You might think the Wishbone Strategy sounds a lot like Zero WR Theory.
Surprise! You’re right. The Wishbone Strategy is essentially the Zero WR Theory. However, it’s a little more concrete–telling you what to get instead of what to avoid.
Because it always better to be proactive than reactive. And the Zero WR Theory became the popular knee-jerk reaction to Zero RB Theory which, of course, rose in response to the Stud RB Theory.
Whether it was me championing it or someone else, the “Zero [Enter Position Here] Strategy” discussion has begun to resemble The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss.
Consider this stanza:
My wonderful weapon, the Jigger-Rock Snatchem,
will fling ’em right back just as quick as we catch ’em.
We’ll have no more nonsense.
We’ll take no more gupp
from you Yooks who eat bread with the butter side up!”
The book is an allegory regarding the arms race. And the ongoing debate in the Fantasy industry is starting to feel eerily similar.
The irony is that what really makes either theory work is that when your league zigs, you zag. The Zero WR Theory will work if your league goes heavy WR and the Zero RB theory will work is your leagues goes heavy RB.
The Wishbone Strategy is certainly Zero WR theory at its core. But with more fluidity, it should allow for success regardless which direction your league flows.
The Wishbone Strategy
What is it?
The wishbone strategy is simple. It is an homage to the wishbone offense which once ruled the land but has now become extinct in the pass happy NFL. As you create your team, focus on getting three solid backs.
To get three solid running backs, you are going to have to either spend heavy auction dollars or using draft capital to do so, typically making three of your first five picks running backs. Your first round pick is likely an RB, but depending on where you are picking, you might be better off picking a WR and then picking three straight running backs.
The wishbone strategy gives you more flexibility and allows for picking at nearly every slot. Unlike Zero RB Theory or Zero WR Theory that basically say it’s all or nothing, this strategy gives you a little more flexibility.
In the first five rounds, grab three RBs. If you have say the second pick, grab one of the top two RBs on the board. Even if you don’t have an early pick, you likely can safely avoid WRs. However, suppose you’re sitting there with say the 9th pick, don’t grab a RB if four or five are off the board already. Grab a WR. That’s where the value is. You can get three RBs in rounds two through four if necessary.
Speaking of those three or four rounds after the first one, if you can get value at TE or QB, go ahead and take one. Aaron Rodgers available late in the fourth? Grab him. Rob Gronkowski available at the end of the third? Grab him. But don’t reach and if you come away with five RBs, that might even be preferred. Every one of your first five picks should be with an eye toward running back foremost. But if you can get insane value at another position, take it. But focus primarily on getting three quality RBs.
By now you should have your three RBs. Perhaps you have a stud WR or maybe a top TE. Maybe even a QB. Take WRs. At least three of them as there will be a ton of top WR available still. Trust me. The value in rounds 6-10 lie in WR (and maybe QB) but not at RB. The top backs will all be gone by this point and you will be playing a guessing game at RB. However, there should still be plenty of bottom end WR1s and top WR2s still left. The math supports it.
Of the 60 picks from ADP 60 to 120, 19 are RBs while 21 are WRs. There are a ton of decent QBs available here as well, but you are only taking one quarterback. You absolutely need to grab three WRs in these rounds.
If you haven’t take a QB yet, do so. Take a few more RBs and WRs, and if your league parameters allow for it, try to get at least five of each. You’ll see that there are some great sleeper values at WR. Guys like Corey Coleman, Adam Thielen, and Jordan Matthews are often available here. And if you believe in cuffing your RBs, do so here. PPR studs like Duke Johnson and C.J. Prosise are often available here, at least in standard leagues. But others that could find themselves with three down work like Marlon Mack and Joe Williams are often available here.
The Rationale for the Wishbone Strategy
One thing you need to remember is that even those going with a Zero RB Theory will probably be taking at least five RBs. That’s at least 60 RBs that won’t be available in free agency. Even if 60 WRs are also taken, remember this: You can always find start-able WRs in a pinch on the waiver wire. Finding a startable RB on the waiver wire has become nearly impossible.
Implementation of the Wishbone Strategy
So the SCFE staff gathered early this summer to do a number of mock drafts. This was very early summer as players like Dennis Pitta were still thought to be possible starters this year. Mock 1 was a PPR, Mock 2 was a standard, and Mock 3 was a 2-QB league. Roster requirements were 2RB, 2WR, TE, and a Flex. I had the 7th, 5th, and 7th picks respectively. Here are the first 14 picks for each team:
Mock1: Evans, Ajayi, Hyde, Henry, Abdullah, Dixon, Jameis Winston, Fitzgerald, Meredith, Mack, Yeldon, Lee, West, Pitta
Mock2: McCoy, Lamar Miller, Hyde, Greg Olsen, Doug Martin, Moncrief, Maclin, Meredith, Jordan Matthews, Thielen, Stafford, Mack, Yeldon, Robby Anderson
Mock3: Rodgers, Lamar Miller, Danny Woodhead, Hyde, Greg Olsen, Moncrief, Fitzgerald, Maclin, Goff, D. Watson, Cobb, Meridith, Joe Williams, TJ Yeldon
What you’ll notice is that Hyde is a very popular 3rd round back. While he could easily lose some work to Joe Williams, Hyde presents three down back upside without costing you a Top 25 pick. Volume is critical when it comes to Fantasy Football players and those backs getting 20 to 30 touches a game are critical to the Wishbone Strategy.
Another player that appears across all three teams is Meredith, who is a WR1 and is the kind of player who presents huge upside. A third player found on all three of these teams is T.J. Yeldon. I understand those who are down on him, but his current ADP is just so out of whack. Despite bypassing all those backs in rounds 6-10 you can still get a 50-reception RB who had nearly 800 yards combined last year.
You’ll also note that I compiled these teams without having a chance to grab the Tier I studs at RB. Yet, I feel very confident with the potential trio of RBs I can throw at my opponents every week. While I will likely have a weaker WR corps than any of my opponents, I don’t feel a single one of these teams has a liability at WR. The first team has a liability at TE obviously, but obviously, you would not be picking a TE who has retired in that spot and there were plenty of TE options still left at that point.
The Bottom Line
Are you willing to have a WR1 that is either near the end of his career like Larry Fitzgerald? Or if you prefer, just starting his career like Stefon Diggs or Tyreek Hill? Or maybe someone who is still young but battled injuries like Donte Moncrief? If yes, then consider the Wishbone Theory. It will put a Wocket in your Pocket.
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