ZeroRB: The Best Ability is Availability

The arguments centered around ZeroRB or any structural-based drafting go way too far in either direction. I tweeted about an idea for this article and was told that ZeroRB is “dumb,” “won’t get you far,” and is “throwing your season away.” But I think that in many of the arguments, even pro-ZeroRB, miss the point. I play the odds. I like to know what I should expect. The point of ZeroRB lies in the assumption that you should draft WRs earlier in drafts because they are a safer investment.

A wise man once said, “The best ability is availability.” We’ve all been there. You pick a guy in the first round, and they are out for the season before the leaves change color. There isn’t a single position in sports where you can guarantee, with absolute certainty, that someone will play every game, but there’s an easy way to eliminate some of the risks. I’m deliberately leaving QBs and TEs out of this because there are so few of those guys drafted in the earliest rounds that the numbers are very skewed. So let’s take a look at the two most contentious positions for the early rounds.

For each of the first ten rounds of drafts, you can expect that any random WR will play more games than any random RB. This doesn’t mean that we are strictly drafting running back for the first ten rounds. But, it does show that there’s some safety in picking WRs early. If you start off WR/WR/WR, you can expect to get an extra four games out of your draft picks than if you went RB/RB/RB.

Averages don’t always tell the whole story. There may be one or two guys dragging the averages down and skewing the numbers. If we group the first two rounds, let’s see how the missed games shake out for RBs vs. WRs.

Not only are RBs much more likely to some games…they’re also much more likely to miss a significant portion of the season. Again, there are no guarantees regardless of position in the NFL, but I’d rather take my shot at WR if given the chance. How about over the next three rounds?


Regardless of how you slice the beginning of fantasy drafts, a couple of things emerge as far as time missed goes. Running backs are about three times more likely to miss at least half the season as wide receivers. They’re also more likely to miss a couple of games, forcing you to the waiver wire or an inferior bench player.


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ADP Hit Rates

At this point, you may be wondering, how does this affect where players finish. Looking at historic hit rates here means that you give yourself about a 1-in-3 chance of getting two WR1s or a WR1 and RB1 if you start with a WR first. If you go RB first, you drop that chance to just under a 1-in-4 chance of getting two RB1s or an RB1/WR1 with your first two picks. One of the best endorsements for grabbing a bunch of WRs to start is the RB1 rate as the draft goes on. There seems to be a sweet spot in the eighth through eleventh rounds when it comes to finding that potential league winning RB.

Conclusions

  • *RB injuries, especially from high volume (early round fantasy picks), are more likely than WR injuries.
  • *If you start off WR/WR/WR, you can expect to get an extra four games out of your draft picks than if you went RB/RB/RB.
  • *There’s an 18% chance that an RB drafted in the first five rounds will miss 8 or more games.
  • *On the other hand, there’s only a 6% that a WR drafted in the first five rounds will miss 8 or more games.
  • *There seems to be a sweet spot in the eighth through eleventh rounds when it comes to finding that potential league winning RB.

Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @MattJonesTFR.

Note: The ADP data in this article came from FFStatistics and accounts for drafts from 2010-2017.

mjones

I host a podcast called Bogey Free which can be found on iTunes or YouTube. I'm one of the PGA Analysts at DraftKings. On this site, you can find me talking Football Redraft or PGA DFS. Follow along on Twitter @MattJonesTFR to stay up to date.

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