Draft Strategy, Zero-WR

A deep discussion of Zero-WR draft strategy

This article is about a 12-minute read.

Akin to Zero-RB, the Zero-WR strategy has gained popularity lately.

With its roots in Stud-RB Strategy (where fantasy players specifically target running backs early in their drafts), Zero-WR has recently gained some support. With this draft strategy, the drafter avoids wide receivers but doesn't only target running backs. Quarterbacks and tight ends are also fair game. The main idea behind this draft theory is that wide receiver is the deepest position so you can fill it later in the draft.

What are your thoughts on Zero-WR Strategy? Is this a good year to implement it? If so, how long are you willing to go before taking your first wide receiver? If you employ this strategy, who are some of your targets at the position? Are there draft spots more suitable than others for this technique?

Adam Harstad

As I mentioned in the discussion on Zero-RB, fantasy value is a function of three primary factors: positional differentiation (i.e. how much a player outscored his peers), scarcity (i.e. how hard it will be to find replacement production at the position), and predictability (i.e. how likely players are to perform like we expect).

Running back has the most positional differentiation, the most scarcity, and (by the slimmest of margins), the second-most predictability, so running back is the most valuable position in fantasy and it seems suboptimal to deliberately avoid it.

But by the same token, in leagues that require three starting receivers, wide receiver has the second-most positional differentiation, the second-most scarcity, and the most predictability. So it's easily the second-most-valuable position and planning on avoiding it also doesn't seem like a great idea.

But as always some important caveats need to be made. Most importantly, we don't draft positions, we draft players. If the best players on your board at any given moment happen to be non-wide receivers, you might go through the first six rounds without drafting any receivers, and if that happens it's fine. (Presumably, you will have gotten a bunch of value at other positions to make this worth your while. There's a difference between deciding before the fact you are going to ignore the position no matter who is on the board and deciding in the moment that the value simply isn't there.)

The other big caveat is that league settings matter a lot. In standard scoring, positional differentiation drops (though it still tends to rank higher than quarterback or tight end). In a league that only starts 2 WRs, both the positional differentiation and scarcity both drop by a lot and wide receiver isn't so far ahead of quarterback or tight end. (It does still win by a lot on predictability.) On the other hand, if your league only started one running back and four wide receivers, maybe receiver becomes the most valuable position.

The most important thing to remember about value is that it's always local. You never draft and compete against some theoretical average league. You always have to tailor your approach to your league with its specific settings and its specific owners and their specific preferences.

(Side note: this is a large part of what makes the Draft Dominator such a great tool because it will automatically adjust for all of the relevant factors and spit out values tailored to your specific setup.)

Jason Wood

I'm with Adam yet again. These "Zero-Positional" strategies are only as good as their scarcity and fit to the league in question. Any successful draft strategy involves a bit of luck, a healthy dose of correctly identifying players within a position, and an understanding of how the rest of your league mates are approaching the draft in real time.

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