Who Are Some Early Zero RB Targets?
Zero running back is my favorite best ball strategy. It is inherently contrarian in a format with no waiver wire, something people assume is necessary for a successful Zero RB team, and still possesses tons of upside. The win rate data last year in FFPC drafts was very kind to Zero RB, and I personally rode Zero RB all the way to the DRAFT Best Ball Championship final round.
But that was last season. Best ball contests are already fully underway on a multitude of sites. There is a lot more roster uncertainty at this time of year then there will be even a month from now with the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, but I would still advocate for a Zero RB approach. Here are some of the late-round RBs I am targeting in early drafts to satisfy my Zero RB strategy.
This is a little broad, but rather than make this piece entirely about rookie RBs, I decided to lump them all together here. You should love selecting rookie RBs in best ball. Outside of the first one or two in most classes, they are incredibly undervalued sources of fantasy production. Since the draft hasn’t even happened yet, these players are likely even further undervalued.
I would use my RB success model as a launch point for finding undervalued rookie backs, but the time is now to strike on any rookie RB you like, except maybe Josh Jacobs, who has been the consensus top rookie back off the board in early drafts. Here are some of the names I like:
With the exception of Sanders, I find myself to be way higher on these RBs than consensus. That means acquiring a ton of (perceived) value at this stage of the Draft process.
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Jaylen Samuels, Steelers
Samuels is going outside of the top 35 RBs off the board in both FFPC and DRAFT formats, as it appears folks are forgetting how successful he was in 2018 as the starting RB.
Samuels proved that he could be successful in a lead role, and did a little more than you probably expected even with James Conner healthy. In Pittsburgh’s final game of the season, which was a must-win, Samuels was heavily involved in the offense despite the return of Conner to the offense. He saw eight targets to go along with two carries. That is the look of a perfect Zero RB target. Samuels figures to accrue some points throughout the year, and if Conner ever gets hurt, he likely becomes an RB1. Buy.
C.J. Anderson, Lions
Everyone and their mother was ready to anoint Kerryon Johnson 2019’s breakout star at the position, with a third round ADP through the opening weeks of best ball. You can put that on ice now, with Anderson joining the Lions backfield. Anderson is an upgrade on LeGarrette Blount, who had 154 carries for just 418 yards in 2018, while punching in five touchdowns.
After three picking up three straight 100-yard rushing games in Weeks 16, 17, and 19 of the season, Anderson is ready to make an impact in Detroit. We know that head coach Matt Patricia has Patriots roots, meaning he is likely open to the idea of a RB by committee approach on offense. On top of that, Johnson missed six games in his rookie season after playing through multiple injuries in college. He is not exactly a picture of health.
There’s a lot of opportunity to be had here even with Johnson healthy, and should he injure himself yet again, CJA will have the opportunity to warm our hearts yet again with league-winning performances.
D’Onta Foreman, Texans
Foreman suffered a major injury last pre-season when he tore his Achilles, making him a huge question mark to return as the same player in 2019. That said, he was a premier RB prospect in 2017, and his young age makes it more likely that he will make a full recovery. And it’s tough to admit that he doesn’t look pretty darn good right now.
Lamar Miller has been pedestrian in his time with the Texans, and has been routinely injured, forcing him to lose touches to Foreman as a rookie, and Alfred Blue last year. The Texans can also save over $6 million in cap space by releasing the aging veteran back. Of course, this also makes Houston a prime landing spot for a talented rookie, but that likely means Foreman is not healthy enough to contribute anyway. There is tremendous upside here if he is.