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Entering the 2016 Fantasy Football season, many owners decided to go with a zero RB strategy.

That is to say, they went heavy on wide receivers early on, and possibly even a quarterback or a tight end before considering adding a running back to their roster.

Obviously, that goes against the grain of what we’ve all learned over the past couple decades of Fantasy play, but the NFL’s passing ways has forced us to rethink things.

While the argument can be made that the Zero RB Strategy is still a sound strategy, the results of the Fantasy season after Week 14 makes an argument against it.

We take a deeper look into the stats to see what “Relative Position Value” shows us.

Fantasy Rewind: Did the Zero RB Strategy Fail?

RPV (Fantasy Points-Top 12 Avg)/Top 12 Avg

Top 12 RB (231.95 AVG) Points RPV
David Johnson 342.0 47.4%
Ezekiel Elliott 277.4 19.6%
LeVeon Bell 270.6 16.7%
DeMarco Murray 261.4 12.7%
Melvin Gordon 254.6 9.8%
LeSean McCoy 237.3 2.3%
Devonta Freeman 205.1 -11.6%
LeGarrette Blount 197.7 -14.8%
Latavius Murray 189.4 -18.3%
Jordan Howard 183.5 -20.9%
Mark Ingram 182.6 -21.3%
Matt Forte 181.8 -21.6%

 

Using RPV, we can see that Johnson, Elliott, and Bell made the RB1 position very top heavy.

 

Top 12 WR (223.08 AVG) Points RPV
Antonio Brown 272.9 22.3%
Mike Evans 250.0 12.1%
Odell Beckham 243.9 9.3%
Jordy Nelson 238.3 6.8%
T.Y. Hilton 234.3 5.0%
Julio Jones 227.3 1.9%
Larry Fitzgerald 211.8 -5.1%
Davante Adams 206.7 -7.3%
Emmanuel Sanders 201.2 -9.8%
Demaryius Thomas 198.5 -11.0%
Amari Cooper 198.0 -11.2%
Michael Thomas 194.1 -13.0%

 

Compare that to the WR position where Brown was 22% better than the average WR1, but the 2nd best WR, Evans, was just 12% better.  Elliott (20%), Bell (17%) and Murray (13%) were all more valuable at the RB position.

 

Even the QB position saw Rodgers and Brees just 12-15% better than the top 12 QBs.

Top 12 QB (304.91 AVG) Points RPV
Aaron Rodgers 352.0 15.4%
Drew Brees 342.6 12.4%
Matt Ryan 333.2 9.3%
Kirk Cousins 312.2 2.4%
Andrew Luck 305.5 0.2%
Marcus Mariota 301.9 -1.0%
Philip Rivers 291.1 -4.5%
Blake Bortles 289.0 -5.2%
Dak Prescott 288.8 -5.3%
Matthew Stafford 285.7 -6.3%
Jameis Winston 279.2 -8.4%
Andy Dalton 277.7 -8.9%

 

As expected, the TE position was top heavy, but not because of Rob Gronkowski.

Top 12 TE (147.65 AVG) Points RPV
Travis Kelce 179.1 21.3%
Greg Olsen 173.7 17.6%
Jimmy Graham 166.5 12.8%
Delanie Walker 156.8 6.2%
Jordan Reed 154.0 4.3%
Kyle Rudolph 151.3 2.5%
Cameron Brate 144.5 -2.1%
Martellus Bennett 140.4 -4.9%
Dennis Pitta 131.7 -10.8%
Jason Witten 125.9 -14.7%
Zach Ertz 125.4 -15.1%
Coby Fleener 122.5 -17.0%

 

However, it is not even so much the guys at the top, because of course if you missed out on one of those 4 RBs, you should have shifted your focus towards Brown or Evans.  But it’s the bottom of the top 12 where things really get ugly.

Murray, Howard, Ingram and Murray rounded out the top 12 RBs this year and had the worst differential, when compared to the rest of the top 12s.  Even the worst TEs 10, 11 & 12 were closer to being average than the worst RB1s.

 

Here are the 12th ranked players at the four positions:

  • QB – Andy Dalton -9%
  • RB – Matt Forte -21.6%
  • WR – Davante Adams -13%
  • TE – Coby Fleener -17%

It gets even uglier when you look at the top 24 RBs and WRs.

 

The WR position ranged from 34% all the way down to -14%.

