The Ideal Zero RB Fantasy Football Draft For 2022

Jul 22nd 2022

Hayden Winks

Zero RB doesn’t work as well in half PPR best ball because of 1) the scoring and 2) the inability to add the complete random RBs who went undrafted in Underdog Fantasy’s 18 rounds. The strategy, however, does pay off later in the season, which lines up with where most of the prize pool is divided up, so it remains a viable strategy … when done correctly.

This is where I deviate from most of the Zero RB crowd. I believe Zero RB teams are drafting too many WRs because they believe the position is more volatile than it really is. If our Zero RB team is smashing, it’s definitely because the WRs we drafted early are smashing, so why not actually bet on them doing so by drafting fewer of them in general? We do this with elite TE, elite QB, and with SuperHero RB, but the general Zero RB narrative is that we still want a lot of depth at WR. I disagree. Just look at the teams last year who had the elite WRs:

So today’s column is how I believe a Zero RB team should look for Best Ball Mania III on Underdog Fantasy. Use promo code ‘UNDERBLOG’ if you haven’t signed up. It’ll get you a $100 deposit match for all first-time users.

1.03 WR1 Justin Jefferson 

He is pretty good at this football thing. Enough so where I'm on a ledge believing Jefferson is in a tier above Ja'Marr Chase, based mostly around Jefferson's increased target projection.

2.22 WR2 Tee Higgins

He was the 34th overall player in better in best ball points per game last year. With the Bengals OL much-improved and with Cincy's room to increase their neutral pass rates, it’s hard for me to see Higgins fall out of the boom-bust WR2 "Better In Best Ball" tier. And if something were to happen to Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, or Tyler Boyd, then Higgins has an easy path to top-six WR status.

3.27 WR3 Mike Williams

Starting Jefferson, Higgins, and Williams sets us up with three QBs with very nice projections, too. As for Williams himself, he's entering the prime of his career as Keenan Allen exits his. The Chargers OL could be better, and ...

4.46 QB1 Justin Herbert

... I want to bet on Herbert as much as possible before he's widely considered a top-3 NFL QB. In Zero RB builds, I like finding either an elite QB or elite TE rather than going completely ham on WRs. With QBs scoring 2x as many points as TEs and with TEs showing more weekly volatility, I'm definitely on team early QB > early TE.

5.51 WR4 Allen Robinson

Robinson projects fine as a WR2/3, maybe he's a slight loss on the median here. But Robinson is ideal in this draft for two main reasons. One, Jefferson's relative ceiling is raised if something happens to Cooper Kupp (who goes right before him), and if something happens to Kupp, then Robinson himself smashes. Secondly, Robinson is Week 17 correlation with Williams/Herbert, and it's actually the bring back correlation we want (between opposing WRs). This isn't blind bring back correlation. We're putting some thought behind this one.

6.70 RB1 Eli Mitchell

Mitchell was 32nd in better in best ball points per game as a rookie, so he's established some ceiling already, especially at this price point.

The debate really is, how far should Zero RB push? As in, what is the proper range to draft the RB1? As a baseline, I included the data from the last two seasons, which shows a clear drop off when teams waited until Round 9 for their RB1. But there also was a Round 5 drop off in 2020. I'm guessing we're going to be in this Round 5-8 range for as late as we should be punting RB on Underdog Fantasy in particular. This is especially true with WRs becoming more expensive and RBs becoming cheaper each season. In full PPR with waivers and with WR price tags relatively cheaper, I'm open to the RB1 window being even later than Round 8. I'm less convinced on Underdog.

7.75 WR5 Drake London

He's good and will project better following his Post-Bye Rookie Bump.

8.94 RB2 Kareem Hunt

Alright, welcome to the Zero RB Galaxy Brain section of the column. Especially on Zero RB teams (but in all builds in general imo), we should be targeting the insurance RBs to the RBs going highest in drafts for leverage purposes. Even if our Zero RB team is looking nice, it'd be better if Jonathan Taylor wasn't posting 22 points per game as the same time.

To take this further, we should specifically be targeting the insurance RBs to the players who are commonly-paired with the WR we drafted in Round 1-2 based on ADP. In this example, we took Justin Jefferson at 3rd overall. The RBs who are most commonly paired with Jefferson in late Round 2 and early Round 3 are: Saquon Barkley (18th overall), Javonte Williams (23rd overall), Leonard Fournette (24th overall), and Nick Chubb (25th overall). To be extra right with Zero RB, let's pair Jefferson-Higgins-Williams with the backups of the RBs listed here. That's why I mocked Kareem Hunt, Melvin Gordon, and Rachaad White in this ideal draft.

9.99 TE1 Dawson Knox

Knox has a top-five ceiling in this offense, and this is when the opportunity cost of TEs drop off versus QBs, RBs, and WRs in my opinion.

10.118 RB3 Melvin Gordon

See "8.94 RB2 Kareem Hunt" for this explanation.

11.123 RB4 Rachaad White

See "8.94 RB2 Kareem Hunt" for this explanation.

12.142 WR6 DeVante Parker

The decision to either have 6 or 7 WRs in a true Zero RB build comes down to how strong my 6th WR is and the available players very late in the draft. I believe Parker is underrated based on his median outcome, so I felt comfortable sticking with 6 WRs here after stacking the position with 5 WRs in the first 7 rounds. This is how you maximize your early WR bets.

13.147 TE2 Hunter Henry

Henry projects better than his ADP suggests straight up, he fits in my general punt TE strategy, and also sets up one of my favorite late-draft stacks with Mac Jones. Henry is and will continue to be one of my most-drafted players.

14.166 QB2 Mac Jones

It's too early to put a "capped ceiling" on a second-year QB who both Nick Saban and Bill Belichick think is good. Jones' skill group is better in 2021 and there are signs that they'll pass more, too. I can see Phillip Rivers style production here, and his stacking weapons are literally the cheapest in the entire NFL.

15.171 RB5 Jamaal Williams

See "8.94 RB2 Kareem Hunt" for this explanation.

16.190 TE3 Austin Hooper

There is more weekly variance at TE than the other positions, so adding a TE3 will help take advantage of that, especially in non-elite TE builds like this one. In addition to variance, late-round TEs project as well as (if not more than) the WRs and RBs this deep into drafts:

17.195 RB6 Chris Evans

Even with his ADP sitting at 202.5, Evans is going undrafted fairly often.

18.214 QB3 Marcus Mariota

Mariota adds correlation to London, projects for more points added than the available WRs and RBs, and has higher odds of adding rostered-rate uniqueness for Week 17 (if Mariota goes off in Week 16 while Herbert has an average game, then Herbert goes nuts in Week 17 at a lower rostered-rate). Mariota's 212.2 ADP suggests he's only being drafted 10% or less of the time, so there aren't many teams with a correlated London.