2024 Fantasy Football Strategy: Ultimate Zero RB & Hero RB Target List to Win Your Fantasy Draft

by Theo Gremminger · Featured

Do you want to attempt a Hero RB strategy this season? 2024 is a great year for that fantasy football draft strategy. Running backs like Bijan Robinson, Breece Hall, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Christian McCaffrey in the first round are great targets. Hero RB can even be attempted with a WR in the first followed up by an RB in Round 2.

Do you want to push it even further and attack the WR position early and often? Would you like to do this while also being strong at TE and QB with a Zero RB approach? WRs are being pushed in ADP, and a Zero RB approach could result in a supercharged team. 

Both approaches are viable this season, and oftentimes are recommended. But in order for these draft strategies to truly pay off you need to find RB targets, and these need to be the right sort of RBs. 

Round 7 or Later

Attacking RB in Round 4 or 5 is a viable approach. If you want my picks for RB targets in that range, check out my Dead Zone RB strategy article – Fantasy Football Strategy – Navigating the RB Dead Zone (playerprofiler.com).

 For this article we are going to completely ignore the RB position until Round 7. There are some great options in this range all the way to the end of drafts. 

Just remember, all strategies in fantasy football work if we select the right players. 

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Round 7 

Jonathon Brooks | Carolina Panthers

Brooks has all the makings of an ADP winner. His current ADP is depressed due to the lack of enthusiasm drafters have with Carolina Panthers after a horrific 2023. He also gets pushed down because he is coming off of a torn ACL. By all accounts, Brooks is trending towards being healthy early on this season. He could even be ready by the beginning of the season. New Head Coach Dave Canales oversaw Rachaad White‘s enormous 2023 season. Brooks has the two-way ability to become the focal point of the Carolina offense. 

Rhamondre Stevenson | New England Patriots 

Much like Brooks, Stevenson’s ADP is pushed down due to the offense he plays on. But Stevenson is a screaming value here. He has a rare combination of size, balance, and pass catching ability, and Stevenson could return to his 2022 production after a disappointing 2023.

The Patriots rewarded Stevenson with a contract extension that makes him the No. 7 highest paid RB in football. There are question marks at the WR and QB position. Therefore, look for New England to lean on Stevenson as much as possible early and often. Even with Antonio Gibson being worked in, Stevenson will have solid RB2 production and could have RB1 usage. 

David Montgomery | Detroit Lions

Montgomery finished as an RB 2 in 2023. We have had back-to-back seasons of Ben Johnson‘s Lions offense, producing two RBs in the same season who finished RB2 or better. Even with Jahmyr Gibbs‘ ascension, Montgomery will score fantasy points. The Lions can lead the NFL in total scoring this season. Montgomery is an easy target for Hero RB teams looking for an RB2 or Zero RB teams looking for early-season production. 

Jaylen Warren | Pittsburgh Steelers

Warren often falls into the eighth round, but his ADP should settle here by August. He finished as an RB2 last season. His rushing yardage and receptions doubled, and he finished with over 1,000 combined yards. He outscored teammate Najee Harris. Drafters still need to learn their lesson and are still selecting Harris as the first Steelers RB off the board. Refrain from making this mistake. Draft Warren. He checks off all the boxes for a Zero RB winner. 

Round 8 

Tony Pollard | Tennessee Titans

Pollard was a disappointment at ADP last season. He finished as RB18 overall after being elevated to the late first round in August and September drafts. I struggled to put him here, but a rejuvenated production season is within the range of outcomes this season. He is healthier now after dealing with tight-rope surgery last offseason. Structurally, he makes sense here. Spoiler alert: I have another Titans RB listed later that I like even more at cost and is available later.

Round 9

Trey Benson | Arizona 

I could have made a case for James Conner in Round 7. Structurally, Conner makes some sense. But Benson’s appeal at this range of the draft is undeniable. The 29-year-old Conner has played 13 games in consecutive seasons.

Benson, a third-round pick in the NFL Draft, has size, speed, and a two-way skill set. He projects as a handcuff plus early on and has massive contingent upside if Conner were to miss time. Benson has the juice and upside to pay huge dividends and is playing behind one of the oldest starting RBs in the league. 

