There’s been a lot of debate lately on the fantasy scene about which draft strategy is the best one. Which blows my mind.  Because we already know for a fact that there is a definitive best strategy in fantasy football: all of them.

Now, obviously it’s not possible to use every draft strategy at once - that’s just silly.  What I’m talking about is KNOWING all of the draft strategies.  Whether it’s Zero RB, Late Round QB, Yin-Yang tight end, waiting on WR, or some other crazy new idea, you should know them.  Know the philosophy, know the targets, know the benefits, know the pitfalls. Not only will it help you understand the draft but it will help you understand your opponents. So you can destroy them.

Lucky enough we’re going to give you a little guide on how to read your draft and the basics of each strategy right now to give you a leg up.  So let’s get after it.

Starting the Draft

Sometimes you will know your draft spot in advance, sometimes you won’t.  No matter what though, you will know the settings (which is crucial) so you should already have a good idea of the players that you like in the very start of drafts.  It’s not hard to put together a list of ~20 guys that are good for your format.  And even with leagues that do the draft order randomly at the start, you have those minutes or seconds to think about who might be available to you. My advice for the first two rounds is this - just take the best available players.  The absolute biggest mistake I see when it comes to drafts are people who actually draft players they have ranked below other players with their first or second pick just to fit a particular strategy.  What are you doing?  Don’t pass up on Dalvin Cook just because you are a #ZeroRBTruther.  You know what I call that? #RuiningYourTeam.

In the first couple rounds you should do two things.  Take the best players. And take note of who other guys are taking.  Are running backs flying off the board? Are some teams only taking WRs? Are QBs falling in the draft? This is more crucial than any consensus ADP or tiers or whatever because it dictates what value will be there later. Your actual draft matters more than what anyone else out there is saying or doing - if you can believe it.  So, if possible, recognize what your league mates' tendencies are and zig where they zag.  Everyone taking WRs because they heard some Zero RB podcast? Good, take the RB value.  You know all the strategies so you can be like water and pick up the slack later. 

You may not even need to pivot to some special strategy - you might just be able to draft a balanced and awesome team all the way through.  But, if you are in a scenario like the one I mentioned above and you take a lot of RBs early, you’ll want to know what that strategy looks like so you have a general idea of who to target later and when.  So, just in case you do need to go with a specific build, here are the basics of the most popular strategies.

Zero RB

Probably the most well known (and notorious) draft strategy, this one actually has an origin.  The first reference/invention of it was by Shaun Siegele in 2013 and the premise is fairly simple.  Back when that article was written we were just exiting the age of the true bell cow RB when running back was a linear depth chart for most teams.  You had a starter who got all the meaningful snaps and a backup who was really only expected to play if the starter got hurt.  The first rounds were DOMINATED by running backs.  That’s just the way it was done back then and for many years, especially in the early 200s with guys like Marshall Faulk, Ladanian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes etc. that was how you won.

I suggest you read the original article if possible but the very basic idea of zero RB is that, due to the violent nature of the position, running back is the most “fragile” of the positions.  Your teams are most susceptible to a catastrophic loss due to injury.  The solution? Don’t take them.  The general rule of thumb for Zero RB is to load up on wide receivers, quarterbacks, and tight ends then take stabs on a bunch of RBs later on.  The concept of course hinges on you not only hitting on your early picks but finding value in the draft or off waivers at RB.  If you find that everyone in your league is taking running backs early (and they don’t stop after the first couple rounds), you might want to pivot to this strategy and take advantage of all the wide receiver, quarterback, and tight end value falling to you.

Contrary to popular belief, this strategy isn’t “punting” on the RB position.  You don’t just say “forget RBs they get hurt” and ignore them. Quite the opposite.  You need to know MORE than anyone about running backs. It’s easy to draft Christian McCaffrey. It’s hard to find James Robinson or Myles Gaskin.  The most difficult part of this strategy is giving yourself a decent enough combination of guys you can start right away but also upside guys. If you pick all high risk, high reward guys like rookies, you could be getting goose eggs in your lineup in the early going.  If you take too many boring safe guys, you’ll never hit on the breakout you need.  This is just a basic overview so you should check with some Zero RB gurus to see who the popular targets are but here are some examples of late “safe” and “upside” guys you can target if you pivot to zero RB. You also want to possibly stash handcuffs who could pay off in a big way if the starter gets hurt.  Here are some guys going outside the top ~24 or so RBs to target if you find yourself in this situation.

Safe RBs to Start Week 1: Kareem Hunt, Kenyon Drake, Mike Davis, David Johnson, Zack Moss, Gus Edwards, James White, Latavius Murray

Upside Plays: Raheem Mostert, Travis Etienne, Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Tony Pollard, Trey Sermon, Kenneth Gainwell, Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley

Handcuffs: Tony Pollard, Alexander Mattison, Chuba Hubbard, Darrynton Evans

Late Round QB

This is another extremely common strategy - probably the most common one in the modern era to the point that many folks don’t even recognize it as its own strategy.  People have been doing it for a long time but it’s popularity is mostly attributed to JJ Zacharisan.  Again, another simple idea except this time instead of running back you wait on quarterback.  And you often do so until everyone else in your league has taken one and people threaten to start taking a second because it annoys them that they took a QB already yet there are still decent QBs for you to take.  Probably why it’s such a viable strategy.   

