Zero Running Back Theory is a draft strategy in which teams hold off on drafting a running back for the first five rounds. The strategy is useful in certain draft situations depending on which draft slot you are picking from. The method consists of loading up on elite pass catchers or even a top quarterback early and choosing high upside running backs in good situations later. The risk here is that you have to accept your running backs will be weaker than the rest of your league. However, if you pull this off correctly you should be able to offset the weakness at running back with your elite pass catcher options already on your roster. Here are some later round targets if you’re a Zero-RB strategist. You should be comfortable grabbing any of these guys, all of which have the potential to anchor your running back corps this year.
Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins
Drake is a talented player who didn’t see enough of the field last year. Luckily the Dolphins brought in a whole new coaching staff, and he should be the feature back in this offense. He finished the year with 535 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground and added a receiving line of 53/477/5. Drake is a great pass-catching back and with full time duties could catch 65 balls this year with 800 yards on the ground. With an ADP of 5.01, if you loaded up at other positions first, you should not hesitate to pull the trigger on Drake in the 5th round.
Tevin Coleman, San Francisco 49ers
Coleman changed his Zip Code this offseason signing with the San Francisco 49ers and reuniting himself with former offensive coordinator (now head coach) Kyle Shanahan. Normally I wouldn’t touch this backfield as it is currently a three headed monster, with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida still there. However, this is Shanahan’s guy, and he was brought in to play. Coleman finished the year with 800 yards with 4 touchdowns on the ground and had a receiving line of 32/276/5. At an ADP of 5.11 and with the advantage of knowing Shanahan’s system, he can slide right in and immediately pay dividends to your squad. Coleman will fall short of 1,000 yards rushing, but is always a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. His catch total should be up slightly in the 40-45 range which is always a nice added bonus.
Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
There is nothing great about Miller, he plays the game well enough to not hurt your squad. He has only missed four games in the last five years and until D’Onta Foreman can prove he can stay healthy, Miller is a safe bet to produce. He ended last year with 973 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground and a receiving line of 25/163/1. With an ADP of 6.01 you should have no questions about adding this guy to your squad. Pay attention to camp battles as his ADP could rise or fall depending on the health and status of Foreman. Even if there is some type of timeshare situation this will be a high octane offense and Miller should come close to the 1,000 yard mark again adding 25-30 catches.
James White, New England Patriots
James White is a Point Per Reception (PPR) machine. In leagues that reward points for catches, landing a running back with White’s skill set makes him a perfect candidate to target. Last year White finished with 425 rushing yards for 5 touchdowns and added a receiving line of 87/751/7. With the departure of Gronk and his 72 targets from last year, White is going to see some of those out of the backfield and a top-ten finish among running backs is not out of the question. Currently he has an ADP of 7.04 which is a steal at that price, for a back that could catch 100 passes this season.
Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints
Murray signed a new deal with the New Orleans Saints in the off-season. Even though the Saints have an all-world running back in Alvin Kamara, they primarily use a two-back system which in years past has worked out very well for them. Murray finished last year with 578 yards and six touchdowns on the ground and added 22 catches for 141 yards through the air while playing in Minnesota. He won’t catch a lot of balls, but there is always the possibility that he will vulture goal-line work. Murray will get a fair amount of playing time as the Saints didn’t bring him in to ride the bench. Currently his ADP is 7.05 and with the touchdown potential he has in a prolific offense, you should grab him as a safe bet to put up low end RB2 numbers. It should not surprise if he finishes out the year with 600 yards on the ground with 15-20 catches and 9 total touchdowns.
*All ADP data is based on 12 Team PPR leagues