Anchor RB. Hero RB. Solo RB. Modified Zero RB.

There are many ways to name it — follow your heart. But the Anchor RB strategy hasn’t been as divisive a topic as Zero RB (we’ll get to that in the next Draft Guide RB article) but has plenty of fanatics and detractors. We want to be as flexible as we can be with our fantasy football rosters as well as open ourselves up to as many new ideas and ways of thinking about how we approach constructing a roster.

2022 is a new season and with that, different draft textures, constructions, and so on. With running backs becoming more specialized and NFL teams using more committee backfields, the 300-carry “bellcow” is going the way of the Dodo. It will soon be extinct.

We'll look here at the Anchor RB approach to drafting in fantasy football this season and why it will let you have your cake and eat it too in 2022!


What IS Anchor RB? And why draft one elite running back?

The approach with Anchor RB is that we’re taking ONE running back in the first two or three rounds of your draft and then prioritizing wide receivers and the other positions before taking your second running back. You get your shot at the elite running back, elite wide receivers, a potentially elite quarterback and elite tight end. You get to have your cake and eat it too!

Why should we go Anchor RB in drafts? Well, the RB2 position is the LEAST important position in fantasy football and can be filled later on in drafts. We're trying to capture upside at multiple positions while minimizing injury risk, which we'll detail further down.

Let’s look at how many RB1 scoring weeks running backs had last season by 2021 average draft position (ADP).

Total RB1 scoring weeks by ADP (Weeks 1-17) by season:


“Anchor” RB 

RB with a

1st-3rd Round ADP

RB “dead zone”

RB with a

4th-8th Round ADP

Late-round RB

RB with a 

9th Round or later ADP or undrafted



(8 weekly overall RB1 finishes) 

by 16 total RB


(3 weekly overall RB1 finishes) 

by 13 total RB


(6 weekly overall RB1 

by 37 total RB



(12 RB1 finishes)

by 17 total RB


(2 RB1 finishes)

by 13 total RB


(2 RB1 finishes)

by 34 total RB



(10 RB1 finishes)

by 17 total RB


(4 RB1 finishes)

by 18 total RB


(2 RB1 finishes)

by 26 total RB



(12 RB1 finishes)

by 15 total RB


(2 RB1 finishes)

by 16 total RB


(2 RB1 finishes)

by 31 total RB



(10 RB1 finishes)

by 14 total RB


(3 RB1 finishes)

by 17 total RB


(3 RB1 finishes)

by 34 total RB

Besides a 2019 anomaly season for the late-round running back, four of the charted five seasons have shown a plethora of usable running backs in the later rounds. Even that 2019 season where the RB “dead zone” (typically Round 4-8) did better than normal, over half of those RB1 weeks were comprised of just SIX running backs:

Where drafters are usually filling out their RB2 and RB3, the data is showing that this dead zone is the WORST place to select these running backs. So we draft a running back early and then draft the other positions through the “dead zone” and then when the value returns to the running back position later in the draft, we hope back in and scoop up some late-round values. If you're looking for productive pockets of running backs, picking in the late-rounds or on waivers is just as good if not BETTER than drafting a running back in the "RB dead zone".

Let’s dive into this further starting from the top of the draft.


The “Anchor” RB for this strategy

Selecting a lone Anchor RB still gives you access to the “legendary” running back seasons like Christian McCaffrey in 2019 where he scored 29.5 fantasy points per game (FPPG). Or David Johnson’s 2016 or Todd Gurley’s 2017 where they both scored over 25 FPPG. This is the upside we’re looking to capture with our first running back.

When comparing running backs, especially at the top of fantasy drafts, we’re looking for upside. Stability and safety are things that do not exist at the running back position when looking at the injury rates at the position.

In a seven-year study of running backs selected in the first five rounds of fantasy football drafts, running backs are 200%-360% more likely to suffer a serious injury (injured for four or more weeks) than wide receivers are. Selecting multiple running backs at the top of fantasy drafts only compounds that injury issue.

It doesn’t matter where you select your running back, whether it’s in the first, second, or even the third round. If there’s a running back you have a strong conviction on and you think they can have a ton of success this season, by all means: draft them!

Last season’s RB1 Jonathan Taylor was an end of the first-round or early second-round selection in most fantasy football drafts. 2021 RB2 Austin Ekeler, RB3 Najee Harris, and RB4 Joe Mixon were second-round picks as well.


What if I wait until the second or third round to draft my first running back?

Have no fear, because there are many options this season and even into the third round, you can get a running back that can capture the kind of upside we’re looking for. Granted, they’re lesser bets than the first-round running backs, but we’re talking names like Nick Chubb, Javonte Williams, Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Etienne, and James Conner as examples of running backs that have reasonable bull cases to be among the upper echelon of fantasy backs in 2022.

The running back dead zone doesn’t seem so “dead” this season, making these options pretty attractive when you pair them with a WR/WR, WR/TE, or TE/WR start in drafts.



So when we’re not drafting RB, what are we drafting?

It obviously depends on your league format, but prioritizing wide receivers over running backs is the superior strategy here. One of the biggest fallacies when trying to predict the running back position is projecting a running back workload for a season.

Helping us here is the fact that this season, three wide receivers are consensus first-rounders in Cooper Kupp, Ja’Marr Chase, and Justin Jefferson. Other wide receivers are being pushed up draft boards as well, which makes the pre-“dead zone” running backs a bit more intriguing to draft if you push that running back pick to the second or third round.

What types of running backs should we be targeting after our elite back?

Since we have waited quite a few rounds for our remaining running backs on our roster, you’ll want to draft quantity here. 

Mix and match different types of running backs into your roster construction. My previous running back article in the 2022 NFL Draft Guide goes through the different types of running backs and what they can offer you versus a straight, numbered ranking with very little context towards your specific team build.

The BEAUTIFUL thing about using Anchor RB in seasonal, managed leagues? You have the benefit of trades and the waiver wire to aid you in finding those breakout running backs that usually present themselves in the first few weeks of the season. When injuries hit some of the top running backs, you also have that avenue to find your running back production.

Another big plus of the strategy is that you don't even HAVE to hit this season's RB1 with your first pick. Steady production with elite pieces around that running back gets your there without the guesswork of finding which running back is going to win the lottery of not getting hurt this season.


What do these Anchor RB teams look like?

Not only will I give you one, but I'll give you THREE examples — from early, middle, and late draft positions!

NOTE: These are from best ball drafts on Underdog Fantasy (make sure you're using promo code “ALARM” for a deposit match up to $100!) but are here to illustrate the construction we're talking about with Anchor RB.



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