If there’s one quarterback you like going outside the top 10-12 then great, just wait and take him. If you go that route you better be confident that that player can be dominant.  Otherwise, you might want to take a couple.  You’ve likely filled every other starting spot by that point so you might as well.  In terms of who to target, Zacharisan is famous for targeting “Konami Code” quarterbacks which simply means guys who also provide rushing stats (the name is in reference to “cheat codes” in video games implying that the extra points you get from rushing yards and touchdowns is practically cheating).  If you do that, just make sure you know whether your league has six points for passing TDs or four point passing TDs.  Here are some of my favorite targets for this strategy going outside the top 12 QBs currently.

Six Point Passing: Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Baker Mayfield Ben Roethlisburger, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Zach Wilson

Four Point Passing: Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Carson Wentz, Tua Tagovailoa, Daniel Jones, Cam Newton

Waiting on Wide Receiver

There really is no “inventor” of this strategy as, given the early years of fantasy football that we talked about earlier, it’s basically just how every draft used to go.  Back in the early days of fantasy football, especially because PPR hadn’t been invented yet, the focus in early rounds was squarely on running back and quarterback.  Most NFL teams basically used the same personnel group which was one quarterback, one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers.  Given the nature of that, there were high end receivers available for rounds and rounds in most drafts.

PPR formats came along and changed that where we saw the shift towards earlier WRs and strategies like Zero RB.  There are also more personnel groupings and substitutions used by teams leading to more spread out targets and fewer elite WRs which led early WRs to be coveted. That said, this strategy has seen a resurgence in recent years as a counter to strategies like Zero RB and late QB which are also heavily deployed.  If people are going to be waiting on RB, QB etc. then you might as well capitalize on that value while it’s available.  If you know people in your league are zero RB guys or it just seems like all the wide outs you like are going quick, don’t force it at WR and load up elsewhere.  Waiting on WR is the most viable of all of these strategies because of how deep the position is: here are some targets going outside the top 24 WRs

Mid Round: Odell Beckham Jr, Cortland Sutton, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Curtis Samuel, DeVonta Smith, Antonio Brown

Late Round: Michael Pittman Jr., Mike Williams, TY Hilton, Marvin Jones Jr., Darnell Mooney, Nelson Agholor, Christian Kirk

Sleeper Rounds:  Nico Collins, Allen Lazard, Emmanuel Sanders, Josh Palmer, Demarcus Robinson, Denzel Mims, Bryan Edwards, Tyrell Williams

Yin-Yang Tight End


This is another common strategy which a lot of people honestly implement without knowing it. I simply call it “Yin-Yang tight end” because it makes my life much easier when I write my full article on it each year or discuss it.  Here’s how it works.

The plan is to wait on tight end so all the elite, trustworthy tight ends are gone.  You want a shot at upside but you also don’t want to be getting a dud from your tight end spot in the early season while you find a breakout.  So what you do is draft one safe tight end in terms of having a solid floor but not a particularly high ceiling (we call this the “Yin”).  Then you pair them with a risky play who has a fairly low downside but a high ceiling if things go just right (Yang).  See how it’s easier to say Yin and Yang from this point on rather than “safe medium floor, medium ceiling guy” and “risky low floor, high upside player”)?

The Yin tight ends are usually guys who are third on the pecking order on their team so they have a path to steady targets but don’t really have a path to the high volume that elite guys get.  The Yang tight ends are guys in highly uncertain situations where they could be as high as the top target on the team but they also might not even factor into the offense much at all so we really can’t trust them until we see what the offense actually looks like.  What you then do is you start the Yin tight end week one since you know he’s fairly safe and he won’t give you a zero. Meanwhile you monitor both your Yang TE on the bench and all the tight ends on waivers.  If there is a tight end that breaks out that’s on waivers, you jump on him (you’ll have to decide if you want to drop the Yang from your bench or if you want to go double risky and drop the Yin).  You always want to be using that bench spot to rotate upside guys until you hit on your tight end with top five upside.

The reason we do this rather than just take a guy who is being drafted as a backend TE1 and should finish as a backend TE1 is that, in 10-12 man league where you start one tight end, if your tight end isn’t top 5-6 then you mathematically have a below average tight end and are putting yourself at a disadvantage.  In recent years we’ve used this strategy to identify guys like Mark Andrews, Darren Waller, Logan Thomas, Mike Gesicki etc.   You need to be vigilant to do it correctly and find these guys but you aren’t alone as I share my tight end waiver adds every week on Twitter @CoopAFiasco if you need some help. There might even be a weekly tight end waiver article this year for full time Fantasy Alarm Members…

Here are some examples of Yin and Yang tight ends that you can easily pair after pretty much every team has taken a tight end.

Yin (medium floor, medium ceiling): Hunter Henry, Tyler Higbee, Robert Tonyan, Jared Cook, Irv Smith Jr, Gerald Everett, Eric Ebron

Yang (low floor, high ceiling): Evan Engram, Adam Trautman, Jonnu Smith, Cole Kmet, Jordan Akins, Chris Herndon, Jacob Harris, Kylen Granson, Brevin Jordan