This Dead Zone Running Back Anchors Your WR-Heavy Start Like Aaron Jones, but at a Fraction of the Cost
Image Credit: Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Aaron Jones.

Michael Hitchcock scours the running back dead zone for an option who can provide you with Aaron-Jones-level production, but without the Aaron-Jones-level prices.

The running back dead zone is the talk of the fantasy football community this summer, and with good reason. Avoiding backs in Rounds 3-5 is one of the clearest ways to ensure you don’t lose your draft in the early rounds. But one very important piece of context is being lost now that avoiding the dead zone is much more popular: some dead zone RBs don’t really belong there.

Since 2015, 19 dead zone RBs have generated a 10% or higher win rate, and four have generated a 16% or higher win rate. If we avoid dead zone RBs altogether, we could miss out on some really high scores.

The dead zone back with the most points scored in this chart is Aaron Jones. In 2019, he was dealing with a hamstring injury in early August, which caused him to miss substantial practice time. The narrative surrounding Jones at that point was that he could not stay healthy or handle a big workload. We quickly learned that he could stay healthy and did not need a bell-cow workload to produce a 300-point season.

Many other backs here did not belong in the dead zone because of noisy narratives, and we are seeing it again in 2021. Shawn Siegele has already identified one dead zone RB who could be an even better value than Travis Etienne (who is himself an intriguing option in the RB dead zone). One other back looks like he’s set up to reproduce what Aaron Jones did in 2019.

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