Make yourself one promise this summer when drafting your Best Ball teams: draft uncomfortable.
If the NFL is anything, it’s unpredictable. Sure, over the long season we can predict which teams may be the best based on previous bodies of work, but we can guarantee we will see surprising performances, breakout stars, major injuries, coaching changes, and upsets that take us by surprise.
With training camps underway and Best Ball drafting in full swing, I thought I would give you an article you could only find on OWS. Instead of identifying the sleepers, the rookie breakouts, the training camp darlings, what if we go deeper on the guys who make us all a bit uncomfortable? I find it fascinating how many offensive teams no longer run a majority of their plays out of 11-personnel (1-RB / 1-TE / 3-WR), yet we all draft as if they do; targeting QB1, RB1, WR1-2-3, and TE1 and shying away from RB2, WR4-5, TE2 and more. Simply going beyond those ‘starters’ e.g. QB2, RB2, WR4, TE2 creates discomfort, but one injury, one underperformer, one schematic change, and some of these guys become the plug and plays we look for each week in our fantasy lineups.
Going deeper on the depth charts isn’t fun to do, we all want the stars with the highest projections right out of the gates on our rosters. But especially in Best Ball, where there are no in-season adjustments, and we don’t have the luxury of reacting and making moves each week, playing for the inevitable unpredictability is the only way to go.
Here are just some of my favorite late-round targets, players who will not provide you much comfort when clicking their names (using DraftKings ADP):
Tier One – Uncomfortable Situations:
- Saints QB Taysom Hill (ADP 212): If One Week Season was a little more graphic-heavy, Hill would be the cover boy (not advocating for this, JM!). Right now, Jameis Winston is said to be the starting QB in New Orleans. But will he really hold that designation all season? Will Hill get used like he did in the Drew Brees glory days a few years back (goal line touches, gadget guy, etc.)? I doubt it. Jameis wasn’t good enough, or hadn’t earned enough of Sean Payton’s trust last season by Week 10 when Brees was injured, and Payton turned to Taysom immediately. The narrative was that Jameis wasn’t up to speed on the playbook, but the reality was Taysom was always the number two. Over a four-week period as the starting QB in Weeks 10-13, Hill averaged 22.3 DraftKings points (that’s your ceiling for 2021 games). The floor is the gadget guy role he had prior to last season, and with Brees healthy he still had games of 14.5, 10.4, 11.0 and 11.6 DK points in 2020. That’s good enough some weeks as a QB3 in Best Ball. He’ll be my QB3 on almost every roster I have.
- Broncos WR Tim Patrick (ADP 227): Bet on talent, not projected opportunity in August. Patrick currently sits 3rd or 4th on the Broncos depth chart, definitely behind Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, and possibly also KJ Hamler. But in 2020, Patrick was arguably the Broncos best receiver over a seven-week span from Weeks 4-11. Granted, Sutton was out for the season but Drew Lock was also the QB. Scrolling across his box scores, he had notable games of four receptions for 101 yards against New England’s Stephon Gilmore, and five catches for 119 yards vs. Miami’s Byron Jones, two very respectable NFL CBs. He also had games where he was completely shutout. He’s the definition of risk/reward with the Broncos WR room healthy again. Patrick plays mostly on the outside (only 18% slot share in 2020) so kicking Jeudy or Sutton inside with Hamler could get him into main 11-personnel sets and on the field more. At the very least, with the return of Sutton, I’ll be keeping my eye on Patrick in early weeks this season as defenses respect the return of Sutton.
- Chargers “RB2” Joshua Kelley (ADP 272) or Justin Jackson (ADP 223): I don’t know who the Chargers backup RB will be. Neither do you. But I do know Austin Ekeler has not proved he can handle a full workload as a lead RB. He missed six games last season with a hamstring strain and a hyperextended knee, and if the Chargers are smart, they will manage his reps better this season. Enter Kelley (and/or Jackson). Kelley is the goal-line back right now. He will plunge for a TD a few times at least, and probably have a game where he finds paydirt twice. Jackson was the ‘starter’ in the games Ekeler missed last season and failed to impress. And he’s also been active for only 29 games in his first three seasons. Nonetheless, his ADP is too low as well. This becomes a bet on how you think the Chargers will perform this season. If you think they will lead many games and have a strong record, Kelley may have a bigger role than we imagine. If the Chargers defense underperforms and they need to come from behind in a lot of games, Ekeler will dominate passing down work as usual and return value. With an improved offensive line, and year 2 with Justin Herbert, I lean toward the former. This carves out a role for Kelley as an important back on a winning team.
