*This series will cover the Zero QB strategy in depth by breaking down each individual piece of the ideal Zero QB draft to help you optimize your start-ups this offseason.
When people hear zero QB, they panic. Since Superflex became the de facto standard setting for dynasty leagues and Campus 2 Canton leagues, in particular, the thought of punting the most important position seems suboptimal, to put it kindly. But what if I told you that not only could you build a stronger team by completely skipping the quarterback position early in your Campus drafts? That you would be using the optimal team-building strategy as we approach the 2021 college football season?
You read that right. And it’s the truth.
In this series, I’ll give you a look deep into how I’m drafting this offseason. These articles will cover all aspects of the draft. Early non-QB targets, late-round stashes, the NFL upside QBs I am targeting in the middle rounds, and how to marry together with this QB-less college roster with an NFL team to create a bigger championship window for you.
THE ZERO QB BACKGROUND
Heading into 2020 drafts, there was an abundance of “certainty” at the college QB position. Beyond obvious future 1st round picks in Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, we also felt good about players like Spencer Rattler, who was heading into his first season as Oklahoma’s starter, Sam Howell, fresh off a strong freshman showing at North Carolina, and Kedon Slovis, the man who had usurped an injured JT Daniels for the starting job at USC. Even Jayden Daniels flashed some ability as a true freshman at Arizona State. Those are big names at big programs, and that makes us as drafters feel safer.
Fast forward to this offseason and there’s a lot less certainty at big programs. We think we like DJ Uiagalelei, the 2nd year QB at Clemson. He looked the part of a 5-star QB last year while filling in for Trevor Lawerence. Bryce Young also flashed at Bama, albeit never in a full game scenario. Howell and Rattler are both still plugging away at their respective universities.
Slovis struggled as a sophomore. Other big programs like Oregon, Auburn, and LSU are all in flux. JT Daniels could be something at Georgia, but he has an injury history and has yet to put together a full, high-quality season. Without the stamp of approval from the upper echelon of college football programs, why should we feel strongly about any other contenders? That’s the thesis for this approach, and one that has been especially fruitful for me across several drafts.
THE EARLY ROUNDS
Brian Shacochis established the first major overarching strategy to C2C drafts (as the godfather of the format, that’s no surprise), in which he suggested that he breaks his standard 45-round start-up into three 15-round blocks. To briefly explain, the first 15 rounds are best player available devy selections. The next 15 are devy selections with consideration to team structure. The final 15 are guys that round out positional depth. You can find the rest of his breakdown below.
While I think this is a strong approach, I also think we can fine-tune things for our purposes. For instance, I tend to break my first tier down into strong devy prospects AND big-time collegiate producers. This year, that tier lasts somewhere between 19 and 25 picks. And only four of those 25 players are quarterbacks.
Those figures are not great! And odds are, unless you have a top-five pick, you won’t be snagging one of those QBs anyway. So let’s pivot to something else. Something safer. Let’s smash RB early instead. There are more top RBs in college right now. It is probably the second most valuable position in all of fantasy football. It’s not a misallocation of resources but rather a reallocation.
While others are reaching for second-tier QBs and WRs, which are a dime a dozen in the NFL nowadays, with this strategy, we take several strong RBs and build up that core.
Bijan is the ultimate Zero QB asset because he’s the true 1.01 in all of college football. You heard that right. Not Rattler, not DJ U, not Breece Hall. Robinson. Robinson came on strong to end last season, finishing with the following statistics:
Bijan gets to enter year two in an even better situation. Texas welcomes Steve Sarkisian as their new head coach. Sark has an offensive background. His previous job was as Nick Saban’s OC, helping Najee Harris put up back-to-back monster seasons. Texas must also blood in a new quarterback, which will require a successful running game. And on top of all of that, Bijan is just damn good.
Spiller is my personal favorite of the 2022 eligible RBs. He has great size at 6’1 225, exceptional vision, and can run physically or with finesse. Even better, he’s a big back that can threaten in the receiving game. Better still, he hits the NFL in a year but will net you big collegiate scoring in the meantime.
Hall is the other strong 2022 back and is likely a top-50 selection in next year’s draft. He may also finish as the top-scoring RB in college in 2021. That’s a great start to a draft and one that can set you on the path to competing. Hall or Spiller are great selections for managers that punt RB early in their NFL draft. If the college draft happens first, Hall or Spiller gives you the flexibility to pivot early in that NFL draft.
Gibbs is currently my 2023 RB2, but I can’t argue with anyone who puts Bigsby over him. In fact, Bigsby may even out-produce Gibbs with new head coach Brian Harsin. Gibbs is a superb prospect in his own right, and his receiving volume presents an excellent floor for fantasy purposes. Again, a very safe selection with a ton of upside and a high floor. We are trying not to strike out on three pitches here, and Gibbs allows us to do that.
As I mentioned above new HC Harsin has a history of producing top fantasy running backs. Of particular interest is his usage of RBs in the passing game, something that Bigsby was largely neglected in last season. You’ll get two years of high-end collegiate production and probable strong draft capital for Tank.
Boutte is largely the one receiver I’m taking early in drafts. After Terrace Marshall and Arik Gilbert opted out of the 2020 season, Boutte held a ridiculous market share of almost 50%. I assumed that would subside with an offseason to adjust, but the spring game reinforced the narrative that Boutte might be the most targeted receiver in all of college football in 2021. He’s also a strong athlete, has solid size for the position, good hands, is dangerous after the catch, and is in an offense that figures to pass a lot. Boutte will be a top-5 WR each of the next two years and an early NFL draft pick.
Probably the boldest player I’ll suggest here, but Henderson has a ton going for him. He’s a true blue-chip running back prospect, has ideal size (5’10 210) that he carries well, and he’s a dangerous pass catcher and explosive runner. He also is surrounded by some of the top support in the country. The lineup is full of four and five stars, both QBs were amongst the top in their respective classes, the WR room can’t fit all the 5 stars in there. It’s a great situation for a great player.
Top 2022 WR talent
I try to dodge these guys as much as possible, but it can be unavoidable at times. Any of Treylon Burks, Garrett Wilson, or David Bell should all put up nice numbers this year and are hopeful for strong draft capital. George Pickens can also slide into this group, although his knee injury certainly complicates things. I wouldn’t recommend taking two from this group, but one WR paired with a name from the previous section makes things interesting.
Evans carries a ton of risk, which is why I don’t include him with the other premium running backs currently going in the first two rounds of startups. For starters, it’s unclear as to whether he will receive the bulk of the carries at TCU over the next two seasons. Gary Patterson has preferred a committee approach as of late and there are other capable backs on the roster. Evans also struggled a bit last season and did not live up to his lofty recruiting status. I want to like Evans, and I’ve taken him in certain situations this offseason (I take Boutte in the first and no other RBs make it back to my 2nd pick), but I don’t necessarily endorse that maneuver.
Michael Mayer/Arik Gilbert
Unless your league is an extreme TE premium, this is probably not a great move in our first two rounds. The position is a crapshoot and again, we don’t need to swing for any fences here. A smart, safe pick is the goal.
I contemplated excluding McClellan from this list but felt obligated to add him because of his current ADP (23rd overall) and the recent history of Alabama running backs. He won’t score many points this season but should take over that backfield in 2022, just in time for him to be draft eligible. So while he does not fulfill the spirit of my prior comments, he’s very much in consideration in this range.