Mock Draft Prep: Zero-RB Strategy

By: Rob Ruxin

We are a little more than three months away from the NFL season. This also means we are close to the start of the fantasy football season. I personally believe it is never too late to start preparing for the next fantasy season. One way to prepare is by doing mock drafts.

One website I like to use is FantasyPros. FantasyPros has a mock draft simulator. What is nice about the simulator is that it doesn’t involve other people and you can finish a mock in the matter of minutes. The purpose of this article and the next couple articles will be to determine which draft strategy works best.

I am going to go through a mock and break down every selection one-by-one. I am going to do this using different draft strategies. For each mock draft, I will have the same settings, same amount of teams and the same draft slot. This is important, because we want the simulator to choose the same or similar players each time I go through. We also want the simulator to take into effect the same settings as our league. By doing this, you will be better prepared for what will happen (outliers will obviously exist) in your actual drafts.

Personally, I prefer 16-team leagues - nothing smaller. However, for the purpose of this exercise I am going to do the mocks as a 12-team league because that is the more standard size. I randomized my draft slot and it came up with pick number six. I will use that pick going forward for the remainder of this preparation exercise. I am also drafting based on PPR scoring.

The roster is going to consist of the following: 1 QB; 2 RB; 2 WR; 1 TE; 1 Flex; 1 K 1 D/ST and 5 Bench spots.

The FantasyPros simulator allows you to choose what rankings you want to go up against. I am choosing to go against the expert rankings, all of the ADP rankings and all three of the pre-draft rankings. You can adjust these as you see fit based on what sites you are using.

Alright, here we go!

1.06

In order, the first five picks were David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. FantasyPros helps you with your selection by giving you who the experts would choose based on a percentage. 58 percent of the experts say to draft Odell Beckham, Jr. Next up would be LeSean McCoy at 17 percent, followed by Mike Evans at 14 percent.

For the purpose of this first breakdown, I am going to do more of a Zero-RB method. I have Mike Evans ranked higher than both OBJ and McCoy. Therefore, I am going to take Evans with my first pick.

2.07

Remember, this is the Zero-RB draft strategy. After I took Evans, Odell Beckham, Jr, Jordan Howard, LeSean McCoy, Melvin Gordon, A.J. Green and Jay Ajayi rounded out the rest of the First Round. Aaron Rodgers was the first QB off the board and went with the 2.04 pick. I would have liked Michael Thomas or T.Y. Hilton, but both went ahead of me in the Second Round.

Names worth considering are Dez Bryant, Amari Cooper, DeAndre Hopkins and Doug Baldwin. I have struggled with Dez Bryant for the last two years, so I am looking elsewhere. Between these three, I like Cooper to have a breakout year. I have Cooper ranked ninth and Nuk ranked 10th, so I will stick with my rankings and go Cooper.

3.06

Our first rookie, Leonard Fournette goes off the board at 2.10. Marshawn Lynch’s stock has risen to a new high and I cannot believe the simulator has him going 2.11. Tom Brady, the second quarterback, goes off the board and his teammate Rob Gronkowski is the first tight end. Continuing with my Zero-RB approach, I look at wide receivers again.

I cannot believe DeAndre Hopkins is still there and quickly jumps out as my favorite option. Just to let everyone else know who else I am considering, Brandin Cooks, Alshon Jeffery and Allen Robinson are still available. I like Robinson the next most after Hopkins for redraft (Cooks would be my Dynasty option), but Hopkins is my guy here. With Deshaun Watson at the helm now, I think Hopkins comes closer to his 2015 form rather than his 2016 fall off.

4.07

Another quarterback, Drew Brees, goes off the board. Allen Robinson also almost made it back to me. He went off the board at 4.05. If he made it to me, he would have been my fourth pick. Looking at my team, I have drafted my two starting wide receivers and I have a wide receiver as my flex.  

I need to consider going wide receiver again, or do I try to finalize my roster. I feel like with Zero-RB I should go receiver again, but the position is pretty deep. The top guys available are Sammy Watkins, Keenan Allen, Michael Crabtree and Davante Adams. I could go tight end here and take Travis Kelce. Kelce would give me a huge advantage at the tight end position, but I’m sticking with wide receiver and taking Allen. Allen has huge risk/reward potential and I just cannot pass that up. If you want the safer pick, go Kelce, but playing it safe does not always help you win.

5.06

Kelce obviously did not make it to my Round Five selection. He went at the 4.12 pick. I will need to go running back eventually, but I could also go with Andrew Luck here instead. Typically, I draft a quarterback late, but I am intrigued with Luck. Although it is an option, I think I am finally taking a running back here.

Ty Montgomery is the highest ranked back here, but the experts are recommending Bilal Powell. Dalvin Cook is squeezed right in the middle of these two, but I do not trust him to produce much in Minnesota in his first year. Powell is my choice here and not because the “experts” suggest him. With PPR format and the news Powell is going to be the lead back, he makes the most sense.

6.07

Two more quarterbacks go off the board. Some top receivers left are Stefon Diggs, Larry Fitzgerald and Jamison Crowder. I’m going to add another running back that is going late, but has huge upside. Adrian Peterson was supposed to bounce back last year. Can he do it this year? He is going late and he might be around for another round or two, but I am not taking the chance. Adrian Peterson will round out my lineup as my second back.

7.06

I should look at more running backs to ensure at least one hits, but I love the idea of pairing Jameis Winston with Mike Evans. Tight End still needs to be filled, but I feel comfortable waiting and taking a lower rated guy with upside.Still available at the tight end position are Hunter Henry, Martellus Bennett, Zach Ertz and Jack Doyle.

