As with DFS, Best Ball success (especially in large-field tourneys) is less about “having a ton of NFL knowledge” and more about “strategically outmaneuvering those who put too much stock in their ability to predict exactly what will happen.” This article is a phenomenal glimpse into some of the ways we can embrace uncertainty in our hunt for first-place finishes. Yes, your NFL knowledge is valuable; but even more valuable is your ability to allow others to be overconfident in their own NFL knowledge. Chaos happens; and if you’re approaching things the right way, chaos can act as your ladder to the top.
I touched on the Seahawks already in my “5 strongest offseason takes,” but I really like the idea of attacking this passing offense and finding a unique stack that is relatively cheap. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are both going well after they went last year. Even Noah Fant is a very talented player and currently going in the TE20-25 range. Last year when Wilson was out, Metcalf and Lockett saw very concentrated target shares and even combined for 19 of the team’s 22 targets in Geno Smith’s last start.
I am confident that Baker Mayfield will not spend this season on the Browns and I believe he ends up somewhere that he can start. He was very good in 2020 and even last season before playing through a torn labrum. I have been trying to stack up the undervalued Seahawks receiving options in drafts and then taking Mayfield in the last round to complete the stack on a leap of faith. Even if he doesn’t end up in Seattle, Mayfield will likely be starting somewhere this season. Combine that with the ease and value I see in Metcalf/Lockett/Fant and this pairing makes a ton of sense. There is value on both ends of this stack even if it doesn’t come together, but if it does then it really could be a home run.
These are three players who are not going completely overlooked but who I believe are in far more valuable spots than the current market suggests. These could be the players we look back on at the end of the season as guys you “had to have” a good amount of exposure to if you wanted to be competitive in the big best ball tournaments (think 2021 Cooper Kupp, Deebo Samuel, Ja’Marr Chase – mid-to-late single digit round picks that are now going in the first two rounds):
This is a player who saw double digit targets in each of his last six games of 2021 and had no fewer than 8 receptions for 73 yards during that stretch. He is still the primary slot receiver with the same QB (Jared Goff, who has always peppered the slot and short area receivers). Sure, TJ Hockenson is healthy now and they drafted Jameson Williams, but there is no lock on when Williams is back and/or effective this year. Hockenson is a very good player but has never shown to be a Kelce or Andrews level talent who dominates an offense. Target volume is the name of the game in fantasy, and a player who was near the top of the league in targets over the final stretch of last season is currently going in the sixth round.
Jacobs is a top-end talent at his position and the offense he is on is loaded with talent. The AFC West looks like it could be the highest scoring division in the league and Jacobs is the top option in their backfield. He has always been a capable pass catcher, but the previous regime never used him in that role. In past seasons he’s gone in the top two or three rounds, but now on the best offense of his career with a staff that *may* use his full skill set he is going in the fifth or sixth. Sign me up.
Akers was a borderline first round pick last year at this time. He returned from a torn achilles to play in the playoffs for the Super Bowl champion Rams. The Rams clearly prefer to have one primary running back who plays on all downs based on the history of Sean McVay, and Akers appears to be a freak of nature athletically. The Rams were one of the fastest paced and highest scoring offenses in the league last year and have a chance to be as good or even better this year with Akers healthy and Allen Robinson in town. Akers can now be had in the late 3rd to early 4th round of most drafts, two full rounds behind where he went last year with a much cloudier outlook. Buy.
The idea here is to take one of the big name QBs early in a draft without taking their top receiving option. Most people will look to stack Patrick Mahomes when they are able to get Travis Kelce early in drafts or Josh Allen once they already have Stefon Diggs. I like taking one of those QBs and then taking 2-4 of their cheaper receiving options as stacking partners based on the idea that if their top option is injured or drops in effectiveness, the QBs still have the ability to put up huge numbers and could carry these other players to big games/seasons. Here are my favorite ways to do that:
Patrick Mahomes + (Juju Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Mecole Hardman)
Josh Allen + (Gabriel Davis, Dawson Knox, Jamison Crowder, Isaiah McKenzie, OJ Howard)
Justin Herbert + (Mike Williams, Josh Palmer, Gerald Everett)
Joe Burrow + (Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Hayden Hurst, Chris Evans)
Dak Prescott + (Dalton Schultz, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, James Washington)
Here are some players that I think offer utility and can help your team win in their current situations but have enormous potential to have their value spike by the time the season starts and/or ends if their team makes personnel moves or has injuries that open up opportunity. Last year at this time, Darrell Henderson was going in the 12th-14th rounds before jumping up to the 3rd or 4th round when Cam Akers got hurt.
Pollard is a very popular pick already and putting his name here isn’t going out on a limb, but if it ever actually happens and he is the RB1 in Dallas for a sustained period he will basically be a cheat code on best ball rosters. If Elliott were gone, Pollard would likely be taken in the 2nd round of most drafts.
Claypool’s quarterback situation has improved (sorry Big Ben fans) and his target competition has gotten worse since 2021. He was a 5th/6th round pick last year and has had over 60 receptions and 850 yards in each of his first two seasons. Currently going in the 10th round, barring injury it is hard to see him not paying off that price tag and if things come together he is capable of living up to last year’s expectations.
Similar to Claypool, this is a player whose situation is the same or better this year as compared to 2021, yet his draft cost has dropped dramatically. Boyd is a nearly every-down player on one of the league’s top passing offenses and if either of Ja’Marr Chase or Tee Higgins has anything significant happen then Boyd immediately becomes a 6th round pick.
Penny accumulated almost 700 yards and ran for 6 touchdowns over the final five games of 2021. The Seahawks used a 2nd round pick on RB Kenneth Walker, which has tanked Penny’s draft stock. However, we don’t have to look any further than Penny’s own career to see that the early draft capital guarantees nothing for Walker in year one. Penny was one of the best backs in the league to end last season and is now going in the 10th round of most drafts.
Chris Godwin is recovering from an ACL tear that will likely keep him out for at least some portion of the season, after which it will take him a while to get back to full strength. This should funnel more work Gronk’s way, assuming he returns. It would be shocking if Gronk doesn’t play this season, but his ADP will stay low for as long as he is unsigned; providing a great chance for profit. Gronk played 13 games last season, including the playoffs, and he scored 20 or more PPR points in six of those games. He is currently the TE12 in ADP, making him the perfect Best Ball pick especially for these large tournaments where his ceiling games could carry you late in the season.
There are some really big pieces yet to fall in the free agent market, specifically at the wide receiver position. Will Fuller, Odell Beckham, and Julio Jones are all still unsigned and all still have the name recognition and skills to make a mark somewhere. The average draft position of each of them makes them easy to add to the end of the roster as they have far higher ceilings than most other players you would be taking at that point in a draft. Think of it this way, if Stefon Diggs had a season-ending injury in training camp and the Bills signed Julio Jones, where would Jones’ ADP spike to? You can replace Diggs with any alpha receiver on a good offense and have the same scenario. Beckham’s ACL injury complicates things somewhat for him as he likely won’t see the field for the first few weeks of the season no matter where he goes, but he did look the best of the bunch last season.
I would include AJ Green and Sammy Watkins with this group as well from the perspective of a talented older player who is likely to get opportunities in a good offense, which means they have huge potential for profit. If Watkins becomes a starter in Green Bay by the time August comes around, he will likely be drafted 8 to 10 rounds higher than his current ADP.