It takes more to win in fantasy football than just a set of rankings and a prayer.

A game plan is necessary, and below we have four increasingly popular fantasy football draft strategies for 2024 to consider.

Zero RB

Embrace the chaos of turnover at running back

Ah, the super scary drafting strategy in which you take ZERO RUNNING BACKS …

I’m kidding, although you’d be surprised what people believe these days.

The Zero RB strategy doesn't literally mean an owner selects zero running backs. It's more about smartly navigating the current landscape at the position, which has changed greatly over the years.

Outside of Christian McCaffrey — who scored 122 points more than the next-closest RB (Travis Etienne) in 2023 — there are only a few true bellcow RBs left in the league. By bell cow, I mean RBs who get 20-plus touches per game, work on obvious passing downs and goal-line carries. The days of LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk toting the rock almost every play on offense are long gone. 

A vast majority of running backs in 2024 will be part of timeshares or committees that cap their overall upside. Instead of fighting this reality and paying bell cow prices for fake bell cow backs in the early rounds, "Zero RBs" allows you to prioritize other positions at the start of your draft — primarily WR — and save the bulk of your RB selections for after Rounds 5 and 6. 

Dec 17, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Kyren Williams (23) runs the ball against Washington Commanders linebacker Khaleke Hudson (47) during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

But the selling point for Zero RBs doesn't end there. The strategy not only positions you to grab pass catchers with both high ceilings and high floors, it also allows you to benefit from the chaos of the RB position throughout the season.

Think about it this way: When a top WR gets hurt, no single WR steps up in his absence and fills their exact role. The targets are often distributed evenly across the remaining pass catchers. But when a starting RB gets hurt, a backup RB generally receives the lion’s share of the starter’s touches. 

This dynamic makes backup RBs far more valuable than backup WRs, which in turn makes Zero RBs (early WRs + late RBs) a much stronger structural strategy than Robust RB (early RBs + late WRs).

And because we know chaos is inevitable at the RB position, we can position ourselves to build potential juggernaut teams by pairing superstar WRs at the beginning of our drafts with a host of late-round RB fliers who have multiple paths to fantasy relevance. 

Not all of these fliers will hit, of course, but year after year, we see late-round RBs emerge out of nowhere for a variety of reasons, including injuries, trades, ambiguous backfields, efficient play and outperforming the starter. 

2023 Zero RB examples (reason for ascent):

The best way to execute Zero RB is to let the draft come to you. If a RB with true bellcow potential is available in the first couple rounds, don’t hesitate to grab him. But if the talent at the position quickly runs dry, don’t force the issue. Instead, load up on WRs, TEs and QBs in the early rounds and stay patient before pulling the trigger on your first RB.

Remember: While it might seem scary to have a weak group of RBs heading into the season, your opponents are at even more of a disadvantage. They are weak at a more important position (WR), and their late-round fliers are far less likely to contribute meaningful points to their roster than yours.

Embrace the chaos and run circles around your competition with the Zero RB strategy.

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Elite TE

Don't be afraid to dominate the TE position

In a lot of ways, tight ends are like running backs in fantasy football:

  • There are only a handful of elite ones.
  • There are tons of landmines, busts and injuries at the position each year.
  • The very top TEs score significantly more points than the rest of the TEs.

Anyone who rostered Travis Kelce in 2022 (316 points in PPR) or Mark Andrews in 2021 (301) is very familiar with the benefit of having an Elite TE. And longtime fantasy gamers who drafted Rob Gronkowski in 2011 (330) or Jimmy Graham in 2013 (303) are well aware of what a league-winning season looks like from a tight end.

If you can land an Elite TE who is used like an alpha WR or becomes a TD-scoring machine, your opponents will simply not be able to keep up.

The Elite TEs have the potential to score 20-plus points per game, while the rest of the TE pool has not only a much lower ceiling, but also a much lower floor.

Dominating your opponents at the "onesie" positions (QB and TE) essentially gives your team a head start in every matchup.  

The 2024 NFL season sets up to be an awesome year to execute the Elite TE strategy because there are a handful of options who can contend for the overall TE1, yet none of them are taken high in drafts.

After Kelce and Andrews mostly flopped in 2023, drafters seem less interested in spending an early-round pick on a tight end. A few TEs showcased elite scoring on a weekly basis last year, but none of them sniffed a 300-point season. Rookie TE Sam LaPorta led all TEs in PPR scoring (225), thanks largely to scoring 10 TDs. 

2023 Elite TE Examples:

The relatively mediocre performances from TEs in 2023 has resulted in cheaper TE prices across the board. In previous years, the elite TEs would cost drafters one of their top picks in Rounds 1, 2 or 3. 

But in 2024 you can start your Zero RB or Anchor RB approach and load up on early WRs, then grab an elite TE in Rounds 4, 5 or 6 — essentially having your cake and eating it too.

The lack of depth at the TE position makes Elite TE an even more attractive strategy. If you get caught waiting to take a TE until the double-digit rounds, there’s a real risk you are drafting a player who has a 0-point floor on a given week.

Don’t be scared off by 2023 results. We have a large sample of data over the years that clearly indicates how valuable an elite TE is when constructing a powerhouse fantasy team. And now the prices allow you to acquire them at a discount relative to their true upside.

And if your Elite TE busts, guess what? The TEs you can grab on the waiver wire won’t be that different from the TEs your opponents drafted in the later rounds.

Buy the dip on Elite TE in 2024 and enjoy the spoils.

