Dynasty Workshop: The RB Dead Zone and Why It Can Help You Keep the Championship Window Always Open
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Image Credit: MSA/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: DeAndre Hopkins.

In the newest edition of the Dynasty Workshop, Shawn Siegele breaks down the RB Dead Zone and explains why understanding this one element of fantasy football is the key to your success in dynasty, redraft, and best ball.

Each week in this space, I like to look at new developments through the lens of rankings or trades. In just the last month, we’ve seen big returns on our trades and set ourselves up to win 2020 titles or take a full year off our rebuilds.

Today we’re going to look at the relationship between running backs and wide receivers and evaluate our offseason recommendations for roster structure. Did Zero RB work for owners with a bad draft slot? Has the RB Dead Zone been a mirage, or has it turned into an owner graveyard? And most importantly for dynasty owners, what lessons can we learn from redraft principles that might keep our championship windows open indefinitely?

RB-RB versus WR-WR with a bad draft slot

The top backs are doing what we expected. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve broken down the ridiculous numbers from Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook. Christian McCaffrey returned with a 36-point game, such that he now leads again in PPG, although it’s across only three contests.

But what about owners who didn’t have the chance to draft these stars, and how is the RB Dead Zone performing in 2020?

Ending up with a draft slot in the bottom third of the round isn’t ideal. The win rates are terrible historically. Of course, part of that comes from the inadvertent capitulation of owners who don’t realize there’s another way. Before the season, I explained the one thing you simply could not do. Don’t chase RB points.

In Depressed About Your Draft Slot? This Aggressive Plan Will Put You on the Path to a Title, I recommended Davante Adams/DeAndre Hopkins or Tyreek Hill/Julio Jones over Joe Mixon/Kenyan Drake or Nick Chubb/Josh Jacobs.

To explain why the evidence was overwhelmingly in favor of these WR combinations, I used our Range of Outcomes and Win the Flex tools. The ROO uses Sim Scores to tell you how historical matches have fared the following season. The WTF uses historical results to tell you what players at each position have scored based on ADP. I also incorporated our projections from the Projection Machine.

The differences in the full-season projections were shocking.

Pairing Projected
Jacobs/Chubb 417
Mixon/Drake 423
Adams/Hopkins 517
Hill/Jones 515

By starting WR-WR from these draft slots, the tools expected you to score almost 100 more points than if you started RB-RB.

This is where we are at mid-season.

Pairing PPG Total
Jacobs/Chubb 31.4 188
Mixon/Drake 29.1 197
Adams/Hopkins 47 320
Hill/Jones 37.3 300

When healthy, three quarters of the RB quartet are actually playing pretty well. They’re still getting hammered by the WR combinations, both in points per game and total points.[1]

Of course, being right on these eight players is nice, but it might not reflect the wider universe of players. We’ve also been hammering on the idea that you needed to employ Single-Elite-RB or Zero RB in order to win the race to fill the flex and avoid the RB Dead Zone.

Frequent readers will be very familiar with this image from Win the Flex that featured heavily in my preseason articles.

RB and WR Scoring Relative to ADP 2017-2019

This huge gap between WR and RB scoring occurred during a time period where drafters became more and more RB-oriented. If history is any indication, we’d expect to see these gaps continue to widen as undeserving RBs climb ever higher in price.

Managing the RB Dead Zone is the key to winning in redraft and best ball. Understanding its relevance to dynasty is the foundation for any successful rebuild.

The RB Dead Zone in 2020 – Myth or Graveyard?


1 The Hill duo has a little bit of an advantage in total points since the Chiefs haven’t had their bye.

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Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.

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