It’s now August, which means that it’s officially the fantasy football draft season! In a world where people took COVID-19 protocols seriously and maybe wore a mask without screaming about how being told to wash your hands is fascism, we would be in the thick of preseason. Instead, we have hype videos of guys wearing masks poorly while doing general workouts. Feel the assignment. For Mock Draft Monday this week, I decided to try my hand at building a ZeroRB team.
ZeroRB is a strategy that has you holding off on taking running backs—the scarcest position—until later in the draft. The theory is that running back fragility makes for drafting an early RB a riskier proposition than we try to make it out to be. I am not a big fan of ZeroRB, but wanted to know what kind of squad I could put together if I didn’t pick a running back until the sixth round.
I hopped into a Yahoo! Fantasy Football mock draft and set to work trying to build a half-PPR ZeroRB team in a twelve-team league. Someone took Clyde Edwards-Helaire third overall, another person took Travis Kelce in the middle of the first, and both Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes were off the board before my eleventh pick.
Okay, maybe drafting with the hoi polloi, bored on a Monday morning at their office job, wasn’t the best use of my time. Instead, I turned to ol’ faithful, the FantasyPros mock draft tool. I spun her up and ended up with the #5 pick, the perfect spot to start off my ZeroRB adventure…
Round 1, Pick 5 – Michael Thomas, Wide Receiver (New Orleans Saints)
There was no doubt that this would be my first-round pick here. He’s the best wide receiver in the league, he is going to get a ton of targets, and I’m going ZeroRB. Taking anyone but Michael Thomas with the #5 pick off the board would be getting far too cute with my draft picks in the name of being different.
Also in Consideration: None
Round 2, Pick 8 – George Kittle, Tight End (San Francisco 49ers)
At this point, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson already flew off the board. Maybe the brain geniuses in the Yahoo! mock draft had a point. If they didn’t take Mahomes or L-Jax in the first, they weren’t going to get them!
I was looking toward getting a second WR here at the end of the second round, what with both QBs I could potentially draft already off the board. But, I found something odd here: a ton of WRs I liked. Since I had ten picks between my pick and the next one, I solidified my TE slot with my TE1 for 2020 and waited to see which wide receiver made it back to me.
Also in Consideration: Kenny Golladay (WR/DET), Allen Robinson (WR/DET), JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR/PIT), Adam Thielen (WR/MIN), Travis Kelce (TE/KC)
Round 3, Pick 5 – Adam Thielen, Wide Receiver (Minnesota Vikings)
Kelce, Golladay, and a bunch of running backs went off the board. I sure would have loved to get Austin Ekeler there, but that is not the plan. So I had my pick of the wide receivers available to me before. JuJu has depth chart concerns, Allen Robinson has quarterback concerns, and Adam Thielen has an outside shot to lead the league in catches. In half-PPR, I’ll take two guys who have a chance to end up 1-2 in catches as my WRs.
Also in Consideration: Allen Robinson (WR/DET), JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR/PIT)
Round 4, Pick 8 – Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver (Atlanta Falcons)
This is where the lord started to tempt me. James Conner, who I like, stayed available. Robert Woods, who I wanted to take here, went two picks before me. Abandon ZeroRB, the fantasy football gods implored me. Leave it behind, take James Conner. Nevertheless, I steeled my resolve and mustered my ability to not sort by available running backs.
Was it quarterback time? Dak Prescott was available, as were every other QB not named Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson. Lots of good guys still available there, so I’ll pass. I already had George Kittle, so that means that it was time to take another wide receiver! ZeroRB is already testing my limits of comfortable roster construction.
I needed to get a guy who could potentially unseat Thielen and Michael Thomas because those guys are never leaving my starting lineup. D.J. Chark, Tyler Lockett, Terry McLaurin, and Calvin Ridley were all still available at this point. Chark’s QB literally has COVID-19, Terry McLaurin’s QB literally is Dwayne Haskins, and Seattle’s Jamal Adams addition has me worried they’re doubling down on ground and pound. That makes Calvin Ridley my WR3 there.