Anchor RB

Snag one stud running back early to anchor the squad

We've already explained the "Zero RB" strategy. "Anchor RB" is essentially the same mid- to late-round antifragile mindset BUT with the benefit of one early-round RB to help "anchor" the squad.

This helps patch up two flaws in the Zero RB approach:

1) Contrary to popular belief, Zero RB drafters aren't the only fantasy managers with access to the waiver wire throughout the year. In an ideal world, you already stacked your bench with the best handcuffs available; then again, 2023 league-winner Kyren Williams didn't even boast a top-200 ADP ahead of Week 1. Having at least one bell cow back to rely on really helps provide a backbone in your early-season matchups while you attempt to patch the RB2 spot.

2) There are indeed fewer workhorse RBs in the NFL these days: Just six backs totaled 300-plus touches in 2023 compared to 19 (!) back in 2000. On one hand, this demonstrates the reality that managers shouldn't expect many backs to have true three-down roles in 2024. On the other hand, this adds credence to the notion that the few remaining workhorse RBs are actually more valuable than ever given their scarcity. 

Dec 3, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson (7) runs with the ball against New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The overarching idea here is to take ONLY the perfect RB prospect inside of the first few rounds of your draft. This player will ideally boast elite measures in:

  • Age: RBs tend to fall off around 29 for fantasy purposes.
  • Volume: Three-down workloads are a must.
  • Efficiency: Contributor in both the run and (especially) pass games.
  • Offensive environment: Fantasy-friendly scoring opportunities are aplenty.
  • Health: Being injury-prone is largely a myth, but we don't want to be targeting guys with active injury issues.

Like any strategy, it's easy to pick out the good and bad picks from yesteryear with the benefit of hindsight. That said, early-round RBs as a whole were largely NOT a part of winning fantasy lineups in 2023:

RBs with a top-30 overall ADP in 2023:

  • Christian McCaffrey: 3.2 ADP
  • Austin Ekeler: 7.1
  • Bijan Robinson: 7.8
  • Nick Chubb: 11.4
  • Saquon Barkley: 15.1
  • Tony Pollard: 15.9
  • Derrick Henry: 20.5
  • Josh Jacobs: 25.9

Early-season injuries certainly didn't help the cause for the likes of Ekeler, Chubb and Barkley, while Robinson, Pollard, Henry and Jacobs managed to underachieve despite suiting up for 17 games.

So it's CMC or bust, baby!

Just kidding, but yeah, McCaffrey scoring a whopping 122 more fantasy points than the next-closest RB (Travis Etienne) last season shows the advantage that drafters had with using their first-round pick on the 49ers' stud workhorse. Injuries and philosophy changes will need to be monitored throughout the offseason to properly identify the top anchor RB candidates ahead of next season, but the strategy of anchoring your lineup with *one* stud back at the top of the draft before gobbling up the other positions makes for a slight yet solid pivot off a pure Zero RB mindset.

That said: Some early candidates to assume true, unhindered every-down roles in probably good offenses and accordingly will likely need to be taken inside the top-three rounds of most drafts include CMC, Bijan RobinsonBreece HallSaquon BarkleyJonathan TaylorKyren Williams and Travis Etienne. This isn't to suggest every one of these "anchors" will hit, but at a minimum their archetype makes them worthy of early-round consideration.

Late-round QB

Throw your late-round dart at a much bigger bullseye at the QB position

It can be tempting to pull the trigger on a stud dual-threat QB such as Josh Allen or Jalen Hurts early in fantasy drafts. Their individual track records certainly warrant that.

And yet, we also have consistently seen late-round QBs work their way to the top of end-of-season leaderboards over the years. Just look at the difference in preseason ADP and final rank in fantasy points per game among these five late-round gems from the last two seasons:

Assured full-time starters with upside are almost never available past Round 10 at RB and WR, but they're relatively commonplace at QB. This results in more late-round gems under center than elsewhere: Four top-10 scoring QBs had an ADP outside of the top 150 overall players in 2023 compared to two total at RB and WR combined.

The reality that most fantasy leagues start only one QB results in a steep dropoff in ADP. Look at the number of players at each position with a top-120 ADP in 2023:

  • QB: 15
  • RB: 40
  • WR: 53
  • TE: 11

Of course, for every fantasy manager who struck gold with C.J. Stroud or Jordan Love in 2023, there was another who had to suffer with guys like Bryce Young and Kenny Pickett. These late-round signal-callers are going well behind their higher-floor peers at the position for a reason, but the good news is that the reduced cost to acquire them allows for a few more bullets overall — and less buyer's remorse when it comes time to attack the waiver wire instead.

Moral of the story: There are regularly more top-performing fantasy assets at QB available later in drafts, making them the preferred darts compared to late-round WRs and RBs who don't have the same history of turning in elite fantasy upside. We're throwing a dart at a MUCH larger bullseye when targeting QBs late relative to what you see at WR and RB.

There are multiple early candidates to provide legit QB1 upside at a double-digit round ADP price (Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson among them), but Commanders rookie Jayden Daniels stands out as potentially THE late-round QB of 2024. This mostly comes down to the NFL Draft's No. 2 overall pick's sweet, sweet rushing upside. Overall, Daniels' 14.5 fantasy points per game from purely rushing production in his final collegiate season easily led this class and bested what guys like Kyler Murray (12.3) and Anthony Richardson (10) managed in their final year in school. Fifteen of 16 QBs with 125-plus carries in a single season went on to post top-12 numbers in fantasy points per game – including 11 top-five finishes. Daniels projects as a fantasy stud from Day One, even if his real-life passing efficiency leaves a bit to be desired.