Tyjae Spears | Tennessee

Spears has electric playmaking ability and caught 52 passes as a rookie. Brian Callahan’s arrival marks a seismic shift in philosophy, with Tennessee moving on from Derrick Henry to a more pass-happy approach. Spears and Pollard should both be utilized in the passing game. The issue with Spears is the presence of Pollard. Just how much of a split will this be? Could Spears be used in more high value touch situations? Even with the question marks, Spears will provide usable weeks as a handcuff plus and a potentially massive role if Pollard were to miss time. 

Brian Robinson | Washington

Washington is another backfield with multiple players being selected and driving the cost of one another down. The Commanders offense is trending up with rookie QB Jayden Daniels behind center. Drafters do not know how to handle the Austin EkelerBrian Robinson “split,” creating a buying opportunity for us as drafters with Robinson. The 25-year-old finished RB22 last season and took a big step forward as a receiver.

With Daniels at QB, there should be running lanes galore, and Robinson should improve on his yardage total. Ekeler is less threatening of a presence than drafters think. The soon to be 30-year-old ran for a career low 3.5 yards per carry last season. Take advantage of the mispricing. Robinson should be getting drafted 10 RB ADP spots ahead, but instead they are neck and neck.

Round 10 

Blake Corum | LA Rams

Much like Benson, Corum has immense value as a contingent upside play. Kyren Williams was terrific in 2023 but expect more competition for touches behind him with Corum. The third-round pick could carve out a weekly role and go nuclear if Williams were to miss time. I would not want to have to use Corum in my lineup early in the year, but he is a player I would love to have on my fantasy benches. Be patient with this one. The payoff could be immense. 

Chase Brown | Cincinnati 

Brown is a pivot play to backfield mate Zack Moss. He is the cheaper option in an evolving Bengals offense with a new OC. There is a scenario where Moss handles the majority of the rushing attempts, and Brown sees the lion’s share of RB targets and mixes in as a runner. In Joe Burrow‘s last full season as a starter (2022), he targeted Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine 126 times. Brown has the speed to excel in a pass-catching-only role. If his role is something more, he has RB2 potential. 

Jerome Ford | Cleveland

When is Nick Chubb going to be back? Don’t know the exact week? Me either. No one does. Ford filled in admirably last season, scoring nine TDs on over 1,100 combined yards. He had 44 catches. Ford’s ADP could rise up later this summer when we have more clarity on Chubb’s timeline. He is a perfect target for drafters with Zero RB builds because he should be able to provide early season starts. 

Round 11

Zach Charbonnet | Seattle 

Charbonnet checks off multiple boxes for drafters searching for RB upside in the double-digit rounds. He plays behind a more highly drafted teammate (Kenneth Walker) and has two-way ability. Charbonnet led Seattle RBs in receptions (33) and yards per carry (4.3). He has Round 2 NFL Draft pedigree. Walker out carried Charbonnet by a more than 2-1 margin last season, but that number could shrink with new OC Ryan Grubb in town. 

MarShawn Lloyd | Green Bay

Anyone who has followed my content this offseason knows how highly I regard Lloyd. He has been a must-draft target for me in all formats and for good reason. The Packers routinely use two running backs in their weekly game plan, and Lloyd will have an early season role. He has size, speed, and pass-catching ability. Josh Jacobs will be the RB1, but Lloyd is more than a backup. He is a handcuff plus. Lloyd would be an RB1 any week that Jacobs missed time. This offense is ascending. 

Jaylen Wright | Miami 

Unlike Charbonnet and Lloyd, who only have one running back to contend with for touches, Wright has to deal with De’Von Achane and Raheem Mostert. But the argument against drafting Wright is also an argument for drafting him. The Miami offense will be among the NFL leaders for the most points scored in 2024 and will more than support two RBs as weekly fantasy starters. Wright has two contingent pathways to viability.

If Achane misses time, you can start him with confidence. If Mostert misses time, you can start him with confidence. This is an elite speed athlete in an offense that gets more out of their speedy RBs than any offense in football. 

