MFL10 Zero RB Strategy June 23, 2016  |  Justin Edwards


 

As the idea of Zero RB explodes in practically every format of fantasy football, Best Ball leagues, and MFL10s in particular are certainly no exception. At the time of writing, WRs own the first three rounds according to myfantasyleague.com’s ADP. Twenty-two of the first 36 picks are wide receivers (61%), 12 are running backs  (33%) and only Gronk and Jordan Reed are in the first three rounds to represent the tight end field.

With wideouts being such precious commodities, it may be prudent of us to put the high volume, huge upside guys into the forefront of our minds before we’re left in the dust and have a roster filled with WR3s or worse. While following a trend in groupthink drafting such as Zero RB may seem to be counter-intuitive to winning leagues in which you only have an 8% chance of winning in the first place, there is no harm in adopting the strategy and seeing what sort of teams we end up with. (Certainly no harm to your wallet since I’m the one doing it, eh?)

If Zero RB doesn’t seem up your alley (or even if it is), please have a look at my RB-RB-RB strategy findings.

If none of this makes any sense to you because you don’t know what an MFL10 is, have a look at this outline.

Without the aid of a waiver wire in these MFL10s I probably don’t implement this strategy quite as stringently as those in re-draft leagues but nevertheless, here are my small sample size findings:

Results

We luckily got to take a piece of many different top-20 receivers after drafting from all over the first rounds, setting us up to take a few different tiers of pass catchers:
Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.24.24 AM
Arguably, we have stock in most of the top-10 fantasy producers at the position through this 7 draft sample size. As a matter of fact we almost come out of this with the top-3 PPR finishers for each of the last four years if we exclude Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon. Sadly, I didn’t make it out with any ownership of Julio Jones which is a bummer.

– We do end up with multiple shares of two guys who have young playmakers breathing down their necks; T.Y. Hilton (Donte Moncrief) and Jarvis Landry (DeVante Parker).  For Hilton, he has been gift wrapped a healthy Andrew Luck, the QB who targeted him 131 times in 2014 to the tune of an 82-1,345-7 line, good enough for 12thin the league in FPts/G. With a mostly unhealthy Luck last season, T.Y. was actually targeted 3 more times but came out of it with a 69-1,124-5 line, sinking him all the way down to 31st in the league with 13.2 FPts/G. Donte didn’t exactly have an incredible year-end statline either but his games in which Luck played were plenty good enough to put a damper on his fellow WR’s outlook for the upcoming season; he was on pace for 222 PPR points which would have made him a top-20 WR. I still got a value on Hilton, taking him 6 and 7 picks after his ADP but Donte is going 17 picks afterwards and I may have saved myself a little heartache by taking him nearly two rounds later.

– Jarvis Landry was targeted like a true no. 1 WR last year, garnering the 6thmost looks in the league, behind guys like Julio Jones and Antonio Brown and ahead of guys like ODB and Allen Robinson. That all sounds promising until you realize he needed 167 targets to finish as football’s 11th ranked PPR scorer. In 11/16 games he had double digit targets but his often lackluster statlines like week 4’s twelve target, 4-40-0 game or week 12’s five target, 2-5-0 affected his end-of-year numbers. Sophomore DeVante Parker should expect to usurp a good amount of those targets this season as he gobbled 42 of them in the last 6 games of his rookie season. In his limited game time due to foot surgery, Parker was second to only Torrey Smith with 20.23 yards/catch and has already been plugged into every receiving position during OTAs. Landry received 14 targets inside the 10 yard line and had to score all four of his touchdowns from in close while Parker had 6 of his 50 targets inside the 10 and was actually able to score all three of his touchdowns from outside the perimeter.  If Devante’s usage continues to raise around the goal line as the smaller Jarvis’ usage continues to focus between the 20s it will severely cap the latter’s upside.

– Alshon Jeffery is a guy I’m taking off the boards a little earlier than his ADP has suggested other people are valuing him. I like him especially in Best Ball leagues where I don’t have to worry as much if injuries are still lingering, or whether Kevin White will put a damper on his week-in/week-out performances. Alshon’s time on the field went like this for 2015: Played week 1, missed 4 weeks, played 4 weeks, missed 1 week, played 4 weeks, missed the final two weeks. It was truly a nightmare for re-draft and even DFS, where you had no idea how he would perform if he even got to the field. The most ridiculous part of all of this is the fact that he finished 8thin yds/G among wide receivers. And that’s including a 10 yard final game. As it pertains to the return and possible productive sophomore (rookie) season from Kevin White; Alshon managed lines of 89-1,421-7 and 85-1,133-10 while playing with one Mr. Brandon Marshall in 2013 and 2014. A healthy Alshon Jeffery going into his age-26 year could finish the season with astronomical targets, regardless of whether White has an impressive breakout or not.

