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|
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|
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|
As expected, the TE position was top heavy, but not because of Rob Gronkowski.
|Top 12 TE (147.65 AVG)||Points||RPV|
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|
The RB position ranged from 73% down to -29%!
|Top 24 RB (197.74 AVG)||Points||RPV|
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.
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?