Also in Consideration: Dak Prescott (QB/DAL), D.J. Chark (WR/JAX), Tyler Lockett (WR/SEA), Terry McLaurin (WR/WAS)
Round 5 – Dak Prescott, Quarterback (Dallas Cowboys)
I almost took him in the fourth round, and I don’t want to take a fourth wide receiver already. This one is a super slam dunk pick here in the fifth round. He has #1 QB upside, and he’s going in the fifth round. I really want a running back here, but ZeroRB won’t let me!
Also in Consideration: nobody!
Round 6 – TIME FOR SOME RUNNING BACKS
David Montgomery, Running Back (Chicago Bears)
I just can’t fit any more non-RBs onto my team. I feel like Augustus Gloop, drinking the river of chocolate and regretting it halfway. Cam Akers went the pick after my Dak Prescott pick. I like Cam Akers. I would much rather have Cam Akers than Dak Prescott. Unfortunately, I’ve subjected myself to this torturous exercise for reasons I’m still not sure of and haven’t sorted out. Maybe I was evil in my past life. Nevertheless, round six is RB town, and there are still some good ones out there.
Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of any of the running backs available. David Montgomery has the same mess as Allen Robinson, I don’t think Raheem Mostert has the upside some think he has, Devin Singletary has a looming Zack Moss problem, Kareem Hunt is splitting with Nick Chubb, and D’Andre Swift has to wait his turn.
I took the boring stability over the upside. Barring injury, David Montgomery isn’t losing his job this year. He’s going to chug in 8 or so fantasy points a week, which is fine at this point in the draft. I just needed an RB1 who wasn’t going to lose his job. I don’t like David Montgomery so much, but that running back depth chart in Chicago is bleak.
Also in Consideration: Raheem Mostert (RB/SF), Devin Singletary (RB/BUF), Kareem Hunt (RB/CLE), D’Andre Swift (RB/DET)
Round 7 – Kareem Hunt, Running Back (Cleveland Browns)
Kareem Hunt in round seven is the skeleton key that unlocks the possibility of going ZeroRB. Questions abound with how the Browns will use Hunt in 2020. Here are facts: Kareem Hunt is really, really good, and Kareem Hunt was a top-24 RB in HPPR leagues last year when he played. I’m not really sure why he goes this late but Akers/Hunt is my idea round 6 & round 7 combo.
The guys below were “also in consideration” because I saw their names while windmill slamming home the Kareem Hunt pick.
Also in Consideration: D’Andre Swift (RB/DET), Ronald Jones (RB/TB)
Round 8 – Ronald Jones, Running Back (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
My desire to have Ronald Jones on my fantasy football squad grows with every passing day. Ke’Shawn Vaughn has COVID-19 (he’ll be fine) and the Bucs added LeSean McCoy (he won’t be fine), which offsets the Vaughn news to depress Jones’ price. I honestly can’t find myself caring about Shady in Tampa Bay as anything more than a hedge against Ke’Shawn Vaughn catching COVID-19. Shady will be fine in bursts, but he’s 32 years old now and not an existential threat to RoJo’s fantasy football value.
Also in Consideration: Jordan Howard (RB/MIA), James White (RB/NE)
Round 9 – J.K. Dobbins, Running Back (Baltimore Ravens)
This is a pure draft-and-stash upside play, of which I need a few since I missed out on all the stud running backs of the world. Only Mark Ingram stands in Dobbins’ way as a potential league-winner in the second half of the season.
The guys also in consideration were solid PPR picks (White or Scott) or a hedge against being wrong about Cam Akers (Henderson). Since I feel like I can get solid PPR picks later in the draft, and I like Dobbins’ upside more than Henderson, he was the pick.
Also in Consideration: James White (RB/NE), Boston Scott (RB/PHI), Darrell Henderson (RB/LAR)
Round 10 – Sterling Shepard, Wide Receiver (New York Giants)
I zagged from ZeroRB here to scoop up a guy I think has top-25 potential in New York. I’m looking for WR at great values and I couldn’t pass up Sterling Shepard in the tenth round. It was also a dead spot where I wasn’t particularly in love with the running back options available to me. So, I deviated from ZeroRB to get a wide receiver to provide depth to my Michael Thomas/Adam Thielen one-two punch.
