Zero RB - Running Backs to Target 2017

By Armando Marsal
Armando Marsal The zero running back strategy is one that is trending in today’s fantasy draft. This is when fantasy owners hold off on drafting a running back in the early rounds and focus their attention on other positions, mainly wide receivers. If you are taking this approach on draft day, you may want to take a look at some of the running backs that may be available in later rounds and take shot at them. Below are some backs that I will be targeting in my drafts when I take the zero-RB approach. All my leagues are PPR (point per reception) formats, so these running backs are strictly for this type of league settings.

Theo Riddick – Lions (ADP 7th round)
Riddick is one of my favorite running backs to target in PPR formats whether I am using the zero-RB approach or not. Over the last two seasons (26 games), he is averaging 6.4 targets and 5.1 receptions per game. He has combined for 133 receptions for 1,068 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns. In addition, he accounted for 16.5 percent of the red zone targets and 18.8 percent of the targets inside the 10 last season. He was also responsible for an average of 32 percent of the teams touches (receiving and rushing) on a per game basis, leading Detroit. Lastly, he has averaged 13.1 fantasy points per game over his last two seasons and 0.41 fantasy points per snap last season. Despite not being the every down back or the starter, Riddick is still very much involved in the offense. After all, he played an average of 65 percent of the Lions snaps per game last year.

Eddie Lacy – Seahawks (ADP 8th round)
Lacy may not be the most talented running back in this backfield, but I think he fits with what the Seahawks do and should be the most productive back for Seattle. From 2012-2015, Seattle finished top three every season in the NFL when it came to rush attempts per game. Last season they finished 15th, but a lot of that was likely due to the lack of bodies in the backfield as they were bit by the injury bug. Lacy has been far from impressive over the last two seasons, but he has averaged over four yards per carry each year since entering the league, including a career-high 5.1 yards per carry last season. He has displayed his ability to receive 300+ touches in a season, which is something that we must take into consideration as Marshawn Lynch averaged 300+ touches per season from 2011-2014 as the featured back in Seattle. Lacy’s biggest issue has been his weight and in his most recent weigh-in, he was at the goal-weight. There is certainly risk when it comes to Lacy, but there is also potential nice reward.

Duke Johnson – Browns (ADP 9th round)
For those who had high expectation for Johnson, he has underwhelmed, however, his ADP this season is much fairer than it was last season. Last year he had a sixth round ADP, whereas, this year he is going in the ninth round on average. If you look at his numbers, he has received 74 targets in each of his first two seasons in the league and has caught at least 50 passes each of those years. He had at least three receptions in all but four games last year and at least five targets in all but five. Last season, he averaged 0.4 fantasy points per opportunity, which was a 0.1 point increase from his rookie season and has also averaged nearly 10 fantasy points per game throughout his young NFL career. Despite not being the red zone rushing back for the Browns, Duke did receive 16.7 percent of targets for the Browns inside the 10 and over 10 percent of the red zone targets. Chances are we have yet seen the best of Johnson and there is definitely upside to be had

Shane Vereen – Patriots (ADP 13th round)
Last season I wrote an article expressing my interest in Vereen and he suffered an injury that forced him to miss 11 games and ended up being a bust if you drafted him. With that said, I am going back to the well with Vereen this year. In two seasons (21 games) with the Giants, he has averaged 4.8 targets and 3.3 receptions per game. In 2015 when he played a full season, Vereen accounted for 13.3 percent of the red zone targets and 13.5 percent of the targets inside the 10. In a small sample size last year, he averaged four percent of the targets per game, which was good for third most in New York. We have seen Vereen average well over 10 fantasy points per game in PPR formats and if he can stay healthy, that is certainly possible once again. Taking a flier on him late in your drafts could pay off in a big way if you consider the upside he offers. So far I have drafted him in most of my leagues and I feel good about that.

These are not the end all be all backs for the zero-RB approach, but these are the backs I am most keen on for this strategy. I do not go into my drafts with a specific strategy, as I like to let the draft come to me and I like the round-by-round approach, taking what comes my way. That being said, if you go into your drafts with a zero-RB mindset, these are some backs you may want to consider.

Good luck to all this season. If you have any questions or just want to chat football, you can find me on twitter @Armando_Marsal.