In my standard format mock draft I elected to take a RB-heavy approach. This time around I would like to consider whether or not the zero-RB draft strategy is viable for the 2022 fantasy football season. For the zero-RB strategy to work you have to make absolutely certain that you are not “weak” in any other areas. That means getting four rock solid WRs, a top 5 QB, and hopefully one of those “big four” TEs. This leaves you picking your first running back in the seventh round, which I believe qualifies as a zero-RB approach. When the time comes to draft an RB they must meet one of two qualifications. One, they’re the uncontested starting RB for their team. Two, they are a high volume pass catcher. Below you will find the results of the first 10-rounds of a zero-RB PPR mock draft from the sixth draft position.
Zero-RB Draft Results
1) Cooper Kupp
2) Mark Andrews
3) A.J. Brown
4) Lamar Jackson
5) Michael Thomas
6) JuJu Smith-Schuster
7) Elijah Mitchell
I couldn’t have wished for a better first running back to nab with this zero-RB strategy. Mitchell finished the 2021 fantasy football season as the RB14 in fantasy points per game. He does belong to a backfield that typically deploys a running back by committee under head coach Kyle Shanahan. Mitchell is undoubtedly the lead dog, therefore he will get as many carries as he can handle, I am happy to take him here. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Cordarelle Patterson were the next two RBs available to draft. Passing on Clyde was an easy decision, he’s in a backfield to avoid this season. His role is uncertain and there is too much competition around him. While Patterson had a career year last season, lightning won’t be striking twice. Too much has changed; Matt Ryan is gone, top-WR Russell Gage is gone, and there is new competition in the RB room.
8) Rashaad Penny
Rashaad Penny went for 185 total yards and 2 TDs in Week 17!
— NFL (@NFL) January 4, 2022
I can’t complain about this one either. Penny’s ADP is way too close to that of rookie RB Ken Walker. There is no evidence to suggest that they will be splitting any work. Rashaad Penny had a crazy finish to the regular season. And I mean CRAZY. He ran for over 130 yards in four of the last five games. Here are his rushing yardage totals from Week 14 on: 137, 39, 135, 170, and 190. He also found the end zone in all four of those games over 130 yards; twice in Weeks 14 and 17. If Penny produces half of what he did here in the last few weeks, then he’ll be the steal of the draft that everybody is searching for; a zero-RB drafter’s dream.
9) Rhamondre Stevenson
Oh shoot, I’m breaking one of my rules here. When you take the zero-RB approach sometimes you just have to swing for the fences. Rhamondre is not the clear cut lead back of the Patriots. However, there is reason to believe that split between him and Damien Harris will be closer to 50-50 than it was last season. I believe Stevenson to be the more talented back, with the most juice in that backfield, making him one of my breakout candidates for the 2022 season. His running mate Harris battled through many injuries last season. If Harris misses any more time this season, Rhamondre would have the opportunity to fully take the reigns in that backfield.
10) James Cook
If you told me that James Cook would end the season as the Buffalo Bills’ lead back, I’d say, ” Duh, they drafted him in the second round”. Current lead back Devin Singletary had a very productive season last year. It might have been too little too late, as the team chose to spend high draft capital to acquire Cook. I don’t expect the shift in power to happen right away. Cook will begin the season as a change of pace/ third down back. Any sort of injury to Singletary would likely spell the end of his rule in Buffalo, as Cook would take the job and never look back. Cook’s elite pass-catching ability makes him a PPR nightmare, especially since he’s catching balls from Josh Allen in a high-powered offense. Cook checks all the boxes of a running back that you want on your team as a zero-RB drafter.
Just prior to halftime at Tennessee in 2021, Stetson Bennett fires a 23-yard touchdown to James Cook. #UGA, which trailed 10-7 in the 2Q, scores 34 straight points in the 41-17 win. Against the Vols, Cook also rushes for a career-high 104 yards and two TDs. pic.twitter.com/2xTWOJOEgA
— Patrick Garbin (@patrickgarbin) August 11, 2022
The zero-RB strategy is 100% viable this fantasy football season. However, I would not suggest this strategy in non-PPR leagues because top running backs carry more value. Don’t forget to get after those top WRs, grab a top 5 QB, and draft one of those big name TEs. When the time comes to draft a running back make sure to check those boxes. Is he the uncontested starter? A potential breakout candidate? Or is he a passing threat out of the backfield? Remember these tips and you will enjoy a ton of success.