Also in Consideration: Anthony Miller (WR/CHI), Justin Jefferson (WR/MIN), Jalen Reagor (WR/PHI)
Round 11 – Boston Scott, Running Back (Philadelphia Eagles)
Boston Scott isn’t close to being the best running back on the Eagles, but he is the second-best running back on the Eagles. That means that Doug Pederson if he ever gets over his case of COVID-19, will give Scott plenty of run as a pass-catching back out of the backfield. In round eleven, I’m looking for someone who has bye week fill-in value to solidify my running back corps in the event of an injury to one of my top-two guys.
Darrell Henderson stayed on the board and showed that I guess I never really, actually considered him in round 9. Nyheim Hines is Boston Scott-lite and had serious consideration here to join my roster.
Also in Consideration: Nyheim Hines (RB/IND), Darrell Henderson (RB/LAR)
Round 12 – Duke Johnson Jr, Running Back (Houston Texans)
There’s a problem we have wherein we don’t do “if/then” statements with fantasy football logic. If you think that David Johnson will be a bust this year, then you believe that Duke Johnson will get a ton of run and be able to return incredible fantasy football value in the twelfth round. I don’t believe in David Johnson, so I see Duke Johnson as an incredible addition to my team.
I skipped two guys I really wanted on my roster with what ended up being my last running back pick. Ke’Shawn Vaughn would have been a scoop up on the COVID-19 negative hype, but the other two guys are targets of mine. Nyheim Hines should be the beneficiary of a ton of targets in Indianapolis, and Ron Rivera drops hints about Antonio Gibson having a mini-CMC role in Washington. They are also good options here if Duke Johnson is otherwise unavailable. He just fell to such good value that I couldn’t pass him up.
Also in Consideration: Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB/TB), Nyheim Hines (RB/IND), Antonio Gibson (RB/WAS)
Round 13 – N’Keal Harry, Wide Receiver (New England Patriots)
I filled up on running backs and decided to get one last upside wide receiver to create some depth on my team. This has a two-fold benefit. If I get three slam dunk weekly wide receivers, that slides one into my flex spot and lessens the pressure on picking running backs. I only need two of these upside guys to hit instead of three to field a competitive roster weekly.
I am a N’Keal Harry stan, as the kids say. He had a rough rookie year but I believe in the sophomore with Cam Newton. He was the consensus 1.01 in rookie picks but had his season completely derailed with various injuries that landed him on the IR before the season even began. He returned in the thick of the season, and never had his sea legs under him. I’m giving him a mulligan for his rookie year and hoping the dominant WR we saw at ASU shines through in 2020.
Also in Consideration: Brandon Aiyuk (RB/sF), Parris Campbell (RB/IND), Denzel Mims (RB/NYJ)
Round 14 – Harrison Butker, Kicker (Kansas City Chiefs)
I figured I would be getting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are my sleeper DST on the kick back, so I might as well get the #1 ranked kicker.
Also in Consideration: anyone but the 3%er
Round 15 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers DST
And they were there! Tampa Bay was a top-three DST last season, returns all their key personnel, and is being undrafted. They’ll pin their ears back and get after the QB, forcing turnovers, just like they did last year. Plus, they don’t have Jameis Winston’s turnovers to contend with anymore with Tom Brady as their new QB1.
QB Russell Wilson
WR Michael Thomas, Adam Thielen, Calvin Ridley, Sterling Shepard, N’Keal Harry
RB David Montgomery, Kareem Hunt, Ronald Jones, J.K. Dobbins, Boston Scott, Duke Johnson
TE George Kittle
K Harrison Butker
DST Tampa Bay Buccaneers
All told, I don’t hate this team as much as I thought I would. Having Kittle, MT, Thielen and Calvin Ridley sure makes up for the RB mess. But, that RB mess sure is a lot to try to sort through. Hopefully, David Montgomery is good this year and hopefully, the Browns utilize Kareem Hunt the way I would like. Hopefully Shady doesn’t steal from RoJo and hopefully, the Ravens turn to Dobbins sooner rather than later.
There’s too much hopefully on that roster and not enough certainty. Thankfully, I took six whacks at the hopefully piñata so hopefully some tasty treats fall out. That having been said, I don’t get sick to my stomach looking at the team, so I can’t get too mad at it.
Next Monday I will atone for my sins by taking a shot at a ZeroWR team, just to see what happens (and to get some good RBs on my team so I can feel better!)