Zero RB Targets 2017
One of the more popular fantasy football draft strategies the past few seasons has been “Zero RB”, and it’s not very hard to see why. There’s a shortage of true workhorse running backs that you can rely on in the NFL and the league is continually moving gradually away from smashmouth football and places emphasis on precision passing.
It’s easy to get behind the Zero RB theory, but the harder part is correctly identifying the running backs you need to draft after you have your top end wide receivers, tight end, and quarterback. It’s hard to correctly predict these later running backs because the risk is so much higher. The risk is the whole reason these backs go later in drafts.
Before we dive into the eight backs that can make your team work, there are two things to take note of. Firstly, we’re going to use the term Zero RB to mean you do not take your first RB until at least Round Eight in a 12 team league. In those first seven rounds, it is imperative to lock down your QB, RB, and TE. Your later picks have to be spent mostly on running back lottery tickets. You can’t chase other positions or the strategy won’t work.
Second, it’s very early in the draft process. Only the most ardent of fantasy players are drafting right now. The ADP’s discussed here are not remotely set in stone and could change the closer we get to the season. Lastly, these targets are listed strictly by ADP. This isn’t the order I would personally draft them in; it’s just the best way to order them.
- All ADP data has been taken from twoqbs.com
Eddie Lacy, Seattle Seahawks (ADP 88)
Competition – Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise
The fantasy community’s “biggest” punching bag checks in as the first target on the list. Lacy is the very rare exception that I will get on board with, even though he is a pro athlete that has weight benchmarks during the offseason. He also may want to give Kelvin Benjamin a call, but that’s another story. Seattle is a place where Lacy could thrive.
They have a history with bigger backs, not to mention the fact that both Rawls and Prosise have injury concerns. There’s also suggestions that Prosise could catch near 60 passes. Lacy comes with concerns of his own, mainly being injuries and ineffectiveness. Keep in mind the whole weight thing is slightly overblown. He was never skinny while he was a Packer, and it never seemed to bother anyone when he was a top 10 fantasy running back. This past season could be the wake-up call to get Lacy back to form.
Bilal Powell, NYJets (ADP 93)
Competiton – Matt Forte
Paul Perkins, NY Giants (ADP 99)
Competition – Shane Vereen, Shaun Draughn
Let me just say this right off the bat- I’m not the biggest fan of Perkins. I’m not totally on the hype train like some are, but there really isn’t anyone that should push him for the workload. I think most football fans know that Vereen and Draughn are average at the very best. While the Giants will certainly move the ball mostly through the air, somebody has to run the ball. That man is Perkins. He could have some down weeks where he doesn’t help you very much. The end of the season line could be 1,000 all-purpose yards and 6-8 TDs, making him a worthwhile gamble near 100 overall.
LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP 140)
Competition – Wendell Smallwood, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles
When I first saw this ADP for Blount, I assumed it was mostly because he had only recently signed with a team and that he would rocket up draft boards. However, I’m currently in a mock draft for the Scott Fish Bowl, and Blount is still on the board midway through the ninth round. The Eagles have added major weapons to the passing game in WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the off-season. There is no reason to think Blount isn’t the clear cut number one back. Ryan Mathews could be cut, Smallwood isn’t going to take work from Blount barring injury and Sproles is a completely different style back. Blount has serious upside in an offense that could quietly be very effective.
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (ADP 146)
Competition – Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram
Some readers may already know that I’ve tackled this subject, but here’s the short version of the story. Adrian Peterson may or may not be washed up. Even if he’s effective, an injury always seems to loom. Also, he is not a passing down back by any stretch. Mark Ingram has shown plenty of flash through his career. He also seems to be one mistake from Coach Sean Payton’s doghouse. Even if he stays on Payton’s good side, he’s also not the best back in the passing game. That’s where Kamara comes in. Provided the rookie can protect QB Drew Brees and not fumble the ball, he has every chance to be a dynamo in the Saints passing game. He is a very attractive target in PPR leagues especially.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (ADP 162)
Competition – Christian McCaffrey
This may seem crazy, but hear me out. Yes, McCaffery looks like he’s going to transition to the NFL without much issue. The Panthers didn’t spend the eight overall pick on a running back they don’t plan to use extensively. Yet, they also gave Stewart another year on his contract. This speaks to me that even though McCaffrey should be the clear number one, there is still a role for Stewart on this team. There is also a chance that McCaffrey doesn’t make the leap as most expect. Stewart may not be starting caliber every single week, but he’s going in the 13th Round right now. That’s a bargain for a running back in a good, run-based offense.
Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers (ADP 167)
Competition – Ty Montgomery
Everyone wants a piece of the Packers offense, right? Montgomery will enter camp as the number one back. He earned it last season with some great performances. However, I have serious doubts that he can withstand a full year of being the number one guy. As long as Williams can hit the ground running and not make QB Aaron Rodgers angry, there’s every reason to believe that the carries will be split in some fashion. There are questions about just how good Williams is, seeing as how he was a fourth round pick. This is much more betting on the Packers as a whole, not necessarily Williams as a player.
DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders (ADP 177 and 194)
Competition – Marshawn Lynch
So technically this makes nine targets, but picking between these two backs is like splitting hairs. Marshawn Lynch may be all about that action, but that doesn’t mean fantasy players should count on Lynch to carry their squad. I’m a HUGE Lynch fan, but he has been gone for a full season. He does have the luxury of running behind an excellent offensive line. Still, there’s no way to tell how effective he’ll be. If for any reason Lynch can’t be the man, it’s not a bad strategy to draft both Washington and Richard. Both backs showed flashes in their rookie year, suggesting they could be effective backs at the NFL level.
I personally am a big proponent of the Zero RB strategy. It’s slightly easier and safer to project a WR or QB than it is an RB. Running backs are simply subjected to so much more punishment. This strategy isn’t any type of guarantee, and I’m not suggesting you pass on one of the top three backs. If you do have a top three pick, you almost have to take David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell or Ezekiel Elliott. Past those three studs, the position gets murky fairly quick. I would much rather spend my draft capital on high volume WRs and take some chances later in the draft with the more volatile position.