Top 24 WR (203.57 AVG) Points RPV
Antonio Brown 272.9 34.1%
Mike Evans 250.0 22.8%
Odell Beckham 243.9 19.8%
Jordy Nelson 238.3 17.1%
T.Y. Hilton 234.3 15.1%
Julio Jones 227.3 11.7%
Larry Fitzgerald 211.8 4.0%
Davante Adams 206.7 1.5%
Emmanuel Sanders 201.2 -1.2%
Demaryius Thomas 198.5 -2.5%
Amari Cooper 198.0 -2.7%
Michael Thomas 194.1 -4.7%
Michael Crabtree 193.6 -4.9%
Doug Baldwin 191.4 -6.0%
Brandin Cooks 189.0 -7.2%
Kenny Britt 186.7 -8.3%
A.J. Green 186.4 -8.4%
Jarvis Landry 185.2 -9.0%
Jamison Crowder 182.2 -10.5%
Tyrell Williams 181.5 -10.8%
Terrelle Pryor 180.9 -11.1%
Mike Wallace 179.4 -11.9%
Stefon Diggs 177.1 -13.0%
Julian Edelman 175.2 -13.9%

 

The RB position ranged from 73% down to -29%!

Top 24 RB (197.74 AVG) Points RPV
David Johnson 342.0 73.0%
Ezekiel Elliott 277.4 40.3%
Le’Veon Bell 270.6 36.8%
DeMarco Murray 261.4 32.2%
Melvin Gordon 254.6 28.8%
LeSean McCoy 237.3 20.0%
Devonta Freeman 205.1 3.7%
LeGarrette Blount 197.7 0.0%
Latavius Murray 189.4 -4.2%
Jordan Howard 183.5 -7.2%
Mark Ingram 182.6 -7.7%
Matt Forte 181.8 -8.1%
Frank Gore 181.7 -8.1%
Spencer Ware 177.2 -10.4%
Lamar Miller 176.2 -10.9%
Jay Ajayi 173.4 -12.3%
Carlos Hyde 172.2 -12.9%
Todd Gurley 166.2 -16.0%
Isaiah Crowell 163.9 -17.1%
Jeremy Hill 163.4 -17.4%
Theo Riddick 161.8 -18.2%
Tevin Coleman 145.1 -26.6%
Darren Sproles 141.6 -28.4%
Bilal Powell 139.7 -29.4%

 

Owning a pair of RBs ranked 10-16 doesn’t seem so bad after all when looking at all 24 starting RBs!

So what does that mean? It means you were better off drafting a combination of RB/WR in the first four rounds than you were to completely ignore the RB position.

 

The “Perfect” Fantasy Football Draft

We ran a 12 team draft using this seasons stats to rank our players and drafted “perfect” teams.

Rosters

 

Standings Points
Team 1 1493.9
Team 4 1453.4
Team 5 1431.4
Team 2 1424.6
Team 6 1410.5
Team 3 1409.6
Team 10 1408.0
Team 7 1393.9
Team 8 1368.3
Team 9 1362.1
Team 11 1360.4
Team 12 1359.7

 

I made sure the top 12 RB & WR were the first 24 picks and then used RPV to organize the next four rounds in order to draft the more valuable player vs the player with the most points scored.

We did have to reorganize just slightly to make sure teams did not draft a fourth RB/WR or two QB/TE.  We also allowed the teams drafting QB12/TE12 to delay that pick, allowing them to draft their RB2/WR2/Flex a round early.

It makes sense that the top teams would be the ones that drafted first. However, if you look closely you will see that the teams 4 and 5 scored more points than teams 2 & 3.  Actually, Team 6 even scored more points than Team 3.  What did Team 3 do wrong?

They drafted Antonio Brown and followed that up with Jordan Howard, a great start, but then went TE/WR/WR and didn’t draft their RB2 until the end of the 6th round in Darren Sproles.  This was also the last team to draft a QB – Andy Dalton.

Like Team 1, Team 4 went RB/RB while adding a QB early.  They also both drafted their FLEX early and filled it with a running back.  Team 4 was the last team to draft a TE.

Team  5 drafted RB/WR but then drafted the first QB in the 3rd round.  I would say this draft is the exception to the rule as they waited until the 7th round to find their RB2.

The one team to go WR/WR/WR, Team 12, finished last.  The other four teams that selected two WRs to start all finished in the bottom half.

Team 10 finished better than Teams 7, 8 and 9, thanks to a RB/RB start with no running backs being drafted near them.

Go take a look back at your drafts – teams that made the playoffs, did they grab a couple RBs early?  How about those owners that ignored the position – how did they do?

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Keith Lott
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Keith Lott

Keith is the founder of We Talk Fantasy Sports and you can follow him on twitter @WeTlkFntsySprts.At We Talk Fantasy Sports, they have one goal -- to help you win your league. It does not matter if you are a Fantasy rookie or a veteran. Everyone has questions, and they have opinions. Lots of them!
Keith Lott
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