Fantasy Football Zero RB Backfield Report: AFC East
Zero RB has been one of the more popular contrarian strategies of the past half-decade in fantasy football. However, something that Davis Mattek has mentioned on the SportsGrid podcast is a potential lack of viable Zero RB candidates in today’s NFL. Essentially, the number of backfields that would produce a full-time starter or high-upside player with an injury may be more limited than they once were.
The Zero RB Backfield Report will look to dive into that hypothesis. I’ll take a look at each division in the NFL, breaking down the backfield of each team, and how viable it is for them to contain a Zero RB candidate.
Today the series continues with the AFC East.
Depth Chart: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, T.J. Yeldon
Just when fantasy owners thought Singletary would be escaping the clutches of Frank Gore, the Bills selected Moss on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. Here was the workload split of Singletary and Gore in 13 games in 2019:
Singletary – 12.4 carries, 3.7 targets
Gore – 10.5 carries, 0.6 targets
It was a full-blown committee, with Singletary handling most of the receiving work, but Gore getting the looks around the goal-line. The iteration of this with Moss likely features less pass-catching for Singletary given that Moss recorded 28 receptions in his final year at Utah, averaging 13.9 yards per catch with two scores.
These backs should be reasonably close in fantasy scoring when fully healthy, yet Moss is currently coming off the board six rounds later. Both players would expect to have total ownership of the backfield with an injury to the other player, but Moss comes at a tremendous discount.
Verdict: Zack Moss (FFPC ADP RB49) is a Zero RB candidate
Depth Chart: Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, Patrick Laird
Fantasy gamers waited all draft for the Dolphins to add a stud back, but the team instead decided to fully embrace Running Backs Don’t Matter (TM), signing Howard to a cheap deal, and trading a Day 3 pick for Breida. These players are within a round of each other in ADP. Expect Howard to take on the lead role for early downs and around the goal-line, but Breida is one of the most athletic RBs in the NFL, and should see an extensive pass-catching role. He would reach his carry ceiling in the event of a Howard injury, though I’m not sure he ever averages much more than 15 a game. Should Breida go down, a frequent occurrence in recent years, Laird would likely step in as the primary receiver. This makes Howard a rather low-ceiling investment.
Verdict: Matt Breida (FFPC ADP RB35) is a Zero RB candidate
New England Patriots
Depth Chart: James White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead
New England also has 2019 third-rounder Damien Harris on the roster. The Pats should have their usual committee approach in 2020, but the offense is likely to not be as good with Jarret Stidham running it. Drafters recognize this, as no Patriot back is coming off the board prior to round 8, but it still may not warrant selection. There are so many bodies capable of receiving work, that one injury or demotion likely isn’t enough to create massive value. I’m avoiding this offense entirely in 2020.
Verdict: No Zero RB candidates
New York Jets
Depth Chart: Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore, Lamical Perine
Despite Adam Gase’s obvious disdain for his star RB, Bell should still shoulder most of the load out of the backfield in 2020. The addition of Gore after the draft muddies the waters a little bit, but it mostly damages the reserve backs vying for playing time. Due to his age and previous experience, it is unlikely that Gore is ever more than the number two back regardless of what happens to Bell. He is a pure committee player at this point, and his presence destroys and potential Zero RB value this backfield may have had.
Verdict: No Zero RB candidates