Drafting the right players is far more important than any strategical advantage. Take it from someone who avoided starting pitchers more than any drafter in America during a season in which MLB is on pace to hit 1,100 more homers compared to last year, yet my fantasy baseball season has been just OK. Like baseball, I have a somewhat abnormal strategy entering 2019 football drafts, and that’s not to worry about the wide receiver position until much later than most players. I’m sure I’m not the first to use the term Zero WR, but it’s an appropriate way of describing my 2019 draft strategy.
Obviously, attacking running backs early isn’t a novel idea (and this is hardly the first backlash to Zero RB), but I’m starting my drafts this year with at least three straight RBs and sometimes four regardless of roster constraints.* It feels better to come out of a draft with the best looking starting lineup on paper, but there is so much uncertainty, stockpiling the most valuable asset (running backs) should take precedence over roster construction, as those details will get settled later. So much will change between now and the end of the season it’s usually comical to look back on. If you have four stud running backs with just three starting spots available, I promise it will be a good problem to have (even in non-trade leagues).
*While we’re on the subject of roster construction, all formats should be utilizing the Superflex in today’s game, because it’s more fun to root for more players, it makes the draft/auction far more interesting and strategic, and it stops diminishing the most important position in sports. Quarterback is legitimately 20-plus deep and leagues that start just one will soon be extinct. Sam Darnold is way undervalued in drafts right now, but there’s no way to take advantage of that in standard formats.
Remarkably, just one running back finished with 15 rushing attempts in 10+ games last season. While this can be interpreted in different ways based on perspective, it’s safe to say getting the right running backs remains the key to winning fantasy football leagues, and now makes more sense than ever to attack that position by volume (my RB board has a few glaring differences compared to ADP **).
** Nick Chubb is a monster in the making who also happens to be in a system with an emerging superstar at QB that also added Odell Beckham Jr. Chubb’s simply a far superior athlete to Kareem Hunt and somehow produced the second-most runs of 20+ and 40+ yards last year despite barely seeing the field until late October. He’s also a threat to score 15+ touchdowns while playing in an explosive offense. Frankly, I’m closer to moving Chubb to No. 1 on my board than I am lowering him from my out-on-a-limb No. 6 spot overall right now.
I also have Damien Williams as a first rounder (he’s been a gift in rounds 2/3 all summer, and his current injury is keeping him that way), and for a bonus hot take, I have Aaron Jones ahead of Le’Veon Bell.
One of the main reasons I like waiting on starting pitchers in baseball is because there’s a large middle tier of similar options who often differ greatly between drafters. The same holds exactly true for wide receivers (IE my WRs 20-45 are similarly priced, and my top of that tier - Will Fuller, Robby Anderson, Christian Kirk - looks very different than most). I’m more than happy filling out my WRs with this group, which features options I love; Dante Pettis, Dede Westbrook, Curtis Samuel, Donte Moncrief and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are like young pitchers with dominant peripherals who scream impending breakout yet are available in the middle rounds just because they are unproven. Moreover, while playing matchups is a bit less straight forward than in baseball, it’s another way to game the system in fantasy football (and the research available on this regarding cornerbacks vs. WRs is getting better and better).
Please forgive my sloppy baseball analogies (Sammy Reid did a superior job of that a year ago and again recently with Scott Pianowski), but in conclusion, draft running backs early and often. Once you have taken a back to fill your flex spot, go ahead and draft another (Darrell Henderson and/or Damien Harris). Those type of Round 6 picks are possible league-winners with upside that receivers drafted in the same area simply can’t match. And while there will be plenty of RBs who will bust, that’s why we need more of them early, and some expensive WRs enter with risk of their own (I’m looking at you Davante Adams and Antonio Brown). Ultimately, just remember to draft the right players, and then the positions and my harebrained strategy will both quickly become moot.