Can The Zero-RB Strategy Work In SFB9?
There are lots of different strategies when it comes to fantasy football. The most popular and well known are perhaps the Zero-RB or Zero-WR methods. However, when it comes to the Scott Fish Bowl or SFB9 there are even more strategies thrown into the mix. The scoring system for each SFB always varies, but it is nearly always a Superflex league. There is also usually at least a small bonus afforded to the tight end position. The biggest wrinkle this season is bonus points based on yardage totals. Those massive five-point bonuses come for every 300 yards passing and 50 yards rushing or receiving.
What those adaptations mean is that lots of different combinations come into play. Some people like to start QB/QB, some like to just grab one QB and others like to get their tight end early. With these scoring adaptations, it is much easier to start thinking about the zero strategies. The most popular of those is always likely to be Zero-WR as the sheer depth of the position makes it easier to find value later in drafts.
However, that is not to say there is no value in the running back position as the draft goes on. In fact, you could argue that outside of the top-five or so running backs the value at that position actually increases.
The Running Back Landscape
What Scott always tries to do is set the scoring up so that it is hard to just cut-and-shut rankings to the league style. However, what we can do is use last years numbers to see how the scoring affected things. In this article, I am going to look at how a player performed compared to replacement level at the position. For running back that is taking each player’s score and dividing it by the score of the 36th ranked player. Thankfully, goingfor2.com have done the hard work for us.
What quickly becomes evident is that there was a clear top-five last year. Christian McCaffrey, Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara had a value above replacement (VAR) at least.4 higher than any other running back. James Conner and Melvin Gordon made up their own little tier. Then there was a .3 drop off to Phillip Lindsay. Everyone from Lindsay down had a VAR below two points.
What all of that means is that there is limited value in the first two rounds outside of that small top group. That is why we should start considering other positions if you are not in a draft spot that allows you to obtain those top guys.
What About the Other Positions?
There is one clear standout from last year, and that is Patrick Mahomes, who has a VAR .6 above anyone else at the position. However, had Andrew Luck been healthy all season or Deshaun Watson had actual protection, that gap could have been much smaller. There are perhaps three quarterbacks worthy of consideration in the top-two rounds. However, there is then a wealth of talent in rounds three through five. If you commit to zero-RB early, you either need to take a quarterback in the first two rounds or be willing to pass up on RBs in rounds 3-5 to get some of the talent available there.
The receiver position does not offer the same top-end VAR as the running back position. The highest a receiver got last season was a VAR of 2.35. However, there are three players with a VAR above 2.3, six above 2.2 and nine above two. This would suggest there is better value available in the later part of those first two rounds at the wide receiver position that the running back position. Things do start to drop off after that top-nine. Therefore it is even more important to grab a couple of talented receivers early in the draft.
This is the only position that comes close to rivaling RB when it comes to VAR. That is in the form of Travis Kelce, who has a VAR at 2.97. Zach Ertz and George Kittle are the only other tight ends above two when it comes to VAR. Both of those are going in the region of rounds two or early round three. It would be a massive surprise if either of them made it to the back end of round three. Therefore, if you are going to take them it will need to be in place of a potential running back in rounds one or two.
This is also a position that you can find yourself prioritizing over running back in rounds three through six. My favorite name in that region is Jared Cook following his move to New Orleans. He is often available in round five, so if you go WR/WR then QB/QB you could find yourself looking at Cook in round five and pushing RB to round six and beyond.
Running Back Value
ADP is extremely hard to trust when it comes to SFB9. 1,200 players mean a lot of crazy things can happen. However, there are values to be found at the running back position, and if you can identify a handful then you can have a few backup plans if things get crazy. In every mock I have done using this scoring system there have been three running backs catching my eye in rounds six through eight.
Mark Ingram has been available entering the sixth round of all three drafts, and he has a major opportunity to rack up big numbers as the leader of the rushing pack in Baltimore. Baltimore’s running backs were overall extremely consistent last season, as I wrote about earlier in the offseason. This season Ingram has the chance to be the man and could put together those individual numbers into one big collection of success. With Lamar Jackson under center for the Ravens, opportunities could open for Ingram to make big runs. Big run opportunities will open the chance for Ingram to hit those rushing bonuses.
Lamar Miller is another guy I am high on this season. All the buzz is around D’Onta Foreman, but right now Miller is still the man in Houston. Miller is often available in the seventh round and later, and his value is falling as the Foreman buzz grows. However, Miller managed to have a number of weeks close to or above average at the running back position last season.
James White is another name that is regularly available in the seventh round and beyond. The situation in New England is crowded but it is clear that Tom Brady trusts White explicitly, so he should still see time on the field. What is so impressive is what White does when he gets opportunities he makes them count. As you can see from the graph below he is better on a per opportunity basis than either Christian McCaffrey or Ezekiel Elliott in his career. Not handling running down work definitely makes a difference, but it is impressive all the same. When White has a good day he can be a week winner the same as any of the top guys at the position.
If you are picking in the top-four then this is not even a discussion. If you get a shot at one of the big four this year you should absolutely take it. However, once you get outside that then things get tasty. Relative to replacement level the VAR at the non-RB positions are far above that at running back. In fact, it can take a good four or five rounds before the value starts to come back at running back, meaning once you pass on a back in the first round it may make sense to just completely stay clear of them until rounds five and beyond.
The key, if you do this, is to feel absolutely comfortable with four or five of those options available in rounds five through nine. I have presented three options here but you arguably need even a couple more. If you only like two guys in that range then the risk you lose them or the cost of having to overdraft them to ensure you get them could defeat the object of the strategy.
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