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NFL Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Testing Zero RB Draft Strategy

Photo Credit: Sporting News

The "Zero RB" draft strategy in NFL Fantasy Football emerged from an era when RBs dominated the first-round picks. It aimed to capitalize on the wealth of top WRs, QBs, and TEs overlooked by players who failed to delay their RB selection. In 2022, this tactic led to numerous fantasy champions due to the elevated bust rate of early RBs. As more players explore non-RB first-round picks this year, will the "Zero RB" strategy stand strong? Let's delve into the rules for mastering the "Zero RB" Strategy.

- No RBs selected until round 5 at the earliest.

- Draft a stud WR in round 1.

- Draft one of the blue-chip TEs.

- Draft a top-tier QB.

- When drafting RBs look for high upside and PPR-focused backs.

Without further adieu, here is the Zero RB mock draft I started at 1.1 12-man league 4pt QB TD PPR.

With the first overall pick, I took Justin Jefferson, WR Minnesota Vikings. J-Jetta ended as WR1 overall last year and is seeing Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook leave the team, vacating the vast majority of non-Justin Jefferson targets on a team that boasted 63% target share to the WR position. Jefferson also boasted the 6th all-time receiving yards and was a top 5 WR for nine games and a top 24 WR 13 times between weeks 1-17 last season. Jefferson should be your first pick if you are going Zero RB or not.

With Pick 1.1 I take Justin Jefferson WR Vikings

Josh Allen going in the first round was a surprise to me, but the rest seems pretty chalk with a bunch of RBs and all of my tier 1,2 and 3 WRs coming off the board. Had any of the previous WRs fallen to me in round 2, they would have been the pick, but I think a player from my next tier will fall to me in round 4. There are two elite QB picks left at the 2.12, which means if I don't take one at the turn, I will likely miss out on both. So the choice I have to make is Mahomes, Hurts, or punt the position. By the rules of this mock draft I can't punt and wait for a Daniel Jones in round 11 so it must be Mahomes or Hurts. Both players were top 12 QBs every week but one last year both are in stable offenses and have great coaching staffs. Hurts has the better supporting cast but Mahomes has had more opportunity to score in the red zone. It's a coin flip either way, but I'll take Mahomes.

With Pick 2.12, I take Patrick Mahomes, QB Chiefs.

I am back at the turn and am in the same situation as before but the debate is between taking Mark Andrews the clear number 2 TE, or going WR, where I have a bunch of guys ranked similarly. I went Mark Andrews here he is the only TE not named Travis Kelce who has been a top 5 TE every year for the past 4 years. The Ravens still are questionable at the WR positions even though they invested a lot in Odell Beckham and Zay Flowers I don't see them taking that much from Andrews in year one and may get some pressure off from him to boot. Still not feeling the value at receiver in this round. If Zero RB was not the strategy here, I would have heavily considered Jamaar Gibbs, Rhamondre Stevenson, Joe Mixon, or Najee Harris for both these picks at the turn.

With Pick 3.1, I take Mark Andrews, TE Ravens

This is why committing to a Zero RB strategy will be disastrous in 2023. Looking at what came off the board in rounds 3 and 4, the running back position has dropped the pool by another 2 or 3 tiers. But sticking with the theme, I had to look WR to complete the non-RB starting positions. My thoughts were between Terry McLaurin, Jerry Jeudy, or Hollywood Brown. Brown's ADP is 6.10 so I will wait and see if he falls to me. McLaurin, after Carson Wentz got booted from the starting position, jumped to a 25% target share as opposed to the 18-20% with Wentz behind center. It seems as though he has developed a good relationship with the presumed starting QB Sam Howell and got a huge upgrade in offensive coordinator with Eric Bieniemy. Jeudy also got a big upgrade at the coaching spot, with Sean Payton taking over for the abysmal Nathaniel Hackett. The debate between these two players is what you believe Payton does with Russell Wilson. Will Wilson go back to cooking like he did in Seattle? Will he still be just as bad as he was last year? It is hard to say. I suspect somewhere in the middle. The other factor that goes against Jeudy is the number of quality receivers that Denver has. Jeudy, Sutton, and Marvin Mims may be looking at a starting wide-out position. For these reasons I think I'll take McLauren.

With Pick 4.12 I take Terry McLauren WR Commanders.

At the turn again and I can finally take a RB by the rules of this system and luckily I have a great value available, Miles Sanders is the only option at this pick. He is one of two RBs available that have real RB1 upside. Sanders was productive in his last year in Philly but lost a ton of fantasy production to Jalen Hurts being a TD vulture at the goal line. Now his QB is Bryce Young who is too short and small to have any coach want to try anything at the goal line. I expect Sanders to be a 3 down back for the Panthers who boast an improved O-Line if Chandler Zavala can find a way to get back on the field after tweaking something at camp. In a PPR league Sanders has even more value in round 5 as I expect he will get some touches in the passing game because Frank Reigh likes to use the RB in the passing game quite a bit.

