How to Survive the Running Back Dead Zone in 2023
Fantasy football managers have probably heard of the term “running back dead zone”. It is a phrase that is used to describe the notoriously disappointing running backs taken in the middle rounds of fantasy football drafts. For the longest period of time, the dead zone was an unassailable concept—it seemed like nearly every RB taken between rounds three and seven of a draft was a miss. However, in recent years, we have seen a few dead zone RBs who were surprisingly excellent in fantasy and vastly outperformed their Average Draft Position. In this article, I’ll be taking a closer look at those successful dead zone Running Backs to identify any patterns that indicate who you should target moving forward in drafts.
Note: I qualified the “dead zone” as picks 30-80 in drafts.
The Establishment of the Running Back Dead Zone
Before getting into the survivors of the dead zone, let’s look at why the concept exists in the first place.
This graph sums it up pretty well. We can see that there’s a significant drop-off in running back points per game between Rounds 2 and 3, and an even steeper decline after Round 5. In fact, running backs taken in Round 12 averaged more fantasy points per game than those in Round 6, which is a perfect encapsulation of the dead zone—selecting running backs in the middle rounds has been incredibly unpredictable and feels impossible to get right. Last season, for example, just 6 of 13 running backs taken in the dead zone outperformed their ADP. This reinforces the hit-and-miss nature of these middle-round running backs—the odds of picking one that even slightly outperforms their ADP is about as likely as a coin flip.
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