Inhale Sports original article | By: Kyle Radimer
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The Best Fantasy Draft Strategy
There are many ways that fantasy football players will go about their drafts. Some plan to draft quarterbacks early, while others plan to take tight ends early. Some target or isolate running backs with minimal-RB or heavy-RB strategies. Others may just take the “best” player on the board, no matter the position.
I’m here to tell you that none of these are right, though the logic behind them isn’t necessarily lacking. There is no “best draft strategy”. If you are too invested in one strategy, you will be prone to reaching for players. This will diminish the value you get on draft day, and ruin your teams in the end.
Having an approach is good, but should not be the end-all. Each draft will shape up differently, so being able to adjust your strategy is essential. Almost any strategy can work in a draft, given the board shapes out right for it. Knowing about these strategies can be very beneficial as long as you don’t pick one now and have your heart set on it.
In this article I am going to go over the different strategies and how to use them in your drafts. I will show you in what situations you can use certain approaches, and I will give you examples of teams you may end up with by employing each one. The goal is that no draft will take you by surprise, so that you can end up confident in your picks after each draft you partake in, no matter what strategy you have to utilize.
The Zero RB Strategy
The first of the more complex strategies I will go over is the Zero-RB strategy. This strategy has been rapidly growing in popularity, and entails fading running backs at the start of your draft. You could take your first running back at different points, but the premise is that you take quarterbacks, receivers, and tight ends for at least the first five rounds. This will ensure that you obtain elite receivers, potentially in addition to an elite tight end or quarterback. Then, you draft high-upside backs in hopes of some returning great value.
The upside to this strategy is that running back is the most injury-prone position in fantasy football. By not taking them early, you minimize this injury risk. The rest of the positions are not as prone to injury, so in theory, you should be stacked in every other position the whole year. This provides you a clear advantage over the competition, given you can overcome the largest issue with this strategy.
The downside to the Zero RB strategy is that you will be hard pressed to find an RB1 later in drafts, especially one that produces early in the year. Having an elite running back is also an enormous advantage in fantasy football over someone who doesn’t have one. In turn, it would be a huge disadvantage not having one. I don’t think it is nearly as hard to find one or two backs who can put up RB2 numbers late. However, finding one you can play as an RB1 will be extremely difficult.
Team example (by round, first 10 rounds, from pick 4):
- Justin Jefferson
- Deebo Samuel
- Kyle Pitts
- DJ Moore
- Brandin Cooks
- Jalen Hurts
- Tony Pollard
- Chase Edmonds
- Rhamondre Stevenson
- Darrell Henderson
The Hero RB Strategy
My main issue with the Zero RB strategy brings me to the Hero RB strategy. In this strategy, you prioritize an RB1 in the first round. Then, you build the rest of your team before grabbing high upside backs later. It is the same idea as the Zero-RB strategy, but with a clear RB1.
To use this strategy, you must grab a top RB1 without reaching in the first round. This will likely require having either pick 1 or 2 overall, or 5-8 once Kupp and Jefferson are gone. After that, you must pivot to receiver or tight end for your next few picks. If your draft is RB heavy, this beginning could provide a great return. Hopefully, with an early stretch of running backs, you can find value later. Just as everyone is beginning to focus on other positions, you can grab upside RBs.
Though you won’t end up with a top-3 receiver using this strategy, you should still have a clear WR1. If you continue going receiver, you will be left with an amazing WR2 and FLEX. With the amount of ambiguity among certain teams’ RB depth charts, along with injuries to the position, you will be able to find a solid RB2 later in the draft or on the waiver wire.
This strategy is quickly becoming a top option for me this year, assuming the first few rounds work for it. You should come out of this draft with a top-tier starting lineup in your league, having at least an elite RB, a solid QB1 and TE1, and a top WR depth chart.
