For the past few years I've been a bigger proponent of Zero-RB than most, but even I qualified that by saying that if you had a top-four pick, you probably shouldn't employ the strategy. That has changed for 2022. I'm fine with taking both Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp in the first four picks, which opens up a wider range of Zero-RB paths than past years, 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 must count. I'd prefer they count for a full point, but this strategy can work in a 0.5 PPR league as well, just not for teams with a top-five pick. If you're able to start two quarterbacks, all the better. If it's tight end premium as well, then we've reached the point where I actually prefer Zero-RB.
As a proponent of no intentional positional strategy, this is where I must emphasize that you should not lock yourself into a Zero-RB approach. If you're in a league with a bunch of guys eschewing running back, you should be stockpiling them. You should never be stuck in a particular draft strategy without consideration of what your league-mates are doing. This article is about employing Zero-RB when the strategy presents itself as the best option, not about locking it in beforehand.
Now that we've straightened out when to go Zero-RB, let's talk about how. In my Running Back Preview I gave you my favorite Zero-RB targets, and I'll update those as ADP gets more firm. But first I'd like to tackle the dream Zero-RB build, then three paths based on current ADP.
My dream scenario starts with me landing Jefferson in Round 1, Mark Andrews in Round 2, D.J. Moore in Round 3, Brandin Cooks in Round 4, and Mike Williams in Round 5. That gives me four of my top-14 wide receivers and my No. 2 tight end.
The only place, other than running back, this team is lacking is at quarterback. If you're really feeling frisky you can possibly 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 goes crazy for quarterbacks early, then your first five picks may be even better than my dream scenario. 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.
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Now, it's possible if you're at the back end of the draft that you miss out on Kupp, Jefferson, and Ja'Marr Chase in Round 1. In the scenario, I'm pivoting 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 through Round 6 on the Hurts build, and through Round 5 on the others. Note, all three of these builds are possible according to Fantasy Pros Consensus PPR ADP:
- Pick 4 Justin Jefferson, Mark Andrews, D.J. Moore, Brandin Cooks, Mike Williams
- Pick 8 Ja'Marr Chase, Mark Andrews, Michael Pittman, D.J. Moore, Courtland Sutton, Jalen Hurts
- Pick 11 Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs, Michael Pittman, D.J. Moore, Courtland Sutton
All three of these teams have four of my top-20 wide receivers and either my No. 1 or No. 2 tight end. 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 and then eat some more. Here's that 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's a wide range of backs here. There are high-upside handcuffs who won't pay off without an injury, 1B backs who can be flexes early or league-winners with an injury, and less exciting backs with higher floors. I would like a mix of all three types. First, I want two backs I can view 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'd expect a minimum of six of my final nine picks would be running backs, with at least one more upside wide receiver and a quarterback mixed in.
Zero-RB Build from Pick 4
1.4 Justin Jefferson
2.9 Mark Andrews
3.4 D.J. Moore
4.9 Brandin Cooks
5.4 Mike Williams
6.9 Kareem Hunt
7.4 Tom Brady
8.9 Chase Edmonds
9.4 James Cook
10.9 Alexander Mattison
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 aren't yet being pushed up in ADP like they normally are. Pierce and Allgeier in particular seem to have pretty clear paths to starter reps, but I prefer Pierce because Cordarrelle Patterson is likely to keep Allgeier off the field for passing downs this year.
Zero-RB Build from Pick 8
1.8 Ja'Marr Chase
2.5 Mark Andrews
3.8 Michael Pittman
4.5 D.J. Moore
5.8 Courtland Sutton
6.5 Jalen Hurts
7.8 Chase Edmonds
8.5 Michael Carter
9.8 Treylon Burks
10.5 Nyheim Hines
11.8 Dameon Pierce
12.5 Isaiah Spiller
13.8 Mark Ingram
14.5 Tyler Allgeier
Mark Ingram doesn't look near 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. For one thing, a video leak or settlement could lead to a midseason suspension, and for another, Kamara could miss time. Ingram's age makes this surprising, but he's a pretty high-upside handcuff at the worst and may 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 D.J. 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 Allgeier
14.2 Jahan Dotson
I would not be surprised if a few of these running backs, especially those in the double-digit rounds, see their ADP get boosted in the coming weeks. But it's hard to lay out a plan based on what ADP might be, so I'm using what consensus currently is. The original list of Zero-RB targets shows how early I'm willing to target these backs, while the three draft plans show the best-case scenario according to current ADP. Keep abreast of changes, and adjust accordingly.