Tier Two – Unclear Roles:
- Rams WR DeSean Jackson (ADP 196): Oh my do I love DeSean this season. Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Van Jefferson are the starting WR’s in Los Angeles. Tutu Atwell was drafted in the second round as well. But this is all about Matthew Stafford. The Rams signed DeSean to use his speed the only way he can; taking the tops off of opposing defenses. The super-low ADoT’s of Kupp (7.2, 6.0) and Woods (8.4, 6.7) have been sickening the last few seasons with Jared Goff under center. Enter Stafford, who is known for his deep ball. Per the great football analyst Warren Sharp, “Stafford’s ability to push the ball downfield is a massive upgrade. He ranked 11th in deep attempt percentage and threw seven touchdowns with no interceptions on deep throws. Goff was awful there in 2020; ranked 37th in deep attempt percentage and 32nd in passer rating on deep throws.” Translation: the Rams will throw deep and have more success. So the question becomes, which WR is best equipped to catch these deep balls? Jackson is not the youngest, nor the most talented, but he’s a one-trick pony and he just matched up with the best deep-throwing QB he has had since he played with Michael Vick. I have no problem saying Sean McVay will find a way to utilize him.
- Jets WR Denzel Mims (ADP 202): Mims and La’Mical Perine are the only Jets with value at their current ADPs. The masses are already flocking to Michael Carter, the rookie RB who may be the Week 1 starter and Elijah Moore, the rookie slot receiver who has all the flash. But I will contend it’s Mims who could make the big 2nd year jump and become the Jets best receiver. With the addition of Corey Davis, and drafting Moore in the second round, the Jets upgraded a terrible WR room from 2020. While Moore will go many rounds ahead of Mims (they were both second round picks), it’s Mims right now who has a starting job. Their three-men set in 11-personnel should be Davis and Mims on the outside, with Jamison Crowder in the slot. Mims only played in 9 nine games last season because of a hamstring injury early in the season but averaged 88% of the offensive snaps when he was healthy. He showed flashes throughout the year, with a historically bad offense (games with 180 and 138 air yards) so the opportunities were there. He’s still just 23 years old and has 4.38 speed. Can the opportunities be there again this season?
- Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin (ADP 181): This is the old “hope guys forget about him because of the season-ending injury last year”. Jarwin tore his ACL in Week 1 last season, after signing a big contract to be the Cowboys starting TE. His replacement Dalton Schultz went on to catch over 63 balls for 617 yards and four touchdowns. Jarwin doesn’t seem to be going under the radar in drafts much this summer, but he should be going higher. Dak is back, and he’s entering year four with Jarwin. I like the chemistry, I like the chip on his shoulder and I’m absolutely taking Blake ahead of guys like Cole Kmet, Jared Cook, Austin Hooper, and Adam Trautman.
Tier Three – You’ll be the only one who drafts them:
- Falcons WR Frank Darby – Post-Julio Jones, this is a zag where others will zig. We know Calvin Ridley will be the alpha. But where will Julio’s targets go? Russell Gage, Christian Blake, and Olamide Zaccheus will get the first cracks it seems. But Gage is a slot man, Zaccheus is a downfield threat and Blake is unproven. Enter Darby. A sixth-round rookie out of Arizona State who is big, fast, and has some major swag. If Gage stays mainly in the slot, it should be Blake or Darby complementing Ridley outside the numbers. Darby could also see the field in frequent four-WR sets (Atlanta should trail a good bunch this season with another below average defense). It’s also important to note this is a new coaching staff, and he’s the only guy whom this regime actually did invest a draft pick on.
- Washington WR Kelvin Harmon – Harmon has one thing the WFT receiving corps may badly need…size. He’s 6’2, 215 lbs and coming off a torn ACL which forced him to miss his entire rookie season in 2020. He has some competition in the WR room in Washington, but at this current moment, he’s listed as a WR starter opposite Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel. He could start right away and with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, they will be slinging the rock around in Washington. Harmon reminds me of Preston Williams and I’ll be drafting him in the last round where I can.
- Chiefs WR Antonio Callaway – The Chiefs lost Sammy Watkins and have not replaced him. Somebody is going to get those Watkins snaps. Callaway may not even make the final roster, but he’s an intriguing name. If he can straighten out his off-field issues, he has the chance to be on the field a lot. His competition at the moment is Cornell Powell, Byron Pringle, and Joe Fortson. I have not seen Callaway drafted yet, but would not be surprised one bit if he starts to pick up some buzz during preseason.
- Seahawks TE Will Dissly – Experience and reps count with tight ends and quarterbacks, especially with tight ends, just ask 41-year-old Antonio Gates who was still catching TD’s at age 38, or 39-year-old Jason Witten who was catching TD’s last season, or some guy named Gronkowski who retired and unretired to win a Super Bowl. Dissly is only 24 years old and he is coming off a “meh” season in which his offensive snap rates only hovered around 30-50%. Seattle acquired Gerald Everett, who some are now drafting to be the every down TE, but with the chemistry of Dissly with Wilson, along with Everett’s inability to separate from Tyler Higbee in LA, I would not be surprised to see him outperform Everett, especially early.
Let us know 👇
Who are the late-round targets that make you uncomfortable?