In recent years in fantasy football drafts, the zero-RB strategy has flourished. Dominant wide receivers combined with appetizing waiver running backs have made for a potentially viable fantasy strategy.
Today, though, we’re going to posit a new variant, one that has gotten less traction: Zero-WR.
Ultimately, running backs and wide receivers as a unit make roughly the same contribution to a fantasy roster. Generally speaking, the yardages are similar and the scores are similar. Materially, there isn’t the difference between the two positions that there is between, say, running backs and quarterbacks.
But after a period where running backs dominated the whole first round of fantasy drafts, the movement of late has been more wide receiver-heavy. According to early ADPs on FantasyPros, running backs are now only five of the top 12 picks in fantasy, and some sites have it even more dramatic (as few as two of the top 12).
Have you been to McDonald’s? The restaurant has both the double cheeseburger and the McDouble. They are the same sandwich, with the exception that the double cheeseburger has one extra piece of cheese (that you are unlikely to notice when eating) and costs 30 cents more. The savvy diner (or at least, as savvy as a diner can be and still choose McDonald’s) will opt for the minor savings of the McDouble. On one meal, 30 cents is nothing, but if you make the choice regularly, the savings can add up.
That’s the thinking in fantasy, then. Even small savings matter a lot in this game, where a few points or a slightly smarter late-round pick can win a season. With wide receivers moving back up to the top of fantasy drafts, they are now the double cheeseburger, with running backs this season serving as the McDouble.
The more predictable position
The conventional wisdom that has wide receivers at the top of drafts says that players at that position realize their draft-day value more often, while the top running backs are more likely to struggle. Recent examples like 2013 Trent Richardson and 2015 Eddie Lacy exemplify that.