I am taking my first quarterback here, but as I get closer to September I may decide to wait. I like Philip Rivers and Derek Carr. I’d be happy with Andy Dalton, Kirk Cousins or Matthew Stafford. I just really like the idea of Winston and Evans paired up. Winston is my choice here as I have him projected as a top-10 fantasy quarterback in 2017..

8.07

The tight end position is dwindling. I am left with Eric Ebron or Jack Doyle. I am not a big fan of Ebron, even though he should be fine. I like the idea of Doyle with Luck though. The sample size is somewhat small, but Luck seems to favor the tight end in the red zone. With Dwayne Allen now in New England, Doyle has a clear path to being a top-10 tight end. He is my choice here.

Other guys I was considering were Doug Martin and Samaje Perine. Martin will not be playing a full season, but if he comes back strong, his value is great here. Perine is a rookie, but he looks to be in a great position for opportunities in Washington. Both running backs come with risk, but could have high rewards.

9.06

Both Perine and Martin made it through for my next pick. Doug Martin has proven himself before and I like the idea of a proven commodity over a rookie. This could change based on what happens during camp, but as of now I’m going Martin.

Besides Perine, I was also considering C.J. Prosise. Rumors right now are that Prosise will see plenty of action out of the backfield during passing downs. Seeing that I am drafting this as a PPR league, Prosise would have been a solid option.

Another consideration here would be a second quarterback or going back to wide receiver.

10.07

Here is where you can win or lose your draft. I know that sounds crazy, but if you add the right depth pieces, you can set yourself up for great success. Kareem Hunt is another rookie running back with great upside to consider here. Quarterbacks are still available here too.

I am going back to the wide receiver well. I’m going to choose a guy that had plenty of upside last year, but did not live up to potential. In his defense, he had a cyst on his spine. That is right, John Brown is the guy I like here. Like Keenan Allen, he comes with risk, but his reward could be exponential. Corey Coleman, Kenny Britt and Tyrell Williams were the other three I’d consider.

11.06

I was high on Philip Rivers this year, but I’m slowly changing my mind. Rivers has a tough start to the schedule. Trying to trade low for him after a couple tough games to the season might be best here. He’s still a great option to draft, but with Jameis Winston already on my team and solid backups still available, I think taking a skill positional player here is more important.

This leaves me with Duke Johnson, Corey Coleman and Tyrell Williams as my top options. Since I have four really strong wide receivers, I am going to look at running back. Johnson is a solid option for PPR. I am also intrigued by rookies Marlon Mack and Joe WIlliams. Alvin Kamara could be the better option for me though since I own Adrian Peterson. At this point, it is too early to know for sure, but I’m going to go with Kamara as somewhat of a handcuff. Mack could see time quickly if Frank Gore (who is becoming ancient) goes down with injury. Carlos Hyde also struggles with injuries and Kyle Shanahan seems to love Joe Williams.

12.07

It must be a sign that Philip Rivers is still on the board. I have one bench spot left. I also need to draft a kicker and a defense. Since we are still months away from preseason, I do not plan on drafting a kicker. Honestly, I finish many drafts without a kicker. I’ll add an extra bench spot and worry about picking up a kicker the week before Week 1. This way, I have one extra chance at hitting on a skill position.

Other quarterbacks still available who I like here are Ben Roethlisberger and Tyrod Taylor. Taylor would be my choice if the settings favored rushing quarterbacks. That is, if rushing touchdowns were six points and passing touchdowns were only four.

13.06

The only defense I would consider drafting earlier than the second to last round is the Chiefs. With Tyreek HIll, you have an opportunity for some return touchdowns. Since I did not go this route, I am looking at the Panthers and Ravens as my top two options. I went ahead and chose the Ravens who finished seventh in scoring in standard ESPN formats in 2016.

14.07

My final pick and as I already alluded to, I am not taking a kicker. I am going to add another tight end. I do not know why, but I think Julius Thomas has a real chance to succeed in Miami this season. Dion Sims saw success in the red zone last year for Miami and Thomas is better than Sims. Wow...I missed that he was taken.

Instead, I am going to go with Coby Fleener. This is the second year in the Saints’ system and he should do better than last year. Even last year he was a top-12 TE in PPR formats. He did not live up to his ADP, but as the last pick in the draft, I am okay with the risk here. Remember, I might be dropping him for a kicker before Week 1 anyway.

Now, I got a D+ as my draft grade. Do not worry about those grades. If you want a high draft grade, just take the highest recommended player every time. It also doesn’t help that I do not have a kicker. That alone probably dropped me a letter grade.

Here is a look at the final team. I am not thrilled with it, but I do think it is a team I could easily compete with as long as one or two of my risky players hit. Remember, you do not win your leagues just through the draft. I have potential to work out a trade or two and the waiver wire is always your friend.

QB: Jameis Winston                          
RB: Bilal Powell
RB: Adrian Peterson
WR: Mike Evans
WR: Amari Cooper
TE: Jack Doyle
FLEX: DeAndre Hopkins
K: N/A
D/ST: Ravens
BN: Keenan Allen
BN: Doug Martin
BN: John Brown
BN: Alvin Kamara
BN: Philip Rivers
BN: Coby Fleener

Rob Ruxin is a writer and contributor to FLAFFL House. You can find him on twitter @chiruxinDFS and on the Fantasy Life App @chiruxin