 

How it is affecting the RBs I end up with

Now that my starting wide receiver core is practically dripping with fantasy points it’s time to look at how this litany of running backs, most without a ‘bellcow’ tag next to their name, end up looking:
Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.26.19 AM
*Accounting for my first four RBs off the board

Yep, the cream of the….something. A whole lot of guys who should undoubtedly control the majority of hand-offs for their team in week 1 but for one reason or another are in great jeopardy of losing their job due to competition ( CJA, Ajayi, Rawls, Rashad, Crowell) or being relatively unproven (Gordon, Karlos, Langford). To try and counteract one or more of my RB crew from faceplanting and bringing my entire team down with them I took six instead of five running backs in 86% of these drafts. Rounds 13-18 I tried to snag low floor, high ceiling guys that could benefit greatly from injuries or a wonderful training camp; Buck Allen, Paul Perkins, DeAngelo Williams, Darren Sproles, Chris Johnson, Chris Thompson, Charcandrick West.

– How do I defend such a high ownership of Melvin Gordon? I’m actually drafting him slightly above his 84thoverall ADP for shit’s sake.  Hell, he had as many fumbles lost (4) as he had rushing attempts from within the 10-yard line! These are the kinds of things that can happen when you get spooked by the fact that you don’t have a running back while everyone else around you is loading up. While I don’t think Gordon is going to set the world on fire, there are reasons to believe he’ll keep getting fed, and likely fed more.  The Chargers spent their 15th overall pick just one year ago on the running back before having a terrible 4-12 season, needing to pass the ball 64.27% of the time – 6th highest in the league. In a much more productive 9-7 2014 San Diego managed to throw the ball much less; 60.56%, ranking 13th in the league. Philip Rivers threw over 600 times for the first time in his career (661) in ’15 and his team will probably do what they can to ‘establish the run’ and keep their 12 year vet from putting himself into harm’s way more often than needed. Danny Woodhead should continue to get his passing game work (106 targets worth, tho?) but as long as San Diego’s rush blocking gets any better (31st in the league according to Football Outsiders) we will see some bigger holes open for the sophomore.  Maybe I don’t need to be taking him as high as I have but if the Chargers had enough faith to add nothing but Melvin’s old FB into the running back fold then I suppose I can build some faith as well.

– I love owning Gio. I love owning Gio even more when I’m continually grabbing him at the back end of the 5th round. He’s going off the board as the RB25. And it makes no sense. Just not a one. Not even one sense.

In his rookie season of 2013 Cincinnati gave the Law Firm (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) 220 attempts and Gio finished as the RB13.

In 2014 Cincy gave then-rookie Jeremy Hill 222 attempts, pounding the ball often because of a “Bad” Andy Dalton year where he threw 19 TDs and 17 INTs. Gio finished as the RB16 in 13 games.

Finally, last season, in a year where the Bengals offense turned bland when it had to put the team on A.J. McCarron’s shoulders, Gio finished as the RB17. Jeremy Hill ran 220+ times again and scored 12 touchdowns. Gio scored 2. And still finished as the RB17. I don’t see a scenario – despite the weapons his team has lost – where he doesn’t rack up 1,000+ all purpose yards and finish in the top-20 or beyond among his running back peers.

 

How it is affecting the QBs I end up with

Almost as a blessing in disguise, the Zero RB route almost forces you to wait until the double-digit rounds to select your QB unless you are faced with a glaring value you just can’t pass up. If Aaron Rodgers is still hanging around in the 7th, well, yeah I’m probably going to take him. Brees in the 9th? Yeah, probably also taking him there. Don’t let QB bias completely take over. You have to still make smart decisions. Otherwise, grab your Carson Palmers in the 11th or your Matt Ryans in the 14th or your Joe Flaccos in the 15th. Just make sure you’re keeping an eye on those Bye Weeks. Don’t want to end the draft and realize that in week 8 you don’t have a starting QB.

How it is affecting the TEs I end up with

See: above.

Travis Kelce in the 8th? Stop what you’re doing and get him. Double-digit round TEs are likely your best bet if you don’t find Reed or Olsen in the 4th or 5th. And then there’s that other guy that people pick in the 1st but I’m not going there.

It felt nice to get the ankles wet with some Zero RB; something I had yet to try to incorporate into MFL10s. It’s safe to say I’ll try to go even deeper into drafts without a running back now that the offseason lens is getting a little cleaner week-by-week. As long as we continue to diversify our strategies and diversify our players throughout the draft season there’s a safe bet that we’ll end up in the positive by winter’s end.

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