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Single RB, Part I: What to Do When Contrarian Has Gone Mainstream

A twist on the "Zero RB" strategy and how to apply it to 2016

Would you rather draft the player pictured above? Or his teammate who will likely touch the football at least three times as often? Settle for a second-tier player at receiver? Or choose between multiple top-tier running backs?

If you've followed fantasy football analysis even a little bit during this preseason, you've likely heard of the Zero RB draft strategy. Many have publicized articles of contrarian drafting styles, including our own Matt Waldman who has discussed "Upside Down Drafting" for years. But it was Shawn Siegele who coined the term "Zero RB" in his 2013 article. Siegele also discusses a term called anti-fragility, which basically means benefitting from naturally-occurring volatility.

The running back position in fantasy football is volatile. Injuries occur at running back very frequently compared to wide receiver or quarterback. Siegele's "anti-fragile" method capitalizes on those injuries but not in the way that many fantasy owners or analysts would think is typical. Drafting the handcuff to your RB1 is a common approach. Siegele calls that a "robust" tactic, but being robust just covers a loss; it doesn't generate a profit. Being robust is drafting Jerick McKinnon if you already have Adrian Peterson. Profiting would be drafting McKinnon if you don't have Peterson. It makes the Peterson owner weaker and your team stronger if Peterson happens to be one of the many backs who will inevitably be victimized by injury this season.

Zero RB: An Artform (*With Fine Print)

*Scoring System is Important: Though Siegele doesn't explicitly say so in the original article, Zero RB is at its best in PPR leagues - especially those that start three wide receivers plus a flex. The points generated by elite receivers in the PPR format make them the more preferred position, and the position scarcity when at least three (and preferably four due to the PPR format) are required further solidifies receivers as the premium position in such leagues. But what about other formats? Standard leagues or even half-PPR leagues that start only two receivers and a flex have less emphasis on the wide receiver position.


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