Round 12

Ty Chandler | Minnesota

Aaron Jones was terrific in the NFL playoffs last season, ripping his way to two tremendous performances against Dallas and San Francisco. But Aaron Jones is also 29 years old and only played in 12 games last season. Chandler ended the season on a high note, finally seeing an elevated workload when Alexander Mattison went down with an injury. The third year running back has more of a weekly role than the market is pricing him in. 

Jaleel McLaughlin | Denver

McLaughlin’s ADP has risen steadily this offseason. He starred at Denver OTA’s and was the standout skill position player among all Broncos. McLaughlin has been praised by both Sean Payton and OC Joe Lombardi. His skill set matches perfectly with Rookie QB Bo Nix, as well as Lombardi’s propensity to utilize his RBs as receivers. After Courtland Sutton, there are a lot of question marks with WR and TE target utilization. McLaughlin can carve out a dependable role even if Javonte Williams is used heavily on the ground. Williams had a career-low yards per carry last season and seemed to be headed in the wrong direction. McLaughlin’s trajectory is pointing up. 

Round 13

Ray Davis | Buffalo

Buffalo selected Davis in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. The worst-case scenario is he is a massive improvement on Latavius Murray as the No. 2 RB. There is also a chance that he immediately takes over the goal line carries. James Cook broke out last season but has sometimes struggled with costly fumbles. Davis can be a like-for-like replacement with juice in the passing game behind Cook. He is more of a threat to his weekly workload than most Cook managers would like to imagine. The Bills have leaned heavily on the RB position since Joe Brady took over as offensive coordinator. 

Round 14

Elijah Mitchell | San Francisco

Christian McCaffrey is the chalk 1.01, but San Francisco has said on multiple occasions that they would like to lighten his workload. Mitchell rushed for 963 yards as a rookie under Kyle Shanahan. He is now fully healthy after struggling with injuries at times last season.

The 49ers offense will score a lot of points this season. If Mitchell can carve out a role with ten or so touches a game in a blow-you-out type offense, that has value. The real value lies in CMC missing time. Mitchell would be a top 15 weekly play at the position if that were to happen. 

Bucky Irving | Tampa Bay

Irving is the handcuff behind Rachaad White in Tampa Bay. With his pass-catching prowess, look for him to carve out a weekly role. Last year, Irving led the NCAA in receptions by an RB. We want to target backs in this range who have pass-catching ability, and Irving checks that box off with authority. 

Round 15

Tyrone Tracy | New York Giants

Tracy is an uber-athletic rookie with traits that resemble an early-career Antonio Gibson. A converted WR, Tracy flashed at RB last season at Purdue. His athletic measurables are terrific, and his only competition for backfield touches are Devin Singletary and Eric Gray. Singletary was very effective last year in Houston, but he is far from a bell cow. 

Roschon Johnson | Chicago

Johnson is part of a crowded backfield in Chicago. Free Agent signing D’Andre Swift will lead the charge, with Johnson competing with Khalil Herbert for the handcuff role. There are reasons to bet on Johnson. He is a strong pass blocker and caught 34 passes as a rookie. Everything Chicago has done this offseason has indicated they will be a pass-happy offense. Johnson is a contingent play but a solid one, and the ADP price is right. 

Round 16 

D’Onta Foreman | Cleveland

See Jerome Ford. While I am bullish on Ford, Foreman is an exciting target in this range. 

Round 17 

Will Shipley | Philadelphia

A big shoutout to Kenneth Gainwell for keeping Shipley’s ADP so low. If Saquon Barkley were to miss time, look for Shipley to fill in ahead of Gainwell.

Shipley is the more explosive and more complete back. He is the type of low-cost lottery ticket that supercharges a Zero RB build. 

Alexander Mattison | Las Vegas 

If you want to bet against Zamir White being able to step into a bell cow role in Las Vegas, consider Mattison. Mattison was a disaster of a pick last season as a dead zone RB but now returns to the role he thrived in Minnesota – an injury fill-in. 

Round 18

Dylan Laube | Las Vegas 

Don’t want to draft Mattison? Consider Laube. Laube was a mega producer at New Hampshire and has a chance to carve out a weekly role as a pass catcher in Vegas. Squint hard enough, and you can see some Danny Woodhead

For more from Theo Gremminger, check out this article – Best Handcuff RBs | Handcuff Running Back Rankings for 2024 (playerprofiler.com)