5 Zero-RB Best Ball Targets Before the NFL Draft

Apr 05, 2024
5 Zero-RB Best Ball Targets Before the NFL Draft

Whether you are a Zero-RB proponent or not, hitting on a late-round running back can be one of the biggest leverage spots in a fantasy draft, especially in large-field best ball tournaments. The team at 4for4 got together to discuss which Zero-RB targets they prefer now before a potential spike in Underdog ADP after the NFL Draft.

More Pre-Draft Analysis: Free Agency Winners & Losers | 5 Rookies to Target Before the Draft | Player Profiles | Mock Draft 2.0 | Never-Too-Early Rankings

Pre-Draft Zero-RB Best Ball Targets

Zamir White, Raiders (Underdog ADP: RB30, Overall 99.4)

Jennifer Eakins: Josh Jacobs is now in Green Bay (which still seems weird to even type) and the RB torch will presumably be passed to Zamir White. The former UGA back served as the workhorse for Vegas from Weeks 15–18 last year with Jacobs on the shelf, and he averaged 23.3 touches and 114.3 yards per contest, which translated to an RB13 finish in half-PPR points per game in that timeframe.

White was tied for first with the most carries in those four weeks (84), was also tied for third for the most broken tackles, and sat seventh among all RBs in yards after contact per carry. The Raiders are clearly willing to use White in a high-volume position and showed this by signing the underwhelming Alexander Mattison during the free-agency period. Mattison came to Vegas as insurance and to be part of this RB room, but the former Viking proved last season that he’s likely not lead-back material.

The addition of Mattison should be reassuring to fantasy managers that the Raiders are unlikely to dip into the RB pool during the NFL Draft as they already have their rushing tandem with other larger roster holes to fill. O-line is a position that has been mocked to Las Vegas in the first round by many in the industry and the selection of a tackle like Taliese Fuaga would only add to the allure of White’s potential in 2024.

Right now White boasts an Underdog ADP of 9.04 as the RB30. He has the potential to produce fantasy RB2 numbers with plenty of upside in this Raider offense, and if there are no additional rushers of significance added to the roster during the NFL Draft, his ADP could spike closer to other lead backs in the NFL.

Austin Ekeler, Commanders (Underdog ADP: RB29, Overall:95.9)

Justin Edwards: There's no denying that Austin Ekeler had the least efficient fantasy season of his storied career in 2023. After a great Week 1 showing (164 total yards, 24.4 half-PPR points), the veteran suffered an ankle injury that looked insurmountable. When he returned in Week 6, his typical high-end burst was clearly missing, as he carried the ball 43 times over the next three games, failing to break any run over seven yards.

Now, he finds himself in a position unfamiliar to him over the last handful of years: a back-up, rotational role. But that’s not the most terrible news, considering he's “behind” a player in Brian Robinson, who specializes in early-down and short-yardage situations.

Simply put, Ekeler is going far too late in current best ball drafts in an ambiguous offensive situation. The Commanders have a new offensive coordinator (Kliff Kingsbury), a new quarterback (Jayden Daniels or Drake Maye?), and could very well be feeding one of the best RB pass-catchers in the NFL's history throughout the season.

When drafters realize that Washington isn't planning to add to their RB room while supplementing the offense around him, Ekeler is guaranteed to jump far past his 95.9 Underdog ADP, making him a wonderful Zero-RB addition.

D’Andre Swift, Bears (Underdog ADP: RB24, Overall: 86.5)

Pranav Rajaram: D’Andre Swift is an absolute steal at his current Underdog ADP and I expect his draft position to start rising in the coming months. The Chicago Bears signed Swift to a 3-year, $24 million contract in March with $14 million guaranteed at signing. Swift is backed up by several solid players like Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson, but considering the amount of money Swift got in the off-season, I am confident he will be the bellcow in Chicago.

The Bears offense has impossibly exciting upside once presumed No. 1 pick Caleb Williams is drafted later this month, meaning Swift should have plenty of opportunities in the red zone. I don’t expect the Bears to make many more additions to their offense, so I’m grabbing Swift wherever I can in best ball drafts as I expect him to have an RB2 floor. His projected volume and the Bears’ offensive upside make Swift an ideal Zero-RB target.

Gus Edwards, Chargers (Underdog ADP: RB38, Overall: 123.4)

Connor Allen: Gus Edwards finished with a career-high in carries, yards, and touchdowns last season for Baltimore and now finds himself in a great situation. He was signed by the Los Angeles Chargers to a two-year, $6.5 million contract. He is now reuniting with former OC Greg Roman and figures to play a big role this season. Roman is one of the run-heaviest OCs in the league and new coach Jim Harbaugh has been very vocal about getting back to the run and establishing it.

The Chargers parted ways with Austin Ekeler leaving 91.4% of their running back targets and 87.9% of the team’s carries. The only running backs left on the roster are 2022 fourth-rounder Isaiah Spiller and a pair of UDFA’s in Elijah Dotson and Jaret Patterson. They could opt to draft a running back in the middle rounds but this class is relatively uninspiring. There aren’t any top-tier options that would immediately force Edwards into irrelevancy. Worst case he is the 1B entering the season, best case they don’t take a running back until Day 3, and Edwards enters the season as the clear number one.

Zack Moss, Bengals (Underdog ADP: RB32, Overall 105.4)

TJ Hernandez: Earlier this offseason, the Bengals shook up their backfield, trading Joe Mixon before signing Zack Moss to a two-year deal. The assumption is that Moss will be Cincinnati’s lead back with Chase Brown getting substantial work as well. In a starting role last season, Moss thrived, as John Paulsen recently pointed out:

“In the eight games where Moss played at least half the snaps, he averaged 20.9 touches for 94 yards (4.12 yards per carry), and 0.63 touchdowns. The resulting 14.7 fantasy points per game (half-PPR) would have been the eighth-highest last year (ahead of David Montgomery and just behind Jahmyr Gibbs).”

Despite the opportunity for Moss in a potent offense, he is still being drafted in the RB3 range. Some of the trepidation towards Moss may be the possibility that the Bengals add another running back in the Draft. If they don’t, Moss’ ADP will likely spike, so best ball players should take advantage of the discount now.

Moss will also get a boost if Cincinnati strengthens their offensive line through the Draft. The Bengals ranked in the bottom 10 in adjusted line yards last season but recent mock drafts from Connor Allen and Scott Smith both point to Cincinnati drafting an offensive lineman after they recently signed Trent Brown.

Come summertime, fantasy pundits could be hyping this o-line and, in turn, the running game. If Cincy stands pat on Moss and Brown as their backs, both players' prices will be on the rise. Draft Moss or Brown before that happens.

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