With Pick 5.1 I take Miles Sanders RB Panthers.

A bunch more RBs come off the board as well as some tier breakers at WR. If I were picking for anything but content, I'd go for Hollywood Brown here at ADP, but I decided to go differently. Michael Pittman is the pick here, just to talk about him a little bit. New QB with a running propensity and a new coach and offensive scheme you have to ask yourself about your belief in this offense and their controversial new QB. In many ways he is similar to Brown in that he will be the clear-cut WR1 for the Colts this season, but the other half of that is taking a guy with a known commodity at QB in Kyler Murray or the gamble with Anthony Richardson. It's a hard choice but some might think he is worth the gamble in spite of a bad 2022 season.

With pick 6.12 I take Michael Pittman WR Colts.

At 7.1 it is time to hit the real truth behind the zero-rb strategy trying to hit on an RB with big-time upside. This is going to be a theme over the next few picks. D'andre Swift is a player with killer upside but I feel as though in reality he is going to be similar to Miles Sanders in the Eagle's offense. A guy who can be great but hindered by other options in the offense but when we are talking about that team and that offensive line if the Eagles give him an ample amount of goal line touches and he stays healthy he could finish as a low RB1 to high RB2 this season. That said I still suspect he will be a low end RB2 to flex RB in reality.

With pick 7.1 I take D'Andre Swift RB Eagles.

I have one last WR at the same tier as Michael Pittman whom I took 2 rounds ago. Jahan Dotson is an extreme upside WR and yes I will be stacking him with McLauren for this draft. One of these two guys is going to end the season as a WR1 I just don't know which one. I've been drafting Dotson a lot in mocks because the value at WR in rounds 6-8 is there in my opinion.

With pick 8.12 I select Jahan Dotson WR Washington.

On the other side of the turn I'm hitting RB again with another boom or bust but extremely high upside RB in Alvin Kamara. Granted, this pick was made before the announcement of the 3 game suspension I imagine his ADP will soar to the mid 5th but should it? Kamara was electric when he was sharing a backfield with Mark Ingram to where fantasy players and fans were begging the team to give him a higher target/carry share. They got their wish but it seems as though his yards per touch went way down over the past two years. Now he is in an offense with touchdown vulture Jamaal Williams and now with the signing of Kareem Hunt, the backfield is crowded. But the other running backs spelling Kamara might be exactly what he needs to get his groove back. Only time will tell but the upside of an RB 1 is very much there.

With Pick 9.1 I select Alvin Kamara RB Saints.

At this point more than half the teams in the draft have drafted kickers might as well wait. It is worth taking a hard look at Brandin Cooks WR from the Cowboys. Cooks has been nothing but consistent in the past 6 seasons being at least a WR 20 for each of those seasons except for last season. Personally, I give cooks a pass for last year as he was trying to leave a putrid Houston Texans team. Now happier and with more talent around him and a better QB I think Cooks will be a steal in fantasy drafts with his current ADP of 8.12 I'm getting him in the back of the 10th round its like printing money.

With pick 10.12 I select Brandin Cooks WR Cowboys.

Back on the clock again on the other side of the turn, I'm still looking for value wherever I can find it. Jackson Smith-Njigba currently has an ADP of 07.06 I am 1000% not a buyer at the current ADP but, wandering into round 11 with him still on the board, you have to take a gamble on the rookie from Ohio State. An injury to either Metcalf or Lockett will catapult him from a mid WR3 to a strong WR2 he is currently my WR 5.

With pick 11.1 I select Jaxson Smith Njigba WR Seattle.

I would have loved to take a flyer on Sam LaPorta who's ADP is jumping over recent weeks by as much as two rounds. But, I was able to take another relative steal in De'Von Achane rookie RB for the Miami Dolphins. Player 10.02 at 12.12 is another steal with big upside. Achane has been very impressive in camp and everyone knows the injury history of Mostert and Wilson can easily push Achane into a starting position. I feel with his 4.35 speed and great hands it is only a matter of time before he takes control of that RB room.

With pick 12.12 I select De'Von Achane RB, Miami

On the other side of the turn I'm taking yet another gamble on talent Jamison Williams has done nothing in the NFL to be even considered for a fantasy selection. But in spite of all that he still boasts a crazy ADP of 10.4 I will be taking him in the 13.1. He has the upside. If I find a guy I want that beaks out week one I have no problem dropping him to the curb. By all estimation, Williams is projected to be the WR2 in Detroit when he returns from his suspension in week 7. Time to bet on upside.

With pick 13.1 I select Jameson Williams WR Lions.

The rest of the draft is defense and special teams nobody cares.

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