Team example (by round, first 10 rounds, from pick 5):
- Derrick Henry
- Deebo Samuel
- Keenan Allen
- Michael Pittman
- Dalton Schultz
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire
- Tom Brady
- Chase Edmonds
- Rhamondre Stevenson
- Tyler Boyd
The Robust RB Strategy
The Robust-RB strategy is the opposite of the Zero-RB strategy. Running back tends to be a scarce position in fantasy football, with only a handful truly succeeding each year. With this strategy, you are looking to grab at least three running backs in the first 5 rounds. This will leave you with a top RB depth chart, but thin elsewhere.
Running back can often be the hardest position to improve on a fantasy football roster. Players are very hesitant to trade their top backs, so if you have a thin depth chart, grabbing a decent waiver wire running back is your only hope. This strategy eliminates that problem. You should have one of the deepest running back depth charts in your league with Robust-RB.
There are two issues with this strategy in my opinion. The first is that finding a true WR1 will be very difficult. There is usually one or two mid-round receivers who break out as WR1s, but picking which is hard. This leaves you with a significant hole in your roster. My other issue is tight end. If you go RB-heavy, receivers will need to be prioritized in the middle rounds. This makes grabbing a top-7 TE very difficult to fit in, which could leave you with another significant hole.
Though I have no issue focusing on running backs early, I am not a fan of this strategy. Those two potential gaps are big issues, and you would need to solve both for this strategy to work. Otherwise, your team will simply not be able to compete against a starting lineup with no noticeable holes.
Team example (by round, first 10 rounds, from pick 8):
- Dalvin Cook
- Nick Chubb
- James Conner
- Terry McLaurin
- J.K. Dobbins
- Darnell Mooney
- Rashod Bateman
- Dawson Knox
- Trey Lance
- Kadarius Toney
Zero vs Hero vs Robust
|QB||Jalen Hurts||Tom Brady||Trey Lance|
|RB||Tony Pollard||Derrick Henry||Dalvin Cook|
|RB||Chase Edmonds||Clyde Edwards-Helaire||Nick Chubb|
|WR||Justin Jefferson||Deebo Samuel||Terry McLaurin|
|WR||Deebo Samuel||Keenan Allen||Darnell Mooney|
|TE||Kyle Pitts||Dalton Schultz||Dawson Knox|
|FLEX||DJ Moore||Michael Pittman||James Conner|
|BENCH||Brandin Cooks||Chase Edmonds||J.K. Dobbins|
|BENCH||Rhamondre Stevenson||Rhamondre Stevenson||Rashod Bateman|
|BENCH||Darrell Henderson||Tyler Boyd||Kadarius Toney|
It is interesting to see these teams pinned side by side. All of them should be competitive with one another, as well as compete for a championship. Though I think the Hero-RB strategy looks best due to its balanced nature, either of the other two could prove to be more successful. Derrick Henry’s health is the biggest X-factor with the Hero-RB team. If he stays healthy all year, that team is the league winner. If he goes down, however, that team would immediately jump to being the worst of the three.
Whichever route you go should depend on how your draft plays out. The Zero-RB strategy could work well if given Kupp or Jefferson off the bat. Zero-RB would minimize your risk of RB injury and give your team a very high floor all year. Though, it may not have the highest potential. The Hero-RB strategy comes with the most risk due to relying on the health of one RB. But if they stay healthy, the potential is there to sweep the competition. The Robust-RB strategy likely would start your team off at a disadvantage. However, when RB injuries start piling up, you could jump to the top of the standings.
Like I previously mentioned, understanding these strategies can be very beneficial. Any one can be successful given the right circumstances. You must keep in mind that value is the end goal in drafting. Though building a solid lineup is also a goal, hopefully this article showed you that a solid lineup can be built in a variety of ways. There is no need to hesitate when you’re picking at 6 and Cooper Kupp falls to you but you were expecting to get a RB. Or when a top QB falls but you were told to wait on QB. If you are maximizing value with your picks, a top lineup will fall into place.
That is also why it is so important to not have a set strategy going into a draft. Sure, if you know where you’re drafting in advance, you can have a plan for your first couple picks. But to choose whether you’re going Zero-RB before the draft even starts would be a poor decision. See how the board shapes out and take value where value is given. That is the best draft strategy you can have.
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