running backs, and I'm not interested in debating whether you should wait five rounds or seven or 10 to take your first back. That's highly dependent on your scoring and lineup configuration.
  • A modified Zero-RB approach is both safer and more likely to lead you to Fantasy glory this season. This is especially true if you have a pick in the first half of the draft or play in anything other than a full PPR league.
  • I'm even more fond of this approach in SuperFlex leagues, especially if it's a PPR league and you can start four receivers.
  • I'm trying to balance four things with my late round running backs: Upside and floor, but also early-season vs. late. I lean strongly towards upside and late, but I need two running backs I don't hate starting at the beginning of the year. 
  • Don't go into any draft with an intentional positional strategy. 

I've broken my favorite Zero-RB candidates into three categories and ranked them according to their value at their current ADP (in parentheses). I want at least two backs from each of the first two categories. Finally, all of these ADPs and values are based on PPR leagues. A Zero-RB approach in non-PPR is not advisable unless your hand is really forced.

Early season starters and high-floor plays

Upside plays you'll have to wait on



Here are a pair of road maps depending on who you land. Both road maps assume you don't have any running backs until Round 6. For Plan A, we'll get our floor plays early and then focus on upside. With Plan, B we'll do the opposite. Tarik Cohen is in both plans because he's a Zero-RB cheat code in PPR formats. You won't get all of these backs because you'll have to take a defense and a kicker, but I'd want at least six of them minimum.

Plan A

Round 6: Ronald Jones
Round 7: Tarik Cohen
Round 8: Alexander Mattison
Round 9: Latavius Murray
Round 10: Darrell Henderson
Round 11: Tony Pollard
Round 12: Chase Edmonds

Plan B

Round 6: J.K. Dobbins
Round 7: Derrius Guice
Round 8: Tarik Cohen
Round 9: Kerryon Johnson
Round 10: Phillip Lindsay
Round 11: Darrell Henderson
Round 12: Nyheim Hines

So what Fantasy football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which WR1 candidate can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get cheat sheets from the model that was all over Derrick Henry's huge season, and find out.